C-Suite Agenda

How Watching TV News Can Help You Perform in Virtual Meetings Lessons Learned from Decades in TV News

After nearly one month of video conferences and remote meetings from home, you know better than to have dogs barking or toilets flushing in the background. 

Suddenly, we’re all “TV” reporters and anchors – seen by all as a talking head floating in a video box. Just like the people on TV News.

Now, to “up your game” as a virtual leader, look no further than your own TV.

HOW – AND WHERE – TO LOOK

Even the most gorgeous TV news anchors hate the way they look on camera. You will too. So first, get over it, and second, start with where to look. TV newscasters – and their guests – look directly into the camera, whether speaking or listening. Do the same. It may feel awkward to stare at a lifeless camera lens on top of your monitor, but it signals that you’re fully engaged in the meeting.

Keep Facial Expressions Engaged and Neutral.

In a video meeting, your face is magnified and so are your reactions. Watch your facial expressions. Like good morning news anchors, maintain a pleasant and neutral expression. Keep the eye-rolling and headshaking to a minimum and avoid what we call “Resting Blank Face.” You’ve seen it – a newscaster or guest is listening, but their brows are furrowed, making them look worried or even angry. To make you avoid this visual, practice “listening” in the mirror – widen your eyes and turn up the corners of your mouth slightly. Not too much – you don’t want to look goofy or overly happy. Bottom line: remember you’re always on!

Confident Body Language Means Sitting (or Standing) Up Straight, Using Gestures. 

News anchors have great posture and gesture naturally, as they would in everyday conversation.  Sometimes they stand, like when moderating a Town Hall. Should you stand? If you are making a formal presentation, absolutely. If you don’t have an adjustable standing desk, place your camera atop several books or boxes on your desk to get the right angle – and make sure it’s steady. If the camera is below your face, it means viewers are looking up your nose!

If you sit, know that the camera can make you look “slumped.” You’ll need to sit up straighter than usual and be still. Nothing’s more distracting than someone rocking, swiveling, or bobbing their head like a bobble-head doll.

Light Yourself from the Front to Brighten Your Face.

TV news anchors have the advantage of professional lighting to capture their best shot. As a virtual executive, you can pick up a video lighting kit for $30-150 on Amazon. If you opt to work with what you have on hand, place a lamp in front of your face, behind your computer’s camera. Make sure the light is falling on your face, and not coming from behind your head since that can make you look like you’re sitting in a dark room. Also, consider the camera shot. Most people look better when the shot is wide enough to see their shoulders. Experiment with different setups to determine your best shot.

Dress the Part.

TV Newscasters wear primarily solid color clothing, no distracting prints or large jewelry, and they pay attention to their collars.  You won’t see anyone at the anchor desk sporting a rumpled collar or sagging neckline. You also won’t see anyone wearing a dress or blouse with a deep, scooped neck. Why? It can make you may look naked.

If in doubt about clothing, open your own virtual meeting before the real one starts to see how you look from the shoulders up. You’ll know right away if you are “ready for TV.”

Dressing the Part Applies to Hair and Makeup, Too.  

Makeup for women done well can make a positive difference on video, but don’t overdo it. And we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for men (unless you really know what you’re doing). As for hair, consider that there are people whose job it is to fix TV newscasters’ stray hairs that may distract viewers.  If you don’t want to look like you just woke up, keep your hair extra neat for video meetings.

WHAT YOU SAY

Be Brief and Use Headlines, Just Like They Do on TV News. 

TV news writing is crisp, concise, and to the point, with shorter sentences than print articles. People have a short attention span. Don’t just show up and ramble. Plan your remarks in advance. Even guests on the news “opinion” shows stay brief and on point. The ones that don’t – aren’t asked back.

When Answering Questions, Use Bridging to Reinforce Your Message.

Notice how on TV newscasts people answer questions directly, then pivot to make a point, which they repeat often.  We call this “bridging.” TV news guests use this technique to reinforce their message, and you can use it to achieve similar results in virtual meetings.

HOW YOU SAY IT

Mimic “TV Voices”.

Just like seeing their faces on video, most people cringe at the sound of their own voice. But anyone can develop a strong yet pleasant “TV voice”.

Avoid sounding monotone by using vocal variety to keep people engaged. Practice recording yourself on your phone. The breath is the power behind the voice, so make sure you have enough breath support. Also beware of “uptalk” – when you raise your intonation at the end of a sentence making it sound like you’re unsure. Practice bringing the register of your voice down at the end of your sentence.

These are just a few of the strategies we can borrow from TV news to achieve a more commanding and confident virtual presence.  The changes you make today will enhance your stature as a leader, no matter what the future holds.


Written by Penny Daniels. Have you read?
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Penny Daniels
Penny Daniels is a speechwriter, executive and leadership coach and communications trainer at 3D Executive Communications. She has coached hundreds of C-suite and other executives, and spent 20 years as a TV news anchor and reporter in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Penny Daniels is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.