June 25, 2021
Pitch Publicity’s Amy Summers herself will walk us through what we need to do for your next virtual presentation!
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE
This past year, we have sat in front of our computer screens and cameras for almost everything: interviews, meetings, and even for television guest appearances!
We are lucky to have Amy Summers for another episode to give us advice for your next virtual presentation!
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:00:00] Hi everyone! It's Dr. Chloe Carmichael here, clinical psychologist, author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety, and your host for the High-Functioning Hotspot. Today's guest is actually a return guest, Amy Summers, the owner of Pitch Publicity, a very nice PR firm in New York City. Amy's firm has been open for 17 years. It's been a long time.
Amy gets her guests on places like the Today Show, Good Morning America, and a lot of the other really top shows. I'm sure it's not a surprise to you but being in PR, Amy's pretty good at making sure that people who are going to be on camera look and sound the way that they should. As a psychologist, I can tell you that the impression that we make on people visually, or even just the way that we prepare for a meeting can say a lot about us, and can kind of affect our chances of success in life if we need people to collaborate with us or do other things with us. So the “Impression Management”, it’s what we call it in psychology, and Amy, I guess you could say is an Impression Management Specialist when it comes to being on camera.
Amy sent me this, sorry Amy, ridiculous multi, multi, multi page document of everything that I must say and do, and not do when I'm going to be on camera, even for a Zoom meeting. Now, I've been on national TV many times and so I kind of thought, maybe I didn't really need to read the document. That was a mistake! Amy has a lot of really good information in the document, but I am kind of, I don't want to say lazy, but I just asked Amy as a special favor, “Amy, would you walk me through the document please? So that I wouldn't have to read this multi page document by myself. And can we do it on camera so that everybody else at the High Functioning Hotspot can learn from a PR pro how to get ready for being on camera, whether it be for TV or for just an important Zoom Meeting.”
So that is what we're going to be checking out today here with high-functioning Amy Summers. Going through how to look and sound very high functioning when you're going to be on camera, whether for Zoom or for national television. So without further ado, let's go ahead and get started.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:01:44] Amy Summers, thank you so much for joining me again here on the High Functioning Hotspot to share with us how we come across as our most polished, high-functioning selves when we have to be on camera for any reason, which nowadays almost every day, since we all have to be doing Zoom constantly. So if you're going to be on TV, Amy's Pitch Publicity Virtual Interview Presentation Tips and Checklist is an absolute must. And even if you're just going to be in a regular old Zoom meeting but you want to look and sound your best, I think that this is a good guide. So Amy actually sent this to me and I said, "Oh my gosh, Amy, this is one, two, three, four, five, six, that's a lot of pages”.
It's a lot of content, so I thought, why don't I just go through this with Amy on the air because I think a lot of other people out there would like to know these tips too. So we're going to have a link in the show notes for where people can download their very own copy of this. So let's just go ahead and start.
So it says “5 days before the interview, you choose a simple chair and do your background check”, which is so important that people have to have a good background and that they have to select the right attire. Now I see that it says to “Wear a solid colored top”. Why is that?
Amy Summers: [00:03:06] Well, it's the same as if you were going to be on a TV interview, solid colors are always better. Pick a solid color that looks really good on you. You and I are wearing a basic black, which is great, but also colors are very good too, because it can really pop you. But you should really test it out on Zoom and make sure it's not clashing with your background as well.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:03:32] Definitely.
Amy Summers: [00:03:32] Sometimes stripes and polka dots and different things can be very distracting. So that's why I say solid colors. If you have a solid color, there's not much distraction and the focus is on you and what you're saying.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:03:44] Definitely, definitely. So I'm actually wearing an eggplant colored shirt, but maybe I need to improve my lighting a little bit. I know I actually really do need to improve it, I see my hair flickering. And so then it also says to “Download the latest version of Chrome”. So that's good to know. I happen to use Chrome anyway. But is that from your personal experience or is that something that networks tell you that they want people on Chrome?
Amy Summers: [00:04:08] Since the pandemic, it's really been a force with this technology, whether it's Zoom, Skype, you know, there's other platforms besides Zoom, live webinars, different things. So I've spoken at about 10 different virtual conferences just in this past year. I've also trained more than a dozen people on how to do media interviews. And it's been an interesting year to get all this feedback from not only TV stations, but conference planners and different people with all different ideas, which is part of why I put this tip sheet together cause I've actually learned a lot.
And so one of the things that I learned was that Safari as a browser is not really a preferred browser for some of these platforms. I wouldn't say all of them. And so just as a general rule, I say Chrome, because it seems to me in my experience that Chrome seems to do well on most of the platforms.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:05:06] Okay. And then it says, I'm just cruising through your wonderful guide here. The day of the interview, we definitely want to have “15 to 30 minutes of prep time, plug into a power source, and plug directly into the ethernet if we can”. Actually another tip that I'm not sure if I see it here but it's one that was given to me that was really helpful as well, is to “Restart your computer”, which I think is always a good idea. I was actually also told to “Restart my router” as well. Have you ever heard that one before?
Amy Summers: [00:05:45] I have not, but you know, a restart is good for everybody and everything. Anytime you can restart anything, it just kind of clears all the junk and you will have less problems.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:05:57] Yeah. Who doesn't need a restart in life, right?
Restarting the router was a new one for me, but it was actually helpful. Looking as well here I see “Wear wired headphones”. Now I'm wearing wired headphones but I'm curious because I think if I were on TV right now, it would be hard for me to be wearing wired headphones. Do you feel like the wired headphones work for TV or is that just for a business meeting?
Amy Summers: [00:06:27] Some TV stations actually require it. I actually had an expert one time go on and do a TV interview, and I had written the notes “wear wired headphones cause that's what they were requiring”, and she didn't because she didn't like the way that they looked. And they canceled the interview on her. So I would say definitely follow the directions. If someone's telling you to do it, there's a reason why. And in TV, sometimes they're telling you for TV interviews to wear wired headphones because they might even tell you to plug it into your phone because they're going to use that as an IFB and that's how they're going to talk to you, and how the producer might talk to you as well.
It also cancels out a lot of background noise and it really is a good strategy for most people to use, or for most people to ask people to do if they're not sure what year their computer is because it just depends. I have pretty good sound on my computer, you can see I'm not using headphones. But right now my puppy's asleep, so that's good. And I have a newer computer so the audio quality is good, but you know, we ran a big panel series this year too, our company did. And what I noticed is that with each and every panel, we had like five, six, eight different people on it. Everybody has different computers and stuff, so you don't know what you're dealing with. So a headset is a good idea and it's better than asking people to wear the AirPods. But if you do wear the AirPods, unfortunately you really do need to buy the expensive AirPods, not the knockoff ones. They don't seem to work as well.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:08:02] So the AirPods are like second best. If you can't do wired headphones then AirPods?
Amy Summers: [00:08:09] Well, yes, because at least at the wired you know for sure that you're in the computer, but with AirPods, just like with anything relying on wifi, you know, if the wifi connection goes out, so does your sound.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:08:20] Right. Now, this next one I was curious about, it says “If wearing eyeglasses, clean the lenses”. So obviously we would do that if we were wearing eyeglasses, but I personally have been on Zooms with people before that were wearing eyeglasses. And it was really hard to even see their eyes because there was a glare, or it was almost distracting because their computer was actually reflecting in their lenses.
I was actually almost expecting it to say, “If wearing eyeglasses, take them off”. Like, I mean, if you're sitting basically right in front of your computer and just doing an interview, I know some people might actually still really need eye glasses in that scenario, but do you feel like most people can just forgo them?
Amy Summers: [00:09:05] Well, I don't wear eyeglasses, so I can't speak for everybody. Some people really do need them. So if you really do need them then, you probably should look into getting those non-glare, more expensive glasses. I was doing a panel with somebody last week and she had metal frames and the metal roof was reflecting.
So I mean, of course there's all types of different eyeglasses that you can get. And I would just say experiment with that because it is very distracting when you see the glare. If you can get away with not wearing them at all, like if it doesn't bother you and you still feel comfortable doing the interview, I would say obviously eliminate any distractions that you can.
But then, I've had some clients before where eyeglasses are a part of their identity, that's their look. Just invest in a good pair, but now that we're in this virtual world, you're going to have to play with it a little bit until you find the right ones.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:09:59] Right. So that's a good point. So sometimes eyeglasses, like actually, really are part of someone's look. But that person might just want to consider getting anti-glare ones now that we're in Zoom all day, everyday life. Okay. That's a great tip. Now, this one I'm really interested in as well, “Bring your energy”. It says “Just like an in-studio interview, in a virtual interview you want to bring positive energy into the room.”. And it says “Not being in a studio with other people may feel less energizing so set an intention or personal purpose for your interview prior to joining virtually to help bring more energy to the interview”.
Now I'll share with you that I have struggled sometimes to manage my energy when it comes to being on camera. Because I can sometimes get almost so excited that I don't want to come across as jumpy and so then I try to just tell myself to chill out and act like I'm just talking to a friend, but then I can sometimes come across as almost a little bit too casual. So how do you feel like people can find that sweet spot where they're on, but they're not coming across as over the top.
Amy Summers: [00:11:14] We'll, practice makes perfect, just like in anything. I would encourage people, like if they're just in a regular company Zoom call, start recording them. Go back and watch the replay. Or if your company records them, go back and watch the replay just to see how you are compared to everybody else. But I do tell people, if you've ever worked, took an acting class or we're in drama in school and you had to do anything on stage, they always tell actors you're going to be a little bit bigger on stage than you would normally be on the street, because when you're on stage, it may seem like you're making bold moves, but to the audience it's regular. And so I find that that's kind of the same way in Zoom. Of course you don't want to be over the top, like you said, cause that would be annoying. Cause you also have this picture, like right in front of everyone's face, which is not normally how we interact with people if we are at an in-person event.
But you do want to have some energy up and it's hard. I've spoken at some virtual conferences this year and normally, you'd get all jazzed up, you'd be in the green room with the panelists ahead of time or the moderator or the conference people, and then you get on stage and then you have the audience and there's all this energy in the room, right. But when you're doing these things from home, there may not be any energy because you might be by yourself or you might just be, have left one room where you just got in a fight with your spouse or argument with your kid, and now you got to go do something. So that's why I was saying, give yourself time to really prep because as soon as you get on people are gonna read what just happened to you. So that's why it's really important to factor in that time. It's not just jump on the Zoom call, go do the link at exactly this time. Buffering your calendar an extra 15 to 20 minutes to get in a zone so you can leave whatever that home environment was that you were just in.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:13:12] Yeah, I like that. As a psychologist, we have what we call “Environmental Cues”. And so you're absolutely right, that there's something about being in the studio or like from the business world, like being in that boardroom and feeling like it’s show time. And when we don't have that, you know, just from our living room, that we need to figure out ways to set the stage for ourselves and really make our environment be affirmative to the type of presence that we want to feel and that we want to create for people.
I also really like what you said about taping yourself and watching it, that actually never occurred to me. To be honest, I used to watch my own TV clips a lot and then I don't really watch them as much anymore because there's something about it that feels challenging.
Although now, my little son is so cute, he wants to watch my clips now, he thinks it's fun. And so it's actually perfect. It gives me a good reason to watch them. But what would you say to somebody that says , “Oh my God, I hate watching myself on camera. The idea of watching myself on camera is torturous”? But on the other hand, Amy, I think you're right. I think people really need to do it. How do you think someone could get over that and just take the punch and watch it a little bit?
Amy Summers: [00:14:30] Well first I will say I'm one of those people. I absolutely hate watching myself. Even when I started doing my microcasts, I hated listening to myself, but it gets easier. So just do it and toss away the idea that you're narcissistic or something for watching your own clips or listening to yourself, and replace that word with you're educating yourself on how you can be better. And so if you are high-functioning like some of the people listening to your show, it's really important to analyze how you're doing. I mean, if you're on a football team, you're going to watch play after play, after play, after play, your coach is going to make you do that so that when you go to the next game, you know what you're doing. I don't know any football team that doesn't watch plays or basketball team that doesn’t watch plays, or any athlete really that doesn't watch themselves.
Because if you don't watch yourself, then you don't know how to improve yourself. So the same thing goes with public speaking. I spoke to an executive the other day that had come to one of my conferences where I was talking about tips like these. And he told me that he never knew until they started doing company Zoom calls, how much his eyes just kind of drifted here and there. And you know what signals that sends. So I would also say let's all embrace this Zoom life that we're in now, because for the first time you are actually seeing how your default face is with people. I will tell you one of the things that I've learned this year is that I don't smile enough, ever. So all these years, everyone has told me to smile or especially my mom who tells me to smile and I've ignored that advice. Forcing myself to look at myself and knowing that my default face is really stern and honestly, kind of bitchy-looking, it changed me to have more of a default smile, even when I'm not talking, so I look approachable. And now I understand where people have told me before that they're scared of me. I know why, because my default look is kind of scary. So you have to kind of face that person in the mirror. Take a look at it and see what you can improve.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:16:41] I love the way you're framing that, Amy, that we can think about it really not as narcissism but just as about a desire for improvement. I would just add in the same way that it's also like being empathetic and caring about the people that are in that future meetings with you. That you're taking the trouble to learn a little bit about how you are coming across, because you care about the experience that other people have when they're in the room with you.
That makes a lot of sense. And by the way, Amy, I don't think that you come across as bitchy at all, but I will confess, I have been scared of you before because you are so good at what you do. And there is something I think for all of us, you know, for any person who's really high functioning and really good at what they do. It can sometimes make people a little nervous or a little intimidated when you do become such an impressive person. So I think you're right, that it's always good to think about how we can make sure that we're also coming across as relatable. So watching your own clips with that goal in mind, I think is a really good idea.
Now looking at your list again, I have to tell you, I laughed out loud when I read this one. Not because you were anything wrong with you writing it, but the idea that somebody would do this. It says here, “Do not multitask, virtual interviews need your full attention. Do not attempt to check your email, text, or do other work during the interview”. Is this something that has happened?
Amy Summers: [00:18:10] Oh, people actually do this all the time. And it can be very dangerous because here's the thing, if you were in a TV studio doing an interview, you would have your phone turned off because someone is telling you, the producer's telling you, “turn your phone off, do this, do that”. So yeah, you would not be distracted if you're speaking. At a conference, the same thing, someone's around, they're telling you to turn your phone off, the conference organizer or something. But when you're at home, we are not being told to do all these things. So what I am finding is that, I've even had people on my panels, I know they were doing something else because they missed their cue to get online when they were supposed to pop up for their time to speak.
You can't multitask. I've had professionals tell me that they've attended virtual conferences where they've spent thousands of dollars and they didn't get anything out of it. And I said, “Well, what else were you doing?” “Oh, I was working. I was taking phone calls”. Well, if you were at a conference and you spent thousands of dollars on a high level conference, you wouldn't be doing all those things. You would have your phone on airplane mode while someone is speaking. So we need to practice those same things, or we're not going to get the full advantage of whatever we are invested in at that time.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:19:23] Right. That is so true, Amy. So I'm just taking another look through here. Again, this guide is really so fantastic. If anyone is looking for it again, I'll definitely make sure to put it in the show notes. I do have one more question though for you. So this is another one that I struggled with a little bit myself of finding the sweet spot.
One of the tips here is “Watch your time. Try to keep your responses brief and in short soundbites versus long detailed stories or explanations”. Now I struggle with that because sometimes I actually think I make myself too brief. Like I'm so afraid of droning on, that I'll just give like almost clipped answers and maybe fail to really take advantage of an opportunity to expand or expound or share something a little bit more deeper. But I also don't want to let the pendulum swing too far and start going on too much. So is there any kind of a rule of thumb that we would know what is considered properly brief?
Amy Summers: [00:20:35] Sure. So especially in these virtual settings, it's even more challenging because it's harder to pick up on body language from someone, there's no one offset telling you to wrap it up or you have one minute left. You're really just kind of on your own. So I always tell my experts and clients to not be afraid to just stop talking and have no noise because part of having a conversation is having a conversation, and you can't have a conversation if you don't stop talking and allow the other person to talk. Now, to your point about being too brief or not getting your points across, what I would say to that is, if you're preparing for an interview or you're speaking at a conference, or you're going to be on a panel discussion, write down two to three things that you definitely want to get across. Write it down, say it aloud a few times before you go on so it's stuck in your head and then you will know for sure that I got those points across.
So for example, if it's plugging your website, you want to make sure you plug your website and you want to do it in a way that's non-commercial, come up with a couple of soundbites in a way that you can do that. And so once you do it, you check it off your mental list. But definitely let people ask you questions and converse. You will not be asked back to an interview from a media person if you monopolize the entire three minute segment.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:22:05] Right. So I'm always trying to find that sweet spot. And to your point also about mentally checking things off your list, I'm just going to share one more tip from your list here, which is that you also suggested that people can “Fashion their own teleprompter” so they can actually have their points almost like post-it noted to the side of their computer or wherever they want. So that way, once they've made their point, they can take that post-it note down or like literally cross it off so that they can make sure that they get what they need to come across. And then also not be distracted by stuff that they've already said.
So I think that those are some really great tips. Again, if anybody wants more, I will definitely put them in the show notes and you can get them by reading them, or I really highly recommend Amy's microcast. It's a flash briefing, if you have Alexa or a Google Assistant, then you can actually have Amy Summers piped into your home. Just giving you all kinds of great tips every day, which I personally find very inspiring. So Amy, thank you so much, and is there anything I haven't, by the way, asked that you wanted to share, or are we at a good stopping point?
Amy Summers: [00:23:14] It's a good stopping point, I really appreciate being on this show.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:23:19] Well thank you so much for coming, Amy. Always great to be with you. Take care!
Amy Summers: [00:23:23] Thanks!
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:24:50] Well, that was very interesting. I certainly learned a lot. I hope that you did too. I would say for me, one of the things that's helpful is to prepare, prepare, prepare, and learn, learn, learn about being on camera. And then as soon as I get in front of the camera, I actually try to forget everything because I don't want to be too stiff or too confined, but at the same time, I do think all of that prep work and having all that knowledge kind of stored in the back burner is what really helps to just come out and be your natural self on camera but have it come across in the very best possible way.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael: [00:25:29] So I hope that you enjoyed that. Feel free to let me know in the comments section, it bumps me up in the algorithms and the more comments and likes and shares I get. So anybody that wants to look and sound their best on camera or if you want to drop any kind of comment, I would certainly love to hear from you not just from the algorithm, but because I just love hearing from people that's why I became a psychologist. So thanks so much. And I will see you at the next episode of the High Functioning Hotspot.