News for Authors

Tech Tips for Participating in a Remote Video Interview

by John Clinton|May, 2020

Many authors have turned to virtual events in recent weeks to promote their books. In this article, we offer helpful guidelines to make sure your video interview looks and sounds great, so you can focus on the conversation and not worry about the technology.


There are several variables to consider when recording interviews, and with these tips, you’ll be on the road to success.


Beforehand: What you need

1. A working computer with a webcam, or a smartphone.

2. A steady, reliable WiFi network.

3. Headphones/earbuds—this will help you hear better, as well as cut down on ambient noise and feedback. It’s even better if your headphones have an attached microphone.

4. A quiet place to talk, in a well-lit area.


Beforehand: Things to confirm with your interview host

1. Should you use a computer or a smartphone? A computer is usually preferable for long/in depth interviews, but for something casual and short, a smartphone can work.

2. What video tool will be used? Remote video interviews can be conducted with video conferencing tools (such as Zoom, WebEx, etc.) or social media platforms (such as Instagram and Twitter).

  • In almost all cases, you will need to download and install an application or plug-in on your computer or smartphone to use these tools.
  • You should not have to pay for anything.
  • Take time in advance to test the tool and confirm that your technical setup will work for the interview: Open the app; confirm that both your video and audio are working and that you can be seen and heard. You may be asked to “give permission” for the tool to access your camera and microphone—this is normal.
  • If you are having audio or camera difficulties, try looking for a gear icon or “Preferences” option in the program to see if you can select a different microphone or camera. For audio, you may have the option to “join by phone” instead of by computer, which could be a simpler solution.
  • If you continue to run into technical difficulties, try googling “troubleshooting [name of tool].” Almost all of these tools will have online guides.
  • If you have not used the particular tool before, consider doing a test interview session by calling a friend or relative using the software.
  • Don’t wait until right before the interview to test if it works.


Setting up for the interview

1. Find a quiet room. In the best case, you’ll have a room in which you can close the door and windows to reduce noise. If you have a child or pet, keep them in a different room.

2. Pay attention to lighting, and pick a nice background. Some computers and smartphones automatically adjust the video image depending on lighting conditions, but they will not be able to overcome utter darkness or overpowering light (from the sun or otherwise). In a practical sense, just be sure that your face can be seen clearly—try to not have a strong light source behind you that will create a shadow on your face.

3. Sit rather than stand. Find a comfortable position.

4. Wear headphones or earbuds.

5. Do not put your device more than five feet away from you. If you are using a laptop, you might even consider propping it up on books (or other objects) to get a better angle.

6. Overall, don’t sweat the tech! Remote video interviews involve a lot of technology, and a few hiccups along the way can be expected—viewers are generally quite forgiving. Even if a glitch comes up, stay upbeat and let the host work on fixing it.


Suggested equipment for frequent users

If you’re participating in lots of virtual interviews, you may decide to invest in professional equipment beyond your device’s internal microphone. Having a pair of headphones rather than earbuds will also help to keep out other external noise. Here are some recommendations:


If you are having trouble with any of the tips listed in this article, Google is a tried and true resource, and you can also reach out to your PRH contact. With these things in mind, you will be all set to have great virtual experiences and continue to connect with readers everywhere.



John Clinton is Vice President and Director, Creative Media at Penguin Random House.