Gets up your nose?

by Sarah Lockett on July 6, 2020

Now, I am not having a go at this guy, but this is one of the worse examples of the ‘up-the-nose’ shot that I have ever seen, on a videocall.

Do you see how off-putting it is? You spend at least 10 seconds thinking “Ooooohhh, now that IS a bad shot! Lift your webcam up, man! Put a shoebox under your laptop!” etc etc. It’s the angle I describe as: when you pass out, and then later come to, this is the paramedic looming over you.

My point is (and I have said it before) the angle of your webcam is important. In fact, it’s one of the TWO MOST IMPORTANT things on a videocall (no.2 is lighting, if I had to pick out just two things).

And how hard is it to put a few big books under your laptop or computer monitor (eg a few dictionaries? or a box leftover from all those Amazon deliveries?). And we have been at this lockdown lark since March, so there’s been plenty of advice out there on how to look good on a videocall. Many media trainers are giving snippets of advice and tips on Twitter, LinkedIn, and in their blogs (like I am here here).

Anyway, I appreciate not everyone is glued to my words of wisdom, and this man is probably doing a sterling job solving Coronavirus, working on a vaccine or doing vital research. But, if you had a choice of looking good on camera and being engaging, persuasive and compelling – then you would, wouldn’t you? He might be saying really important stuff, making informed and credible observations, but his authority/impact is reduced/decimated because we’re looking up his nose, and at his ceiling lights.

All these factors are covered in my 60-90 minute Media Training courses, delivered one-to-one or in groups, via video call (typically Zoom). Get in touch!

When does expressive become crazy?

by Sarah Lockett on June 22, 2020

I’ve become aware that I may look crazy. What I mean is: when I’m doing Zoom calls, I catch myself flailing my arms around, flashing my eyes and using my eyebrows, mouth, face, shoulders, hands and general ‘body language’ to emphasise what I’m saying. But at what point does all this become bonkers?

Many people have a much more low-key style than me. They feel uncomfortable emoting, gesturing, stressing looooong vowel sounds, pointing, clapping, waving expansively, thumping the table (Boris Johnson). And yes, there’s a happy medium.

Impero Virtual Round Table, with Sarah Lockett

But the opposite of expressive is: expressionless, inexpressive, unemotional, dead-eyed, dull, drab, boring, unengaging. And who wants to be all those things? On the other hand, too much emotion, hysteria, agitation, excitement, discomposure, animation, exhilaration will not help you get your message across in an authoritative, reassuring, persuasive, credible, controlled way. You need just enough passion, but not too much. It’s a difficult balancing act.

When I do media training, I have to remember that everyone has their own style, pitch, tone and energy. It’s tempting to want people to say things the way I would say them: stress this word, show some passion, demonstrate enthusiasm, convince me! And these instructions are all valid. But at the same time, people must use their own words and their own style. Just better, more polished, more engaging and more compelling for the audience. And that’s an art that can be taught.

For media training via video call, in these Coronavirus times (individually or in groups) get in touch via

I’ve pivoted!

by Sarah Lockett on June 14, 2020

“Pivoted” is a terrible new piece of corporate jargon, I know. But it’s what I’ve done, whilst I’m (to a large extent) unable to do my normal job. It’s how I’ve been making money, occupying myself and helping others during this #lockdown. I’ve been doing an activity that’s available to everyone, it can be done from home (so long as you have a smartphone or computer – which is most of us, right?), and I’ve made £1,083 in the last 2 weeks.

I’ve been doing eBay! It’s quite satisfying, once you get a system going. You need to spend about 1/2 hour per item (you may get quicker). Here are my thoughts and tips. You have to:

At London Stock Exchange
At London Stock Exchange
  1. Research it: is there a market for this item? What sort of prices does it sell for? Is it even worth spending the time listing it? I found, through listing “Recordable CD-R’s”, that there is no market for some things – you can’t give them away. Ditto huge fax machines. But for some retro 1980s/90s answerphones, there is a market. Who knew?
  2. Test it: if it doesn’t work, it may not be worth selling at all. On the other hand, some vintage electronics have a market even if they don’t work – for parts or for enthusiasts who want to restore them. But if you can write “fully working, tested”, then you’ll get a lot more money for them. And photograph them with the light on/power getting through, to show they work. A picture tells a thousand words, and 65% of us are visual learners.
  3. Clean as if your life depended on it. Clean the item – I find “kitchen cleaner with bleach” is particularly good. Scraps of dust/food/muck seem to be magnified by iPhone cameras, so get it as sparkling as you can, particularly vintage electrical items etc. But actually, anything you’re selling, get it looking as good as you can. Obvs.
  4. Weigh it, and measure its dimensions. You need a tape measure/ruler and kitchen scales (preferably digital) next to you. This helps you determine which postal service to offer. If it’s small/light enough, you can put it in an ordinary postbox. For the bigger items, it’s quite cheap to get one of the parcel delivery services to pick it up from your door! It’s a great service (when they come on the allotted day, but that’s a whole other story). NB: Make sure you get the buyer to pay for the postage. I made this mistake recently: sold something for 99p with free postage! 🙁 I have thrown myself on the buyer’s mercy – asked if he can help me out. He’s under no obligation to: it’s my mistake – at the moment I will end up losing about £4 on that sale.
  5. Work with 3 tabs open on eBay (at least), then you can keep checking back on your messages, the listing you’re working on, and a listing that’s similar to yours so you can “borrow” their wording (if they’ve described it better, or have more detail than you). And you won’t lose what you’ve already written if you tab off the page to check something else (I learned that the hard way).
  6. Know that you’re not necessarily doing it for the money. When I sell something cheap (say, 99p) I remind myself I am doing this to keep these items out of landfill, and to let someone else from the community have a benefit from it, get some use out of it.
  7. On the subject of money, don’t be too cheap. There’s probably a whole business model devoted to this, but if you price something too cheap, people assume it’s rubbish and steer clear. I have put the exact same article on for 99p, and then £10, and it’s sold at £10. Or more, if the auction hots up. So, don’t undersell your items. On the other hand, don’t be too expensive! I saw the exact same item on for £1, and then £1,000! Know the value of your stuff.
  8. Be aware that some people are a bit chaotic. They will pay – and then you’ll never hear from them again: they’ll never collect the item they’ve bought. This is especially true if the item is too cheap – people will bid on a whim and then go off it, and if they waste 99p, who cares? You then have to spend time refunding their money and relisting the item. Another scenario is: they buy the item and then don’t pay. Ditto the faff you have to go through. They don’t know you, the seller, and they don’t care if you’re annoyed.
  9. It’s addictive! When you get that ‘kerchinngg’ sound on your phone when you get paid for something, or a ping when someone bids, I feel like a teenager constantly checking her phone to see if anyone has “liked” her photos!
  10. I’m keeping Royal Mail in business. And all the other delivery services, which often operate out of corner shops (I usually buy some chocolate/treats when I drop a parcel off, so that gives them some business too – we’ve got to keep the High Street running!)
  11. Think about Depop too – it’s like eBay – but for teenagers, according to my daughters. It’s quite a social/artistic/creative outlet: sellers model the items and make them look as cool/desirable as possible. My older daughter has 2,900 followers! Her Depop profile is Rebecca_Hjelt, she has told me to tell you 🙂
  12. You might think you haven’t got anything to sell, but we’re all supposed to have been decluttering/spring-cleaning during this #lockdown, so you might have found a few things. Remember the old adage, “If you haven’t worn something for 2 years, give it away!” Also, the charity shops are closed, so this is another way to get rid of this stuff. For my own part, I have been helping my 90 year old dad move into a new flat (he was on the 4th floor with no lift) so he has chucked out a lot of junk/gems. Most of it is immaculate. #hoarder
  13. A final word, just in case you thought I’d given up the media training: I haven’t. I AM still doing some of it, remotely. But this is filling in the gaps in my time. And it’s satisfying, keeps me busy, motivated, occupied. Maybe give it a go?

PowerPoints – headlines or chapter-and-verse?

by Sarah Lockett on June 7, 2020

If you think you know the answer to this question, “Headlines!” you’re shouting. And I am the first one to agree. I roll my eyes and switch off when there’s lots of text on the screen – whole paragraphs – which the presenter just reads out – badly, stumbling, swallowing their words, trying to rush.

But hear me out (and don’t worry, I am going to come down on the side of headlines in the end).

What if a lot of your audience are not native English speakers and struggle to follow all the idioms of your presentation? They like to have the words on screen, to confirm they’ve understood the detail, the full meaning and the nuance of what you’re saying.

Sarah Lockett, Switzerland
Sarah Lockett, Switzerland

This is rather like having the subtitles on TV, which I am increasingly doing – especially, for some reason, for Scottish (eg Outlander)!

Although I always try to tailor my delivery to the group, speaking more clearly and slowly for a non-UK crowd, idioms and colloquial phrases creep in. So I am a bit conflicted on this one: I can see the reasoning behind putting – more or less – the whole of your script on the screen, when your audience is very international.

But on balance – and because 65 percent of us are visual learners – I opt for photos, pictures, very simple diagrams, the odd list, which I explain, and so on. Think TV News graphics, which are pretty colourful and simple compared to, say scientific graphs and bar-charts.

In one of my remote training sessions, one of the slides just says “Length Matters” with a picture of a stopwatch and the number 18. How’s that for intriguing?! The idea is: a bit of humour, and you’re curious to hear what I am going to say 🙂 So yes: simple, colourful, not too distracting unless you are going to refer extensively to what’s on the screen and/or are going to ask questions of your audience. But I am happy to be persuaded otherwise 🙂