While your vessel lies stranded on a beach somewhere, spilling bunker oil and the subject of a thousand cameras, being lightly grilled by a news anchor is not the most pleasant experience in the world.

The journalist is asking some very difficult questions, particularly about the ship inspection record, and here you are in the comfort of your own home office with little time to plan and about to talk to the evening news audience.

How come?

The use of Skype or similar video applications in news broadcasts has increased dramatically in recent months and, with individuals increasingly reluctant to travel many miles at some cost to reach a self-operated studio or local broadcaster, it has become the weapon of choice for news organisers to reach key people quickly.

With 4G on the horizon, video interviews from mobile phones are a distinct possibility for the near future.

Of course, Skype or other video applications are limited in their scope. Low resolution web cam? Poor connection? Wifi that hangs? Other users nearby using the same cable or router and slowing traffic? They all need to be considered to ensure your contribution is the best you can manage.

Here are a few tips that you can use to maximise your appearance on news outlets - if this is the only way that your company's view of the incident or activity can be told in the first few hours.

Imagine your home office is a news studio. Take a look around.

Which camera can you use? Do you have a slightly better quality web cam you might use with a PC? Or, if not, what is your little inbuilt laptop web cam going to pick up? Is the pile of books behind your left shoulder about to fall off the shelf? Can you see the curled poster on the wall advertising your speech at a Chinese shipping conference in 1996? Or perhaps the view out of the window to the garden swing and road outside?

How's the lighting? Would you be better placed by the window? Undertaking an interview where the viewer can barely see you in the gloom is hardly going to enhance your reputation.

Be sensible and shift the web cam around so it's pointing at the star of the show - you!

Strive for a plain background. No distractions. Nothing on show that will distract the viewer from your key messages, and plenty of light. Even if its daylight, switch the desk lamp on and turn it round to point at you, if necessary, to give you that little bit extra lighting. Beware shadows which might hide your eyes.

Treat the interview as an opportunity to get your side of the story across - in fact, treat your appearance just like a job interview, with the care and preparation that would go into that event.

It may be your home where casual wear is normal but, in this instance, go smart.

Placement of the camera can be tricky. You don't want to appear to 'loom' over the camera, so if it's a laptop you're using, think about raising it up somehow. Maybe on a shelf, or a pile of books? Don't get too close to the camera.

Sit back and sit up straight. You might be the kind of person that is expressive with their hands when making a point: Let the viewers see, it makes more interesting and engaging TV. Check your video settings and maybe ask someone nearby what they think of the setup.

How about the audio settings? Are you coming across clearly? The broadcaster will tell you whether you're clear, or over modulating (getting too close to the microphone).

You're all set?

OK, in that case, don't be distracted by the spot on the wall that you've been meaning to paint for weeks. Gaze right at the web cam. That's your single audience. The camera never blinks or loses concentration but viewers will quickly pick up if you lose yours and your eyes start to wander. Engage the viewer by looking right at them through the lens of the webcam. Imagine you're addressing someone in the office. Remember, you are the spokesman for the company and your colleagues will all be watching.

Remember your key messages. Don't get distracted.

Here are some bullet points to remember:

- Set the stage: Make the room you're in a reflection of your company approach polished and professional

- A plain backdrop can be less distracting

- Test the lighting: Even if your camera isn't the highest quality, make sure it flatters your features and the interviewer can see you clearly

- Dress the part: Be as conservative as the organisation - wear smart bottoms in case you have to get up during the interview

- Work the camera: Minimise the video image so you're not tempted to watch yourself on screen

- The viewer/anchor expects eye contact and anything else will be distracting for them

- Do a test run: Call a friend or family member to make sure speakers and microphone are working and they can hear you clearly

Mark Clark

Director of Navigate Response