Video calls used to be an intriguing option for college coaches to consider when they wanted to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile to impress one of their better recruits.
Today, video calls using technology platforms like Skype, Google and FaceTime are becoming a go-to method for connecting more effectively with most of a college coach’s recruiting list.
But that can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, the technology available to a coach today makes it so easy and seamless to connect with a prospect quickly and easily through video gives them the ability to add an extra dimension (sight) to the typical recruiting phone call.
On the other hand, many coaches struggle to make an effective call, meaning that they don’t treat it like the live television show that it is. And, you’re the star. If you appear to be uncomfortable, boring, or unsure of yourself, those traits are only magnified when you’re on a prospect’s computer screen.
Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my short lived television sports career taught me more than a few iron-clad rules to follow when you’re in front of a camera (most of which I promptly broke, which is why it was a short lived television career. But if you want to know what a younger, fresher Dan Tudor looked like close to 25 years ago, here’s a clip someone unearthed and placed on YouTube).
The point is, the rules for appearing on video haven’t changed. So if you’re a coach that is determined to make video calls a part of your regular contact with prospects, I’d recommend you follow these seven tips to make sure you’re looking better than your competition:
- Pay attention to what you’re wearing. Go for solid colors, preferably with your college’s name or logo displayed. Video is a prime venue for branding, and since your prospect is going to get tired of looking at you they’ll search the rest of the screen for hints about who you are and what you’re all about. Stay away from busy patterns, as well as wearing white…it can reflect light rather than absorb it, which can lessen the quality of the video your prospect is seeing on the other end.
- Pay attention to your background. Your office wall behind you is boring. Your cluttered office is boring (and not good branding). A darkened background is boring (and kind of creepy). Opt for something that has good indirect lighting, with depth of 4 to 8 feet if you’re indoors. Me?…I’d try to be outside on campus somewhere with a great background: The student union, your facility, the weight room…somewhere that showcased energy and people in the background. Don’t be boring. And, very important: Don’t have a window in the background. It will darken your image, and make it really distracting for your prospect.
- Be well lit. You need some kind of lighting directly facing you. Natural light from a window in front of you is great, but you can even use a desk lamp angled towards you as a good option. This is one of the top mistakes beginning video callers make. Not lighting yourself gives you shadows under your eyes, and poor coloring. Face some kind of light source for your video calls.
- Sit up straight. And, have your computer, camera, tablet or phone at eye level in front of you. One of the weirdest visuals teenage recruits comment on is when a coach is slumped over their computer, staring down at the camera. It doesn’t look professional, Coach.
- Look at the camera, not at the screen. You’ve been on a video call when someone is talking to the screen, right? It’s really disconcerting to the viewer. As a serious recruiter, you’re not on the call to watch a show; you’re making this call to showcase yourself and your program to your recruit. Focus on how you are looking to them, not what they are doing in their camera. Even when they are talking to you, look at the camera…react to what they are saying…pretend you have a person in front of you and you are trying to maintain eye contact with them. This is important, Coach. If you’re shifting your eyes down to watch the screen, you’re taking your eyes off of your recruit. And they notice.
- Use your hands and show off your personality. Yes, you should sit up straight and look at the camera. But you also don’t want to come across as stiff and uninteresting. So, “talk with your hands” a little bit. Also, make sure you over-eggaerate your facial expressions and your tone of voice. It will sound a little odd to you, but it will come across as normal to your prospect. One of the rules of television that I still use today is to over-eggagerate a little bit. If you don’t, you will most likely appear too dull and non-energetic to your recruit who is watching you. Next time you watch any kind of TV host or newscaster, notice how they over-eggagerate their voice inflections and their facial expressions. There’s a reason for that coach – and it’s the same reason you should do the same thing when talking by video with your recruits.
- Have something to say. That may seem like an obvious recommendation, but I’m making it because once you’re on a video call with a recruit, it’s like the pilot of a new TV show a network is trying out. If the viewer doesn’t like what they’re watching, don’t expect them to tune in for more in the weeks to come. Keep your message on point, ask a lot questions and let them do most of the talking, and end the call a little sooner than you might normally. Leave them wanting more.
Video calls aren’t rocket science, but there are some rules to follow for appearing calm, confident and engaging on video. If you don’t follow those rules, you could wind up being called the worst sportscaster ever.
Or, even worse: You could ruin your chances to land the recruit you really need.