Many of us have adapted to working remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic. And some of us are “co-working” with our spouses, partners or roommates. Then there are those who are doing all of the above while home schooling our kids. It’s not what most of us expected to be doing right now, but here we are! Meeting with our other remote coworkers via video conference has become our new normal.
Isn’t it about time to up your video conferencing game? Here are a few tips to consider that can make it a better experience for you and for your fellow conferees.
First, what’s your internet speed? Speed is important for the best quality sound and video, which makes meetings more effective (and less frustrating). You can test your internet speed by going to www.speedtest.net. For one to two devices with minimal video streaming and lower quality video conferencing you need at least 25Mbps download. If your partner or spouse are also using the internet for video conferences and your kids are simultaneously doing schoolwork or playing video games online, you might need to upgrade your internet speed. Speeds of 50 to 100Mbps are more common these days and very affordable. Contact your provider to see what options are available for you. It may be less expensive than you think, and the increased speed will dramatically improve the quality of your video conferences.
Lighting, lighting, lighting! Consider the lighting in the room where you “meet” via web camera. The best scenario is to face a window (natural light is the best!) or position a lamp or other light source in front of your face. The worst thing to do is to sit with strong light behind you, and no strong source lighting your face. The people you’re meeting with will see your dark, undistinguished form, surrounded by glowing light. That may be best if you’ve just gotten out of bed and are still in pajamas. But that’s for you to decide… Another tip–it’s also nice to have ambient light on in the room so that walls and objects behind you are visible. You can check out how you look to others in almost all video conference applications.
And what about sound and sound quality? There are many options available both for how you hear, and for how they hear you. Earbuds—either wired or Bluetooth—work well and the microphones on earbuds are generally excellent. The batteries in wireless earbuds don’t stay charged for long, but should make it through a short meeting. Otherwise, Bluetooth headphones from Bose or others work well and keep a charge for much longer. You may be happy using the speakers on your laptop or desktop, but it’s a good idea to purchase a USB microphone (by Jabra, or others) so that others can more clearly hear you. These microphones can be positioned near you and away from your computer speakers for better sound clarity. You might also think about ways to reduce any echo that others may hear. Hard surfaces like walls, ceilings and floors can be bad for acoustics during video conferences. Placing a rug on the floor in the room where you “meet” is a quick helper.
Last, if your webcam or laptop with built-in camera is more than a few years old, a newer, better camera may be in order. Webcams by Logitech and others are great and simply plug in to a USB port. Check out the reviews of cameras on Amazon or elsewhere before you buy. Regardless of whether you’re using a built-in camera, the camera on your tablet or phone, or a webcam, be sure to position the camera so that it’s at your eye-level or a bit higher. You’ve watched others who place their camera on the desk providing a great view up their nostrils. Don’t let that be you.
From-home video conferences don’t have to be amateur hour. Impress your friends, co-workers and maybe even your boss with these simple tips.