2020 changed the world and how we communicate for good. Face-to-face conversations went behind the screen in a matter of days. Be it business or personal, people started connecting with each other through video-conferencing tools. We reached out to professionals and entrepreneurs across industries to find out their top tips for video conferencing from home. From lighting to wifi, and more, find helpful pointers to make your video-conferencing profile more professional.
Let's dive in!
In thinking about the hundreds of video calls I’ve been on, this week alone, there are a few givens - have a professional background, be clean, be dressed, and focus on the call you’re on. After that, my biggest tip would be to manage the mute!
When you get on, make sure you’re not muted. There is nothing more frustrating than getting onto a call to see the person on the other end gesturing wildly because they can’t hear you, or you pose a question and get back silence, and when the other person realizes their volume is off, they’ve lost their point.
Similarly, if you’re not speaking, go ahead and mute, but make sure to remember you’ve done it! And make sure any extraneous devices have been muted. In today’s times, when families are working in shared space, muting is welcome. To quote a colleague:
“not muting your microphone is the new reply all.”
When video conferencing, you really want to avoid being in a dimly lit room (which can result in a poor, grainy video quality) or using harsh, artificial lighting (which emphasizes shadows and can be unflattering as well as make you look tired).
If possible, try to set your office or makeshift desk in a quiet, well-lit area of your home. The more natural light you can access, the better. Ideally, position your computer in a window sill or right in front of a large window, with your computer’s camera lens facing inwards so that your face is being lit by the natural sunlight.
Natural lighting is much more flattering and will do wonders for your video presentation skills. Plus, being near natural light is generally better for your psychological mindset, especially with so many of us being trapped inside all day.
Just like when you are in an in-person meeting with a group, you should really focus on listening and being engaged. This way the meeting stays efficient, people are listening and only speaking when there is something of benefit to be mentioned. By trying to multi-task or zone out during a video conference you are not only wasting your time, but the rest of your teams. This type of behavior is pretty easy to spot also - so please do your best to stay engaged!
Most remote workers don't know that they can combine their wired Internet line with the Internet connection in their cell phones to create a single aggregated faster and more robust Internet connection. This technology is called Broadband Bonding. Remote workers can plug in their wired Internet line such as DSL, Cable modem or fiber into a home office version of a broadband bonding router and then set their cell phone in personal hotspot mode so that the broadband bonding router can connect to it wirelessly.
With this method, the home network will have two connections to the Internet, namely the traditional wired Internet service and the Internet connection in their sim card and the two Internet connections can be aggregated for a single faster and more reliable connection. Some broadband bonding routers further support optimizations for live video applications which will further improve video conferencing quality and fidelity.
One thing that people neglect to pay enough attention to before they participate in a video call is the background. You want to find a spot without a lot of distractions or large objects hovering over your head. And if there are windows, make sure they are covered with blinds so you don't have a lot of backlight.
You want the viewer to focus on you, so make sure that what is behind you is neat and not too cluttered. I've noticed that a lot of people position themselves in front of a bookcase, which can communicate that are are well-read, but is the bookcase orderly? If there are books packed into every open spot or if there are too many trinkets, this can be distracting for the viewer or give the impression of disorder.
Once you have created an orderly background, position yourself so the viewer can see you from the shoulders up, and your head is centred in the screen, or slightly higher.
One thing I think people don't realize is just how resource-intensive video conferencing can be, especially in HD. If you're experiencing choppy video or audio, or others are saying your own quality is choppy, it may be because you don't have the bandwidth to spare.
Use a site to check your current internet speed before you start a video conference. You need about 1 to 1.5 mbps to have a decent experience, and that's with only one person in the conference. If your whole team is joining in, add another 1mbps per person, which can quickly put a strain on your internet.
Next, check your network usage. On a Windows PC you can do this through the task manager. See what's taking up the most bandwidth and ideally pause or stop the process before your conference. After that, check all devices connected to your network. Make sure your phone is off wifi, double check to see if anyone else is streaming something, and try to isolate internet usage as much as possible for the best conference quality.
Make sure nobody is using the microwave in your home when you are video conferencing.
Microwaves interfere with WiFi signals because physically they are the same thing. Both produce electromagnetic waves with frequencies around 2.4GHz. The microwave door should theoretically block the majority of the radiation but the fact is there are always leaks and because the amplitude of these waves is much higher than those emitted by your WiFi router, it can lead to a loss of connection.
One option is to make sure your router and workstation are further away from the microwave if it is going to be used while you are working and taking video calls. Another option is to connect to your router using an ethernet port instead, then you won't be using WiFi so it won't be a problem.
If you are experiencing drop-outs it may be a result of your neighbour's microwave if they are in close proximity. If you are generally having a bad experience with video calls over Wifi, switch to a hard-wired Ethernet connection and it should lead to a smoother experience.
When video-conferencing from your home virtually, you need to keep in mind audio quality. Using your computer or phone audio is not good enough to wow everyone listening and will usually have a scratchy and unfocused quality. Instead invest in an inexpensive usb computer connected microphone and your audio and presentation quality will increase exponentially. Many people don't realize how much audio affects the overall feel or quality of their video-conference presence, but it actually makes a very big difference and makes you sound much more professional when it's high-quality.
Don't skimp on audio. I only have one good ear, and so maybe I'm more sensitive to bad audio than most people. It's frustrating and a waste of time to continually ask people to repeat themselves when they sound muffled or like they're in a tunnel. Webcams are great for video, but universally bad for audio.
I spent $100 for a nice Blue Yeti mic and it turned out to be a great investment. This is not an endorsement, just a note that I've had great success with this mic. I'm sure there are other quality mics available. The problem with the Blue Yeti mic is, it's too big to take on the road, and I cringe every time I have to depend on an integrated laptop audio or other cheap mic.
I started working from home one day in 1993 when a snowstorm backed up all the roads between home and the office. I dialed into the office with one phone line and worked a customer problem with the other phone line, and before I knew it, I had handled the customer issue and the workday was over. But I didn't need to drive home from work because I was already home.
Ten years later, I pioneered long distance meetings between military families here in Minnesota and loved ones serving our country in Iraq, sometimes in front of thousands of people, and a few times in the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce meeting room. But when I pitched using VPNs and video for business to Chamber members around 2005, objections flew fast and furious. I imagine if I had told them to get ready for a global pandemic coming in 15 years, they would have laughed me out of the room.
The direction where you point your video conferencing camera matters. Head: Watch your head space. Adjust the camera to properly frame you from slightly below the shoulders to the top of your head. Make sure there isn’t a lot of space above your head to keep the focus on your face. Adjust your laptop screen or web cam until the top of your head barely touches the top of the screen in the video image of you that's projected into the conference. Cutting off a little bit of the top of your head is better than a lot of empty space above it. NOSE: Place your
camera or laptop directly at eye level or slightly higher. You don’t want people looking up your nostrils. Eyes: Look AT the camera, NOT the screen. People tend to either look at themselves when on a video conference call or they look at others on the screen. Webcams are typically right above the screen so to appear like you’re looking at your audience, keep your gaze above the screen and look directly into the camera. If your eyes are looking elsewhere you can look bored and distracted.
Video conferencing is a big part of life as an author and an illustrator. Whether that's casually chatting with other business professionals, giving virtual lessons, or speaking to large groups at events, the biggest and best thing anyone can do for at-home video conferencing is to research and invest in proper stage lighting to ensure that they and their background are properly lit.
Nothing's worse than an unclear, sun-glaring, or dark and dingy screen! Proper lighting is especially important if you'll be showcasing a product or giving a live demonstration of something. Luckily, there are a plethora of Youtubers out there handing out solid advice on what sort of equipment to get; but I've personally found that just a basic trio of softbox lights does the trick!
One method to try is called Three-Point Lighting. In this set-up, you'll be positioned in front of the camera and will have a light on each side of you (one at full intensity and the other at around half). The last light will be set to a low-intensity, in the back. This will help you achieve more depth and will give your video a much more professional and dynamic look.
My top tip about video conferencing from home is to treat each call as a mini photoshoot and set up your visual presentation to provide the best visual communications impact. You know what they say: a picture tells a thousand words. So, assume that a video conference call must say a million words about you. So much of our human communication is nonverbal (about 90%) and while our colleagues, managers or clients will listen to what we say, they will form opinions based on what they see.
Your technology should be working well of course and you want to use a webcam that you can adjust so that you can create the right visual impression. Make sure that you set the shot up so that you are not super close up and rigidly straight on at the camera. If you are too close you might look magnified without any context clues in the background, but set your background so that it simple but uses contrasting colors and objects that do not blend into your head.
Research indicates that the left side of the human face is generally more appealing to others than the right side so adjust your eye level camera to create a slight profile. Think of it as a headshot, you want to frame your upper body not zoom in on your eyeballs. However, do use your eyes to look at those you are speaking to. Do not stare at your monitor or the other visuals on the screen.
You also want to pay attention to your lighting, practicing until you are certain that there are no odd facial shadows. Practice managing your shoulders hands, and arms and don't forget to smile. Your resting whatever face is not your most attractive.
If you regularly conduct video conferences with colleagues or third party vendors, it's important to present yourself in a professional manner. That means the person on the other side of the camera shouldn't be staring at beer signs, piles of laundry or your closet. That's a surefire way to lose a sale or promotion. It just gives off a vibe that you don't take pride in your job.
As a hiring manager, I can personally tell you that I'm turned off when I video conference with someone who doesn't take pride in their work environment. Instead, use a bookshelf or credenza behind your desk to display any awards, certifications, degrees or books related to your job. This will subtly tell the person you're conferencing with that you're an accomplished professional and serious about your position.
This will not only help make a good impression on your manager or boss, but it may also help you close an important deal.
My best tip would be to consider your camera angle. For the most part when video conferencing, especially when using a laptop, the camera itself is below your face pointing upward. This is wrong. You should raise your camera lens to either to eye level or slightly higher than eye level by a couple of inches maximum. Camera angles that are higher (or from above) are more flattering to those on screen generally.
When you position your camera lower than eye level (or otherwise from below shooting up), it makes you look intimidating and sinister. In the movies, low angles are used to signal superiority and power and are often used when showing the villain and other “bad guys” on screen. All are things you want to avoid conveying in your business meetings when teleconferencing. Additionally, no one wants to look up your nose through the entire meeting because your camera is shooting up your nose.
It’s not a flattering look for anyone. Eye-level angles are neutral, so that angle neither communicates superiority or inferiority and this should be your first choice of camera angle for your camera angle.
You can also choose to slightly raise the camera above eye-level just a small amount. Camera angles that look down can communicate vulnerability generally, making it easier to speak freely. You don’t want the camera to be too high up shooting down very far because in the movies that camera angle projects weakness.
You can get away with a little bit of a downward angle, but not a lot. You don’t want to appear meek, weak or inferior on camera during your business meetings. You want to be on a relatively equal footing.
These are just a few tips to improve your presentation when on a video call. Do you have any special tips that have helped you improve your video-conferencing? Share them with us!