12 Tips and Tricks to Video Conferencing From Home

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing was growing in popularity. However, now that virtual meetings are necessary for businesses all over the world, it is important to understand the ins and outs of an efficient video conference. Whether you are using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or any other video conferencing platform, here are 13 tips and tricks on how to make the most of your virtual meeting.


Technical Help

1. Bandwidth

Video conferencing can be very sensitive to fluctuations in bandwidth. If your internet connection is typically slow or if you are sharing your network with others, ensure that everyone is using applications of systems that won’t consume large amounts of bandwidth. If your whole family is going to be working and learning remotely, you may want to consider upgrading your internet service to ensure that everyone is getting the most out of their virtual experiences.

So, what takes up bandwidth? Audio, visual, and content sharing all add to bandwidth usage. Some ways to prevent overusing your bandwidth capacity includes muting your mic when you aren’t speaking, turning off your camera when you are sharing your screen or document, and minimizing movement in your background if you cannot turn your camera off.

2. Hard-Wired is Best

Wireless internet is definitely the most convenient, but it is not ideal for video conferencing. As Wi-Fi networks become congested with dozens of active devices, a hard-wired connection will help provide the clearest connection for your virtual meeting.

A hard-wired connection will ensure that you are maximizing the bandwidth available on your network to your laptop or PC. When you are hard-wired to the network switch or router via an ethernet cable, you are the only device using that connection. You will then receive full bandwidth compared to Wi-Fi that has to split that bandwidth amongst all the devices connected to it – TVs, gaming consoles, phones, smart appliances, etc.

3. External Cameras & Headsets

Most laptops today include built-in cameras and microphones that will suffice for most video and audio needs. However, the location of the microphone and camera are not always ideal for effective video conferencing and can affect the quality of the meeting. If you are experiencing challenges with your build-in cameras and microphones, external devices may be a solution.

Basic external USB cameras are readily available and can greatly increase the quality of your video appearance. The sensors and optical components are far superior to built-in cameras and they are able to be mounted in the ideal position – directly above your display.

Audio quality and intelligibility are greatly improved with the use of an external headset or headphones. When the microphone is closer to your mouth, background noise is reduced, and you are able to be heard much clearer. Wireless headphones or wired ones that plug into your device will both work well in this situation. You can also use noise cancellation headphones as they will block out background noise and keep you engaged in the call and less focused on surrounding distractions. However, it is important to note that while noise cancelling headphones may be ideal for you, they do not block out the noise to those that are on the call allowing them to hear background noise that you may not.

4. Lighting

A lot of work goes into designing proper lighting setups in professional conference rooms to support video conferencing and it is unfair to expect anyone to match those setups at home. However, there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure you are presenting a clear, high-quality image to the other conference participants.

The first solution is to minimize back lighting. If you are sitting with your back to a window or glass door with the sun shining through, you will appear as a silhouette. All you have to do is pull the shades down, close the blinds, or simply turn the camera around so it is not facing the light source. This also applies to bright lights in a room that may be behind you.

Providing an even lighting source from behind the camera will ensure that you are well lit and picked up by the camera. A simple table lamp on your desk can make a huge difference in your on-camera appearance. You can also invest in specialty lighting that angle perfectly towards your face.

Etiquette

1. Mute / Un-Mute

As with any virtual meeting, there are always going to be noises that are outside of our control. Whether kids are learning virtually, dogs are barking, or construction is happening outside, it is important to be aware of when you are un-muted. These noises can be distracting to others, so be cognizant of when you need to mute yourself in order to keep the meeting on track and only un-mute yourself when you need to!

2. Camera

It is easy to forget how wide your camera lens may be, so having a clear understanding of the viewing area of your camera is very important. Your camera will pick up when people walk by, so position your camera in a way that will minimize visual distractions.

Also, and this one is simple, but do not forget that your camera is on. There have been plenty of quarantine stories about people forgetting that their camera is on during an important meeting. It can be innocent, such as looking at your phone, or it can be embarrassing and unprofessional. Turning your camera off for a few minutes is much better than being caught in a situation that could have serious repercussions.

3. Clothing

Undoubtedly, dressing comfortably is one of the benefits of working remotely. However, be aware of your audience and how you are portraying yourself. If you are meeting with a client or giving a presentation to company executives, make an effort to look crisp and professional. If your leadership allows for more casual apparel for internal meetings, feel free to wear something comfortable, but always work appropriate. Busy patterns, bright colors, and reflective materials can be distracting and cause image quality issues, so make sure you are dressed for your audience!

4. Know Your Audience

We are getting unprecedented access to peoples lives outside of work. We are seeing into their homes, meeting their families, and we all have our own challenges to face during this pandemic. It is important to always be patient with your team members and partners you are working with and collaborating with.

As stated before, there will be noises and distractions that are out of our control. Rather than snapping at someone for their barking dog, kindly request that they mute their microphones if possible. Also, some people may not be tech savvy and have less access to help at their homes. They may take longer to get setup and run their portion of the meetings but be patient and use those instances as a learning experience or offer to provide whatever help you can virtually.

You never know what someone may be going through, so making virtual meetings effective and less stressful will provide benefits for everyone involved.

Best Practices

1. Backgrounds

While backgrounds such as outer space and the beach may be fun and entertaining, they can often be distracting and seen as unprofessional. Having a simple, stable background will be less distracting and allow participants to focus on only you. It will also allow for the video stream to take up less bandwidth.

2. Join Early

If you wouldn’t show up to an in-person meeting late, don’t show up to a virtual meeting late. There is also the added challenge of technology with virtual meetings so joining early will allow you time to make sure your device is working correctly and get everything setup, especially if you will be sharing your screen and presenting content.

3. Testing Prior to Meeting

Just as you would in the office, schedule a dry run for important meetings and simulate setups the best you can. People are typically very understanding when it comes to technical issues, but it doesn’t look good when meetings are delayed for something that has a simple solution.

4. Backup Plan

Technical issues are always present whether you are working remotely or in a professional conference room, so it is important to always have a backup plan. When sending out a virtual meeting invite, make sure there is a conference call number that people can use if their internet cuts out or if the video conference doesn’t work at all. If you are at home and have a cellular hotspot, make sure it works properly so you can quickly utilize it if your home internet service drops out.

These may be unprecedented times, but we can navigate them together. Click here to learn more about how ZeroDay can help with your technology needs.

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