Way back in April of 2020, we offered our insights for looking and sounding your best while web-conferencing. While the core ideas of that post still hold true, the naïve optimism that it would all be over soon has proved a bit … well … optimistic. Now that we’ve had a year of learning lessons while working from home it’s time for some updated tips to up your tele-presence game.
Invest in Your Workspace
Though we’re cautiously (and safely!) making our way back into the office and face-to-face interactions, it’s clear that remote work and virtual collaboration won’t ever go away completely. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to invest a little in your video conferencing technology. A couple of minor upgrades can make a huge difference in how you look and sound.
Unless you have a very high-end premium laptop, odds are the webcam in the lid is less-than-stellar. Take it to the next level and buy a dedicated external USB webcam.
You definitely get what you pay for in USB webcams, so take the time to research. Look for brand names you recognize. Read reviews. Seek the features you need – many webcams now come with the ability to attach to standard tripod mounts, which provides flexibility with positioning.
We don’t necessarily endorse any brand or model, but there’s a reason why Logitech is the first brand that comes to mind when you think of webcams.
While we’re upgrading, also consider an external microphone. Headsets are great, providing both an earphone and a microphone, but if you really want to sound your best, invest in a USB microphone. As with webcams, there are many to choose from of varying degrees of quality and value. Look for those made by established brands, and especially models geared toward podcasting and streaming.
Get out of the dark and step into the light! Inexpensive ring lights and LED panels abound, and here you aren’t likely to recognize any of the brand names. Look for a form factor that will mount easily in your workspace, and then read reviews until you find one that looks like a good value.
There’s nothing special about a ring light, unless you are mounting the camera inside the ring (that’s the whole purpose of the design!). A flat LED panel will usually work just as well.
One other consideration is color control. Make sure your LED light matches the rest of the light in your room. Many LED ring lights and panels allow you to adjust from blue (cool) undertones to red (warm) undertones. Sunlight tends to be on the blue side of the spectrum, so if most of your ambient light comes from windows, use that. Artificial light, however, tends to be redder, so if that’s your main light source adjust your LED light accordingly.
Look Your Best: Video Considerations
Look Behind You
Take a moment and look behind you. Consider the visual elements that fill the frame of your webcam, and make sure there’s nothing distracting (or embarrassing).
By now, we’ve all had experience with virtual backgrounds. They can be useful in a pinch when you have to have a quick client call and haven’t had the time to fold the pile of laundry. However, sometimes they can present as gimmicky and can even be distracting when your left ear keeps disappearing. So just make sure to test your appearance using one before you join a call.
Webcams aren’t always positioned well for engagement, either above or off to the side of the display we’re viewing. Since we’re speaking to people who are showing in little windows on the screen, our instinct is to address the display rather than the camera, and that makes us look distracted. If you want to make eye contact with the people on your call, be sure to look directly into your webcam from time to time, especially if you’re speaking at length. It’s not always easy, particularly if you’re referring to notes on your screen, but try to remember to glance up or over to the camera as much as you can.
Mobile Device Orientation
Sometimes you have to step away from the computer and use your mobile device. That’s fine, and most modern mobile devices do a decent job with video and audio. If you are using your mobile device camera – and you should! – be sure to flip your device into landscape orientation (on its side). Most web conferencing platforms work best with horizontally oriented video.
Sound Your Best: Audio Considerations
Don’t Phone it In
If you haven’t yet learned how to use computer audio for a conference call, it’s time! Even the worst computer microphone will almost always sound superior to dialing in from a phone – especially a speakerphone.
Modern web-conferencing software does a pretty good job of echo cancellation, but if your microphone can pick up the sound coming out of your speakers, you’re eventually going to have problems with echo or feedback. You can avoid the problem completely with headphones. As long as you separate the sound you hear (everyone else) from the sound you make (your voice into your mic), you can completely prevent echo.
“I Think You’re on Mute”
We’ve all said it (countless times). We’ve all done it (likewise). Mute is a great tool, and absolutely good etiquette when you’re not speaking for any length of time. But be sure you’re aware of your mute status and know where that button is to toggle it off when you need to speak up.
Use the Right Tools
Finally, make sure you’re using the right tools for the (virtual) job. There are myriad web-conferencing platforms and solutions, and some are better suited to certain applications than others. You’re likely to have different needs for a weekly internal team check-in than for a sales webinar delivered to 200+ prospects. Virtual conferences have different requirements still. Now that we’re starting to move (safely!) back to in-person events, the hybrid in-person/virtual model bears consideration.
Don’t feel like you have to do it all alone! Meeting Expectations is a full-service event planning and association management company, and we have experience with everything from an eight-person board of directors meeting, to a virtual red-carpet-style awards show, to hybrid events that make remote attendees feel like they’re right there in the room. We’d love to help you turn your challenges into successes. Contact us and let us know how we can help.