Video meetings - so much to learn...

As many of us now finding, video meetings aren't as easy as they seem.

Sure the technology may be easy enough to set up, maybe, but there's a lot more to it than just joining a Zoom online video meeting.

Here's a few things I've found recently, and I have been doing this a while, so there's always something to learn 😁

1) Test before you use any new technology.

It is the bain of an IT guys life - last minute troubleshooting because someone thought they could show up and wing it.

See me my blog post on presentations about this very thing. Zoom meetings will need to follow the same rules.

This post is from Dec 2019, so don't take it personally...but, you know, maybe you should ;-)

2) Lighting.

   - Backlighting is bad.

   - Light your face, not the background...but not too much.

   - The colour of the lighting matters too. Too much fluorescent or too much incandescent is horrible.

3) Camera angle on your face.

I thought that what I had set up would be fine but it ended up being distracting for me.

The camera was below the screen and it looked weird.

I thought I could look at the screen and then the camera when I didn't need to look at the screen.

That was a failure. I was constantly looking around and trying to adjust.

Halfway through a recent meeting I changed to a traditional laptop set up and that was better.

Your appearance needs to look naturally while you are watching your screen. That way you can focus on the other people in the meeting and you avoid providing an unwelcome distraction.

No-one wants to look up anyone else's nose so be very careful of where the camera is pointed.

4) Just because you aren't looking at the screen it doesn't mean we can't see and hear you.

If you wouldn't do it in a room with people, don't do it on a video conference.

5) Dress for least the top half.

...or whatever it is you are doing. Dress appropriately.

My wife's top 5 tips for telecommuting come to mind here:

6) What's happening or seen in the background matters.

As hilarious as this was, it wasn't for him and it was kind of distracting:

7) For workshops and professional things you'll present to the public it will be essential to consider setting up a proper environment, a "studio" if you will.

Proper lighting, proper background, proper tools, proper audio and video etc.

It will need to look nice and inviting as well as work properly.

Combine this with knowing how to do an engaging presentation/training/whatever anyway - video conferencing doesn't magically make you interesting.

That's it for now. If I think of any others I will let you know. 

Thanks, David


Here's the post on Facebook:

Credit to...

Copy of the text below: Do you want to make all that working and socialising you're going to be doing for weeks on video a hell of a lot better for everyone? Worry less about how you look and more about how you SOUND. It's not about sounding amazing - it's about clarity and ear strain. There are some very easy and free/cheap things you can do to improve those group calls a LOT. Humans are very good at picking out voices amongst other noise - but the more in the way there is, the more strain you put on everyone's brains to do so. Firstly, *please* wear earbuds or headphones if at all possible. Even if you don't bother with a better microphone, your video calling software won't have to do anywhere near as much filtering which will make you clearer. You can get very cheap port splitters like this if there's two of you at the one laptop or tablet: Secondly, if you're in a Zoom group call on a laptop, go to Settings->Audio, and tick the "push spacebar to unmute yourself" option, and tell everyone else to do the same. With it on, your microphone will only be active when you're holding down the spacebar. It's a godsend for group meetings. It doesn't take long to get used to it. It also psychologically makes butting in a conscious rather than accidental act, which is a handy side effect for work meetings... Thirdly, and crucially, please consider getting a microphone. I'm going to make it very easy by walking you through some common types you can get. The key thing you want is a directional microphone pointed at your mouth somehow. This not only reduces the amount of other sounds in your house getting mixed in, but also means you get a hell of a lot less of your own voice bouncing around the room you're in. All those reflections reduce clarity. One option is to get a headset like this one which takes care of everything. Or you could wear normal earbuds/headphones and get a gooseneck microphone like this (I have something similar). It also has a handy on/off mute button with indicator light. They'll work pretty well for two of you sitting at a laptop. Or if there's a group of you and you want to all sit back from the laptop a bit on a couch or something, you could get a boundary microphone like this one. Inevitably, this approach won't reduce anywhere near as much noise as sitting close to a directional microphone, but you can at least get a microphone closer to you and away from any noise your laptop makes (you may think your laptop is very quiet, but it's not so quiet to a microphone inside it). Just make sure you go into your zoom/skype/teams/whatever settings and check the right audio input device is selected. Most of those apps let you do a test call to see how you sound. Do that. Before you buy anything, check what you can plug into your laptop/tablet. Here's the usual methods: -USB, like the devices above. Works great with laptops, not so much with tablets, depending on which one you have. Also a lot of newer Mac laptops only have USB-C ports so you'll need to use one of the seventeen dongles in your bag. -3.5mm jack, like phones used to have before manufacturers lost their minds. Very predictable compatibility with headphones/earbuds (if the plug fits, it'll work), more unpredictable with microphones. Most tablets and *some* laptops will manage to use an included microphone (like the one in the cable in your phone earbuds). You can test that by tapping on the mic and seeing if other people in the video call give you dirty looks for making a loud thwacking noise at them. -Bluetooth. No plug required. These should work fine with both laptops and tablets, but you'll have to charge them up now and then, and some won't let you use them while you're charging.  A lot of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds do have a microphone built in, so if you already have some, try pairing them to your laptop or tablet and see how they go with a test call. Be aware that some Bluetooth devices introduce a delay which can be infuriating, especially when video calls usually create a delay themselves. Feel free to ask questions - I will happily do my best to help with your scenario. Or put forward your own solutions/corrections below, I'm happy to edit the above if I've said something dumb. Now go make your meetings/parties better. You might not actually notice any difference yourself if you do the above - but others will.


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