Best Practices When Making a Video Call

julie zellman

Julie Steele, Corporate Communications Manager

Video conferencing technology has come a long way. It is now incredibly easy to record and stream a video call to thousands of participants, join a multiparty call from your smartphone or tablet, and see another person in crystal-clear HD when they are across the globe. But like any technology, there are still a human and environmental elements that can hinder or improve the success of a call. Here are a few best practices to ensure that your video call is as productive as possible:

1. Use a headset: They may look a bit silly, but they can work wonders when it comes to audio quality on a video call. Not only do they virtually eliminate distracting echoes, they can help other participants hear you more clearly, as the microphone is closer to your mouth than a USB or embedded webcam would be.

2. Consider additional lighting: Your overhead light may provide enough illumination for you in your home office, but on a video call – it may not be enough. Additional lighting may be needed to ensure that you appear bright and clear while on a call. A simple desk or floor lamp pointed towards your face (behind the camera) can add the right amount of light to make sure you are perfectly visible to the other participants. If it works for television anchors, it can work for you too!

3. Avoid windows: Windows are wonderful for natural light in your home or office, but on a video call – it can sometimes negatively impact the quality of light by either washing you out (too bright) or providing too much back light (too dark). Whenever possible, make sure you are sitting with your back to a wall, rather than a window.

4. Eliminate distractions. Microphones on embedded or USB webcams are extremely sensitive, and can magnify distracting background noises during a call. In the same way that you’d go to a quiet room for a phone call, make sure that the room you use for a video call is equally quiet so you (and the other participants) can focus on what matters most – the meeting.

5. Mute when you are not speaking during large multiparty calls. If you are not using a headset, one best practice is to mute yourself when you are not speaking (especially if you are on a call with more than 2 participants). This will significantly reduce the chance of echoing and audio distortion. Even the most sophisticated technology can use a little TLC from the user to make sure the quality is the best it can be.

6. Test your audio/video before a call using the “local video view”. If you want to see how you will appear on a video call, try testing it beforehand. Many video systems offer a “local view” that you can see when you are dialed into a call. This is the perfect way to check your lighting and background.

Remember, any form of communication requires a human element in order for it to be successful. An email would not be effective with tons of typos, an audio call would be a disaster if someone was in a noisy communal office space, and a video call won’t be productive if lighting and sound issues take over. Make sure you put your best foot forward on all video calls by following the simple directions listed above.

Have tips of your own? Share them with us in the comment box below.

4 Responses to “Best Practices When Making a Video Call”

  1. Michael Graves

    Julie – You are so right about this! Iv’e long argued that a headset is the absolutely best way to hear and be heard, and speaker or conference phones a pale second choice.

    http://www.mgraves.org/2011/07/can-you-hear-me-now-headset-vs-speakerphone-in-the-home-office/

    More recently, I’ve been documenting the changes that I’ve been making around my home office with respect to lighting.

    http://www.mgraves.org/2013/09/series-lighting-for-video-calling-and-conferencing-in-a-home-office/

    Thus far I’ve purchased a commercial light for use in one location. I’m planning a more DIY approach to a second location in the coming weeks.

    Reply
    • jsteele

      Michael, Glad to hear that you agree with our tips. Thanks for sharing your links too! If you are ever interested in writing a guest blog for us (perhaps a follow-up post on this topic), please let us know (email pr@lifesize.com). We’d love to publish your perspective on our blog.

      Reply
  2. Pip Morphet

    Great points Julie – I spend a lot of time dialing into group meetings where I am the only or one of a handful of people not actually ‘in the room’ so here are a few things to consider when you are in a meeting room with far end participants:
    Remember not to turn your back to the screen(s) when you are talking to the rest of the group, us ‘far-enders’ want to feel as close to being in the room as possible.
    The microphones are generally on the desk so no pen tapping, finger drumming or even typing please – this is very loud at the other end!
    At the end of the meeting, make sure no-one has any further comments or questions, it can be very disheartening when everyone ‘in the room’ is getting up, shuffling papers, getting their things together (and sometimes actually leaving!) when you are trying to get everyone’s attention with a question.
    And finally, say goodbye to the screen participants as you would anyone else when leaving a meeting – don’t leave them staring at an empty room while you all leave chatting among yourselves! It’s best to finish the meeting, end the call, then leave. Thank you from a perpetual ‘far-ender’.

    Reply

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