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5 Tips for mastering video calls

Feb 1, 2021 | Work Culture

When most of our interactions are happening on Skype, Zoom, or Teams, it is now more important than ever to stick to video conferencing etiquette. While working from home or collaborating with remote members of the team, the closest interaction you’ll have with your colleague or a business partner is through a camera. You’ll probably want to make the most of these moments to leave the best impression. But it’s not just about a big smile. 

The people you are interacting with should see you in a clear, bright picture without any background distractions. And certainly, they don’t want to look at you from below, unwillingly inspecting your nostrils. We’ve dug into the science of video conferencing and are bringing you tips on how to optimize your setup to leave the best impression. 

1. Camera

Think about how you would communicate with somebody in person. It can be awkward to speak to another person from above their heads, and uncomfortable to speak to someone from below. The best practice is to lead the conversation, so everyone feels equal. Try to move your camera higher, so it’s at eye level. If you have a laptop, you can get an adjustable laptop stand. And you can always adjust the height of your office chair as well.  Be aware of what’s in the space behind you. Everything can be seen on camera. To prevent that you can go to the camera settings and make the background blurry, or set a custom background.

Skype camera settings

2. Light

Many homes and offices are still not ready for the modern era of video conferencing. The lighting infrastructure is steps behind the kind that a professional studio has. Modern web cameras are doing a decent job compensating for the lack of light and will show your face even in low-light conditions. However, you can have studio-like lighting without spending too much money. The expansion of Youtube streaming in recent years has lead to professional broadcasting equipment becoming more broadly available. The ring light is designed to illuminate your face without dazzling you. Plus, it comes with a phone holder, so you can use your phone’s camera at the proper height. When there is still a lot of light outside, don’t combine it with indoor lighting

ring light

3. Microphone

We recommend checking your microphone with a colleague or a friend before joining an important video call. The quality of the microphones, whether it’s an integrated one, or a headset, might vary. If you are close to a window to the busy street, or you live in a house with kids, you may want to invest in a microphone that will cancel sounds other than your voice. Microphones can pick up many disruptive background noises, including minor ones like typing on your keyboard or clicking with a mouse. 

4. Mute button

Before every call, locate the mute button, whether it’s a physical button on your headset or a software button in the application. And use it whenever somebody else wants to have a quick word with you, or you simply have to leave the computer for a minute. You never know which member of the household migth drop by. It is also a good practice to leave the headset by the computer if you need to leave the room. 

5. Treat it as if you were in the conference room 

Don’t let the feeling of being at your home or alone in your office take over. Minimize all distractions and stay focused. Remember, even if you can’t see all the video call participants in your current screen mode, they can all see you, all the time. If it’s a video call with a client or if it’s a board meeting, remember to wear appropriate clothing (and yes, that includes pants). When you talk, look into the camera as if you were looking into someone’s eyes. While looking at the screen instead of the camera when talking is not as bad as looking on your phone, you’ll always leave a better impression when the participants know that you’re giving them your full attention.

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