In regards to communication, 2020 will go down as the year of the video call. Virtual communication during the pandemic was key to continuing business in a remote environment or maintaining relationships with family and friends during stay-at-home orders. What was a novelty in the beginning is now the norm to use video to communicate.
Many have become experts in conducting virtual calls whether it’s on Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Skype, etc. However, there are still a few out there that need a few tips on how to set up a call, video-call etiquette, creating a DIY mini-homemade studio, and much more.
Here’s a list of tips for better video calls to head into 2021 without missing a beat in the video arena:
- Unmute yourself to speak — one of the most common sayings in 2020 — besides “pivot” is “You’re on Mute.” When you’re on a video call and not talking, put yourself on mute. Many of us are still working from home and who knows what interesting background sounds can occur in this often unpredictable environment. When it’s your turn to talk, however, make sure you unmute yourself so everybody can hear you or else you’ll hear the dreaded “You’re on mute” declaration from the group.
- Camera at eye level — there’s nothing worse than looking up someone’s nose during a video call because they have their laptop, smartphone, or tablet laying down on a desk pointing straight up at the ceiling giving you a clear view of their nasal cavity. Not a good look.
Invest in a tripod or stack some books to raise your device up to eye level because that’s usually the angle we talk to someone in person. We’re used to that; we expect that. So transfer that angle to your video calls, too. Remember: camera at eye level.
- Light source on your face — lighting can be tricky, especially indoors. Ceiling lights can wreak havoc on your shot, making it a challenge to get yourself in position so people can clearly see your face without shadows creeping in. A simple rule of thumb is to have a light source shining on your face from in front of you.
Too many of us have seen folks on video calls sitting with the bright window behind them, giving a shadowed silhouette, witness protection program look that creates more mystery than clarity. Sit in front of a window or lamp facing the light source so the light shines on your face. Experiment before the call to get it right.
- Uncluttered background — when we’re on video calls, many of us forget about our background. What’s back there? Piles of books, folders, papers, leftover lunch? Fortunately, most of the video call apps have creative faux backgrounds to cover up the clutter. If the app you’re using doesn’t have that feature, however, take a few minutes to tidy up your background for a clean and professional look. At the same time, don’t just have a blank wall either. Dress it up a bit with a picture, plant, books, etc.
- Turn Off Other Applications — most of us today have powerful enough computers or mobile devices that allow video calls to go off without a hitch. But even some of those devices have their limitations and can crash your video at any time — and it’s usually at the most crucial time it goes down. To avoid this crash when making video calls, simply quit all your other applications, so your call can have plenty of power and bandwidth for success.
- WiFi — speaking of bandwidth, make sure you have a speedy WiFi connection to ensure the dreaded frozen or pixelated shot of you in mid-sentence that could become the latest internet meme sensation. It’s frustrating not only for you but for others on the call to guess or hold their breath on what your next garbled word is.
Also, make sure others in your home are not hogging all the WiFi bandwidth that will crash your call or see if you can get a wired connection. A wired connection will vastly increase your chances of success not having to solely rely on WiFi.
- Good microphone — having good sound is as crucial as having good video for your call. Most computers and mobile devices today have decent mics that will pick up your voice quite well. If you want to take your sound to another level, invest in a decent microphone to ensure ideal sound.
Good sound also raises the level of attention of the recipients on the call. They tend to listen more attentively. It’s more commanding and clear.
- Distractions off camera — video calls from home equal the inevitability of off- or on-camera distractions. We’ve all seen video bombing kids or pets bouncing about in the background, not caring that mom or dad is on a business video call. Why should they? They’re at home. While sometimes entertaining and ice breaking, bringing a few laughs to the call, remember not to let it happen all the time.
But what’s distracting like nails on a chalkboard — especially on group calls when everybody is on camera — is one of the callers talking to somebody off camera. For some reason this person stands out like a sore thumb from the rest because we are suddenly more interested who this person is talking to off camera than the presenter. The person can be on mute, too, and it doesn’t make a difference. It’s distracting.
In this instance, if you are the person talking to somebody off camera, simply turn off your camera and deal with the situation. When the situation has concluded, turn your camera back on to rejoin the call. Most likely nobody will even notice.
So there are your tips to better video calls. Chances are you already know most, if not all of them. But, again, it’s nice to have a refresher heading into 2021, as video calling is only going to get more and more prevalent in our lives.