During the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, these tips can help you communicate online like a pro.
With social distancing still very much in effect for many industries, maintaining a personal connection with employees and customers can feel more challenging than ever before. That’s why video conferencing has become a must-have skill. A video call provides a great opportunity to have an experience that feels more like a face-to-face meeting.
So don’t be camera-shy. With a few basic tips, you’ll be looking and sounding your best, so you can focus on the people on the call rather than worrying about the tech.
While your phone or tablet already has a camera built in, your computer or monitor may not. And even if your desktop monitor or laptop is just a couple of years old, the camera may be lower quality than what you’re used to on your phone. So how do you up your camera game? There are a variety of different options.
- Invest in a good webcam. Generally, you can get a high definition (HD) external web camera for less than $50. Most often, they’re better quality than the built-in cameras, and can dramatically sharpen your video. They don’t take up a lot of space either. Most are a few inches wide and clip right on to your computer or monitor.
- Lighting is key. No matter what type of camera you use, proper lighting is important. Always make sure the light is in front of you or coming from the side. It can mean the difference between people actually seeing your face in its best light or looking at a dark silhouette, or worse, squinting through the blinding glare from the light behind you. One effective tip: Sit facing a window, never with your back to one.
- Look at the camera. We all know the importance of good eye contact. When video chatting, if you’re not looking into the camera, you’re not making eye contact with your conversation partners. Do your best to look at the lens and not at your screen, especially when you are speaking. Boosting your camera up to your eye level is a great first step, even if it means stacking your laptop on a pile of books. It might take a little practice, but it can go a long way to making your connection even more meaningful.
- Know your background. Before you start chatting, it’s important to check your surroundings. An exercise bike with the laundry hanging off of it may not make the best backdrop! And remember just because your phone, tablet or laptop can go from room to room, it doesn’t mean that everyone you’re chatting with wants to go there with you.
- Make sure it’s working. Before you start chatting, take a few seconds to double check that your camera and video feed is working and that you’re ready to go. You can usually check in the application (app) you’re using. And if it’s not working, make sure your camera is turned on, turn off any other app that may be trying to use the camera, and check that your computer is using the right hardware if the camera is external.
The way you sound on a video chat is as important as the way you look. Your voice should be crystal clear and easy to understand with no feedback or echoing. To make sure you sound your best, consider a few of the following tips.
- Get an external microphone. If you’re working on a laptop or desktop computer, an external microphone can make all the difference in how you sound. Even the earbuds off your phone will sound better than talking into the built-in mic on your laptop, but a dedicated USB mic works even better. Just make sure if you do get an external microphone, you switch to that in our computer’s audio options when you are video chatting.
- Where you sit is important. Whether you are using an external microphone or the one built into your computer, you need to be seated close enough so that people can hear you. The farther away you get, the softer your voice will become. Try to stay the same distance from the mic for consistent volume.
- Try some headphones. Many headphones or earbuds, wireless or wired, also have a microphone. Wearing headphones can help eliminate background noise, get rid of feedback that can cause echoing and help you hear better too.
- Manage the mute button. Wondering why someone can’t hear you? You’re probably on mute. That’s the little microphone icon you see on most applications. It will have a line through it if you’re muted. If you want people to hear you, you just click on it to turn off mute. Keep in mind the mute button can be your friend too, especially if you have noise in the background or if you’re coughing, sighing or trying to do something else while you’re supposed to be listening.
- Make sure it’s working. Most of the tips that apply to the camera, come into play with the microphone too. You have to always make sure it’s turned on, close all other apps that may be using the mic, and make sure your computer is using the correct microphone.
The internet connection
To make sure you have the best connection for video chatting, it’s important to take advantage of everything the Viasat service has to offer. At the same time, there are some simple things you can do to prevent video chats from freezing up, and to help ensure that calls don’t get cut short.
- Close other programs and apps. Shut down any apps you don’t need during the call. The more programs you have competing for your internet bandwidth and battery power, more likely you are to run into problems.
- Stick to chatting. Try not to upload or download files, watch movies or do anything that might interfere with the bandwidth needed for video chatting. That goes for your own attention as well: If you’re responding to email or checking Facebook while on a call, you’ll come off as distracted or disinterested in the conversation.
As in any business interaction, a bit of thought and effort will go a long way toward helping you make a connection with the people on the other end of a video call. If you’re able to remain effective and professional through the current set of challenges, your customers and employees will take note. That can only be good news for your business, even after social distancing is over.