- hey everybody, here is what I have been…
- we can’t hear you, are you on mute?
- my bad, I was on mute, can you hear me now?
- yes, but we can’t hear you well. Can you check your microphone settings?
…10 min later…
- OK, you're all set, we can continue.
…noise in the background…
- Can everybody go on mute, please?
Software message: your free session has expired.
There were mainly two types of video calls I was making until March 2020: job-related meetings and communication with my family. Since the beginning of the lockdown in Germany, I started to have all types of videocalls starting from consulting with a tax advisor to holding online speeches and having birthday parties.
Despite the variety of calls and communication channels, in most cases, we want that people understand and, in the best case, remember what we say. And for this, we need their full attention. The problem of online meetings is that it is much harder to keep people focused since we have minimal influence on the disturbing factors for each listener. But we can at least make sure we do not cause any disturbance from our side. Based on my observations, there are two major fields where we have an influence while video calling: technical aspects and the way we present our content. In this article, I will concentrate on the technical issues, while next time, I will talk about the presenting part.
Whether we distract or help people stay focused during the call, largely depends on our actions before it actually begins. How do we usually prepare for our online meetings? 1. We make sure we look appropriate for the call. 2. With an announcement for the whole family, "I am on a call," we dial-in. Technical problems begin as soon as we join the meeting: you don't see others, they can't hear you, someone's dog is barking and many others. As a result, the call takes longer; everybody is annoyed and missing real-life meetings. To improve our video calling experience, I put together a few aspects which we all can take care of and have immediate results. And again, everything described in this post is based on my observations. Your experience may be different. So, take what you like and leave the rest.
The position of the camera is probably one of the most important and yet greatly underestimated aspect of video calling. Depending on the camera level with respect to our face, we might be perceived as friendly, arrogant, or even submissive by our audience. The good point is that this is relatively easy to fix. Here is what you can do:
Make sure the camera is approximately at your eye level. This is how most of the people are used to look at you.
If the camera is lower, (e.g., sitting at the desk in front of the laptop), increase the distance to it, don't look down on people :-)
If the camera is way lower (e.g., device is on your lap), people will see your double chin ;-) Better avoid this one.
What you could also avoid is video calling while walking, this combines all Don'ts mentioned in this post.
BTW watch the movie "Parasite" to see how high and low angle camera shots are used to emphasize the "low" and "high" societies, respectively.
When we speak, we want that people hear us loud and clear. But this is not always the case due to some technical aspects:
When using a Bluetooth mic or a built-in mic of your device, your voice is often muffled.
When you connect your external microphone to your device, in software settings, the previous microphone can still be selected. Always check if the correct microphone is chosen.
And lastly, make sure you are on mute before expressing your honest opinion about the meeting. You still have a long way to go with these people :-)
The background noise is probably the most annoying distraction factor since, unlike the case with a microphone or camera, we usually have no influence on its origin. But you can at least do the following:
Make sure no one is loading/unloading the dishwasher or watching T.V. in the next room. Your audience can clearly hear all your background noises, even if you think they are not that loud.
If you can't find a quiet place, use Krisp for noise cancellation.
Having the sun behind the person might have a fascinating effect in photography, but it is a disaster for video calling. There are plenty of lighting tips on the internet for video calling, but here are a few things you can do right away:
Have as much lite as possible in your room, open the curtains during the daytime, turn on all lights.
At the same time, avoid having the sun/lamp behind your head.
Having a shadow on half your face can be quite disturbing too. Try to avoid it.
Choosing the background for the call boils down to the question: virtual or real. Here is how to choose the right one for you:
If you have a green screen behind you, uniform lighting, and can sit STILL, use virtual background. Otherwise, that beautiful beach photo will be flickering while the software is trying to detect the difference between you and the beach.
No one cares if you have a huge library or a fridge covered with magnets on your background. As long as nothing/no one is moving, it is better than the virtual background.
Improving the aspects mentioned above will enhance your online communication experience. At the same time, we should clearly understand that this communication format is not going to replace our face-to-face meetings. Online is a great extension to our offline communication. We just need to learn how to get the most out of it. P.S. In the following posts, I am going to discuss how to deliver our content online to keep people interested and focused.
P.P.S. Feel free to share your comments and experience with me, so I can add more content to this post.