Six WFH video conferencing tips from people who've been doing this a while
Tips & Tricks

Six WFH video conferencing tips from people who've been doing this a while

Video conferencing adds a whole new dynamic to work. Whether you're the boss or the intern, here are some tips on how to put your best face forward.

Office types around the country and around the world are working from home en masse. Some offices are well equipped for this new paradigm. Some people are well set up to take advantage. Some are not.

We at Tucows, Ting's parent company, count ourselves fortunate; we've been doing the work from home thing for a while. Most of us would work from home somewhere around a day a week. A fair portion of the team rarely set foot in one of our actual offices. As we all weather the COVID-19 pandemic, our offices are effectively shut down and we're working from home even more.

Video conferencing like a pro

Video conferencing adds a whole new dynamic to work. Whether you're the boss or the intern, it pays to put your best face forward.

We'll relegate the most obvious video conferencing tips to a few bullet points. To wit:

  • Don't eat on camera. Not a good look.
  • Find or make a quiet space.
  • Keep the kids, pets. etc. at bay.
  • Wear pants... or don't and just avoid standing up on camera.

If there weren't a global pandemic on, we'd be remiss not to mention getting a better Internet connection in this list. Responsible Internet service providers are protecting their people and their customers by avoiding contact and therefore limiting new installs, so that's not really an option.

Find your video conferencing platform

Maybe your office already has a video conferencing solution. Maybe it's Google Meet, which is part of Gsuite. If the team's on Slack, a simple /call command in a channel or direct message is all it takes to start a video call with multiple participants.

If you don't have a conferencing solution already and you want someone to say "OK, just use this one," Zoom's security and privacy policy has come under some justifiable scrutiny but as a tool, it's uniquely well-positioned for our new working-from-home reality. It's pretty much platform-agnostic and lets you do a lot at the free level. It's fun too, which is hard to weigh in the balance against more seasoned options like GoToMeeting, but that shouldn't be underestimated.

There are plenty of video conference options, which means there's no need to rely on exclusionary video chat apps like FaceTime, especially for group meetings.

Sound > video

If you have to focus on getting just one thing right, get your sound game on point. People can deal with a crappy video feed but hard to hear audio is a deal-breaker. If you're having connection problems or running into the limitations of your provider's aging copper infrastructure, turn off video and go audio-only.

If you have a set of quality Bluetooth headphones or a headset (if there's a gamer in the house, steal their headphone/boom mic combo) so much the better. Whichever video conferencing tool you're using, dig into the settings menu to ensure you're defaulting to the best audio input and output options you have. Tweak those input and output settings for best results.

If you need to type on the call, be mindful; that click-clack sound carries. If you can use a mic other than the one built into your laptop, do. If not, maybe don't volunteer to keep the meeting minutes.

Use your phone or tablet

There has been a run on webcams, mics and other video conferencing helpers. Don't overlook the solution that might be right in front of you.

Every video conferencing solution worth its salt has a mobile version. Grab it, prop up your phone or tablet (or fish out a tripod or gooseneck phone holder) and use it as a dedicated conferencing solution. Aside from anything else, you'll free up valuable screen real estate, not to mention computing resources, on your laptop or desktop.

Lighting is key

You don't have to be a lighting tech to get a good lighting setup. Diffuse light is best. If you have a desk lamp, try pointing it at the closest wall instead of at your face. If there's a window nearby, open the curtains but draw the sheers. Avoid harsh direct and overhead light. Don't sit in front of a window or other light source; unless you're a supervillain or in the witness protection program, backlight is best avoided. If anyone in the house has influencer aspirations, you might even have a circular ring light in reach. Commandeer it.

Before long, with a little thought and perhaps some luck, you'll find your quiet, well-lit go-to area for video conferences.

What's your angle?

Angles can be your best friend or your worst enemy. In portrait photography, a subject looking down at the camera shows power. In a web conference, it just shows up your nose.

Do what you can to raise the camera. Easier said than done if you're using a laptop camera but still worth the effort. A bad camera angle is the working from home equivalent of spinach in your teeth and, like spinach in the teeth, it's the rare, tactful person who'll pull us aside for a camera angle intervention.

Also, while we're on the subject, position yourself in the frame. Please. We want the full picture. Not just the top of your head.

Lean in

Literally, sure, but we're mostly talking figuratively here. We're dealing with an unprecedented situation. Those of use working from home have challenges to overcome but we can also count our blessings. Some of this home work stuff could well become the new normal and we might as well adapt now, while the rest of the office workforce is on the same learning curve. Ask for help. Offer help.

Give us your best video conferencing advice

What has been your experience working from home? What questions do you have? We can offer a little tech support in the comments section or on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) for anyone that needs it. Just reach out. Do you have tips or working from home insights can you offer? Let us know! We're all in this thing together.

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