28 Apr Video Conferencing From Home
Straightforward, easy-to-do tips for getting the best out of your home working video experience without spending a penny.
As a global firm that provides expertise in the space of Audio Visual, IT and acoustics to clients all over the world, many of which are Fortune 500 corporations, we’ve watched with interest at the various ‘video conferencing from home’ sessions. Some have been hilarious, some cringingly bad, but most barely pass the litmus test.
It is amusing when high-powered execs get suited and booted for their video call, only for elements they don’t consider to influence the professional image they are trying to portray. People at other end of the call see and hear the deficiencies in your room. You won’t notice them because you’re familiar with them and mentally shut them out.
Remember, people focus on what they can see and hear, and especially what’s unusual or novel. Meeting rooms are pretty boring, but your home isn’t, and people will and do look around, which means they’re not focussing on you.
So, here’s some video conferencing from home tips for you to avoid presenting as mediocre and how the external image of yourself, both video and audio reflects the one you see in the mirror before you jump on a call.
The noises around your house are very familiar to you as you live with them every day. Whether it’s the birds or traffic outside, next door’s lawnmower, a snoozing dog or a squeaky door hinge – we all have them – that’s just what home is about. But videoconferencing from home doesn’t have to be so.
You’re used to these sounds and they (largely) don’t bother you because you block them out. Your headphones isolate you from the various noises around your house, but your microphone is very good at picking them up, and they are distracting. You won’t know they are being picked up.
Try to bear this in mind and think ahead. Close the windows and doors, try and pick a room that’s away from the house. The acoustic properties of domestic walls and doors aren’t as high as they are in an office. Silly things that you take for granted are usually the most annoying to people at the other end. They don’t know what they are and they can’t see the source of the noise. Whether it’s ticking clocks, the coffee machine in the kitchen, clicking pens, mouse clicks and keyboard keys, children’s toys, animals – the list goes on.
A quiet room is important, but not one that’s boxy or empty. These sound hollow and can play havoc with the echo cancelling software in your PC. Remember, it’s always the far end that suffers. If you have no choice, try and introduce some soft furnishings, especially if you have tiled floors. Drawing the curtains, even a few cushions leaning against the wall or behind your screen, will help take the edge off. Put a rolled up towel against the gap at the bottom of the door. This will help stop those sounds coming through from the house. The difference is noticeable.
If you don’t have a tabletop microphone, go and get one – this is the one. Tabletop mics are generally better than most camera mics. However, at the top end of the market, camera mics are also pretty good.
If you’re using a headset, remember that something as simple as breathing can be really noisy! Not to say don’t breathe, but bear in mind that exhaling through your nose causes the air to rush past the microphone making a really loud noise. Solution – move mic to the side. Headset mics don’t need to be close to work well. Most of them are designed for the mic to be off to one side. Just make sure it’s not touching anything , otherwise that noise will dominate. The mics built into ear buds aren’t great – invest in a decent headset or a USB tabletop mic/speaker.
Finally, remember etiquette and turn your mic off if you’re not using it. There’s an automated system in your PC that increases the volume of your mic if you’re not speaking. This increases levels of background noise. One microphone in a conference call doing that is probably manageable, but it gets very disturbing when all mics are on.