In today’s world, conference rooms are being traded for living rooms and bedrooms. Workforces all over the world are using video chat tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to continue daily meetings and face-to-face interaction. While this satisfies the need for social interaction, it can also feel a little invasive to allow colleagues and co-workers to see our homes. Use these steps to make the most of every video conference.
Picking the Right Location
When it comes to video conferencing, remember this one rule: light is your friend. Pick a location that has ample natural light, whether it’s near a window or outside. The more natural light you have, the less likely you are to get tired. Separately, your background matters as well. No one really wants to see your hilarious wallpaper from a decade ago or a slew of kitchen cabinets. Try and find a location that has the least amount of distractions in the background. A kitchen table usually works well because it’s generally away from the business of the kitchen and is often near plenty of windows.
Check Your Internet Connection
Having a fast Internet connection is critical to daily video-conference calls. The last thing you want is a location in your home that is too slow to maintain a solid connection. That will only lead to blurry video and broken audio. Test your Internet connection with sites like Speedest.net or Fast.com. This ensures you will be able to find the best possible spot to maintain a steady Internet connection. You may even need to move your router to another room temporarily to make sure you receive a strong signal.
Make Sure Your Camera and Microphone Work
For many employees, this is their first time using video-conferencing software at home. For Windows users, the camera and microphone are not necessarily enabled out of the box. To begin, click on your Start Menu and head to Settings. Then click on “Privacy and Camera.” You should see an option for “Allow apps to access your camera.” Ensure this is in the “on” position. Repeat the same process for your microphone by enabling “Allow apps to access your microphone.” That will be located under “App permissions” right underneath the camera icon.
Mac users have it a little easier, as the camera and microphone are both enabled by default. If you want to double-check before your first video conference, open FaceTime and make sure you face is visible on the screen. To double-check the microphone, head to “Settings -> Sound -> Input.” Once you click on Sound Input, speak out loud and see if the bar activates underneath “input level.”
Mute Yourself When You Are Not Talking
When you are in a video meeting, it helps when only one person is talking at a time. The best rule is to only unmute yourself when it is your turn to talk, ask or answer a question. The last thing everyone on the call needs is to shout over one another. Parents, this advice works for you as well. While completely understandable right now, you don’t want your children walking into a room screaming. Reducing the background noise can be critical to making sure calls start and end on time. Muting yourself while you are not talking also saves you from having to rush to find the mute button in the event someone accidentally walks into the room talking.
Beware of Chat
You also don’t want to accidentally write a message that goes out to everyone on your video conference call. Apps like Microsoft Teams have their own chat stream for individual messages but also chat boxes during video/audio calls. It is all too easy to accidentally write in the wrong box which can lead to plenty of embarrassment, apologies or worse. Do not get so caught up in a call that you are not focused on which chat box you are working in.
Know Your Technology
One final piece of working from home advice is to know the technology you are using. Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams all have their own unique software layout. Try and familiarize yourself with this software ahead of time. Know where the screen-sharing function is located as well as the Record function. Be familiar with the placement of the mute button so that you can quickly come off mute to answer a question. In the case of Microsoft Teams, the meeting host needs to know how to admit someone from the virtual lobby. It’s critical to be familiar with these tools to ensure video-conference calls go smoothly.
While video conferencing has been around for years, if not decades, the last few weeks has brought it into the limelight like never before. Knowing how to properly engage and interact with these platforms is critical right now. If you are considering Skype over Zoom, you may want to compare them and see which is better for your needs. What’s your favorite videoconferencing tip for working from home?