We’ve gone virtual! Do you remember the days when ‘virtual’ meant everyone needed to hop on a telephone conference call? You passed the number around, logged in, and waited. Then the email came…you know the one.
“Hey Jim, I’m trying to get into the meeting. What’s the right meeting ID? Am I even on the right line?”
That used to be the norm. But, things…they are a-changin,’ and Zoom, WebEx, GoTo Meeting and MS Teams are now your conference room. You probably didn’t think about your home office or your dining room as needing to be professional before. But, as meetings and presentations online become more prevalent, they require a different level of treatment.
Here are some items to consider as you set up your space for virtual meetings and presentations:
As a virtual presenter, lighting is one of the most crucial elements of your presentations. The best rule you can follow is:
Keep all light sources in front of your face.
You can get outstanding lighting results without spending hundreds of dollars on pro lighting. A ring light or an LED light is an excellent investment. As you think about your setup, consider the windows. Where are they? Is it possible for you to set up your space, so the windows are in front of you? If not, having them on your side is the next best option.
What about the overhead lights in the room? If you can do without those, great. Lights from above tend to cast shadows on certain parts of your face or make the top of your head appear a bit more…well, shiny.
Light sources in front of you, whether fluorescent, incandescent, or LED will give you a better result.
You may be having some trouble finding a top of the line webcam. Or the prices may be so ridiculously marked up that you aren’t willing to spend a dime. Well, there are several solutions.
First, you may have a webcam built into your computer. Most computers do these days. If you are attending a meeting, a built-in webcam is fine. Many of them do a decent job. However, there are a few limiters.
a – the quality on built-in webcams sometimes has lower quality,
b – if the camera is integrated, you lose the ability to adjust angles or distance without impacting your ability to reach the keyboard comfortably and see the screen,
c – limited ability or inability to zoom and/or focus.
The second option you have is using a DSLR you may have lying around. This is an excellent option from a video quality perspective. The challenge is that you may have to purchase some additional connectors, a capture card, and additional software to get it working how you would like, depending on the camera brand and tier.
A third option is using a device most of us have…a smartphone. You can either log in to your session on your smartphone, then log in again on your computer, appearing twice in the virtual session. A more elegant option is using a virtual cam app, like EpocCam, to wirelessly connect your phone’s camera to your computer and virtual platform. There is a free version of EpocCam, which works well. You will have to deal with some ads, though.
The fourth option, as mentioned at the top of this section, is to grab a webcam. There are a gazillion webcams on Amazon. You won’t go wrong with a lot of them. However, for streaming, I’d recommend a Logitech cam. You can’t go wrong with the C922 or the Brio. At a slightly lower price point, you can check out the B525 or the C930e.
Again, as with the web camera, most computers come with a built-in microphone. Despite the convenience, there are a few limits. First, the integrated mic will pick up much more background noise. Unless you happen to have your lips right by the computer, there is the possibility for a lot of sound interference on it’s way to the mic. So, you will do better to plug in an external microphone.
There are a few types of mics. Headset mics, like the Logitech H390, will get the mic input close to your mouth. But, it’s a headset, and moving around is cumbersome if it’s wired. If wireless, latency, or lag, is a possibility. Condenser mics, like the Blue Yeti, will do a great job of lowering some of the room noise and picking up the sound in front, but it also has settings which will allow the pattern of pickup to be varied. This means, if you have multiple people in the room, the Yeti can be set to equally pick up the sound from each person as long as they are equidistant from the mic. Blue also makes some other great mics like the Snowball and recently, the Yeti Nano. Dynamic mics, like the Samson Q2U or the Audio-Technica ATR2100, are cost-effective microphones that do a great job of picking close vocals while ignoring the majority of the background noise. The mics are built to pick up the sound in front of them and not “around” them.
Having an external microphone creates more flexibility and more quality in your sound.
You may not be able to build out a professional broadcast studio, or your organization may not be able to sponsor a rockstar setup. However, paying attention to a few setup details can make an enormous difference in how your audience receives your message. Your goal is to have the message stand out while minimizing distractions.
When you are intentional about some of the background details your audience might never pay attention to, it allows you to come across as a more polished presenter and communicator.