TELEWORKING TIPS: Everything you ever needed to know about Video Conferencing and Streaming while working from home

It’s been several weeks of confinement due to the Covid19 situation. In one of our previous Flash Newsletters, we gave you tips for teleworking. This time, we wanted to be more specific, sharing with you our recommendations for your video conferences and streaming from home.

Although we are starting to get used to working from home, we still have a lot to learn. Now is the perfect moment to improve our virtual communication skills so that we can use them not only now, but also in the future, as we know all too well that the “after-Covid19” society will be very different from the one we left behind. Working from home won’t be the exception anymore, therefore, any improvements we make now in our remote working environment, will be useful for our future as well.

Even though these tips are more focused on video conferencing which seems to be more common, video streaming is becoming more and more important in our new lifestyle, both for professional as for leisure uses, because it’s a way to send a live message to a large group of people. Therefore, these tips can also be applied to this popular communication tool.

UCI wants to share a few tips with you about how to prepare the best Video Conference and Streaming atmosphere:

1.      Device

Always use a desktop or laptop computer, set on a flat surface. Mobile phones or tablets are not good options unless they’re connected to a docking station. The image must be fixed and correctly directed, and you should have easy access to all the necessary tools, such as documents you will be sharing during your presentation.

2.     Close Apps you will not be using and check your internet connection

To maximise performance during your video meeting, you should avoid using as much CPU power as possible. Before you start your video conference, take some time to save your work and close any apps you won’t need. It’s a good idea to take extra precautions if you intend to share your screen so people can’t see any programs that contain personal data or private information that you don’t want anybody else to see. Too many open apps will also slow down your computer while you’re on a video call.

Before your call, you can check your internet speed using speed test tools, such as Fast.com or Speedtest.net. If you’re not getting enough speed, move closer to or redirect your Wi-Fi router / antenna. If it still isn’t working property, you might have to restart your router.

3.      Lighting and background

It’s best to make a video call in a location with natural light, so your face is clear. However, if it’s not an option, try to sit under some soft florescent lighting (nothing too harsh). Try not to sit with your back to a window, as your face will appear dark. If that’s the only option, you can place a desk lamp in front of you to add illumination to your face.

It’s best to choose a spot with a neutral background, nothing too busy. Even if you just sit in front of a wall, that should be fine.

If you can’t find a suitable background, you can try to blur your background or you can even switch to a virtual background, option which some Apps offer.

4.      Test the video and audio

Before you start a video call, make sure both your video and audio devices are connected and working properly, that the image is centred and that the light is appropriate. Most video conferencing tools have a test call service. Look under the options or settings menu in your video conferencing app.

5.      Position of the camera

It’s important to position the camera at the optimum level. Try to put it right at eye level so you’re neither looking up nor down. You don’t want your colleagues to look up your nostrils nor to see your face cut in half during an important meeting. This is also a very important reason not to use your mobile phone for this purpose. If you are using a phone in vertical position, and your colleagues are watching you on their computers, they will only see half of your face and you won’t even know it.

Also, when you’re talking, don’t look at yourself or the chat window—look straight into the camera. This way, others won’t feel like you’re distracted.

6.      Use of headsets and a proper quality camera

Try to use headphones or earbuds when you’re on a video call, because, the sound will be much cleaner than using your computer’s built-in microphone. To avoid latency or cuts go with wired headphones rather than Bluetooth. There are headsets that are noise cancelling, which are helpful if you don’t want your colleagues to hear your children or roommate’s voice during the meeting.

The built-in microphone and camera on your laptop should do just fine. But if your computer is old or doesn’t have a good quality camera or mic, it might be a good idea to consider getting a better camera and/or headset. If video conferencing is going to turn into a tool that you will use not only now, but also in the future, you might consider this small investment.

7.     Choose the appropriate App

There are many different App options. You should consider the type of meeting or streaming that you would like to organise and chose the one that adapts best to your needs:

  • Number of participants and how many you would like to visualise on the screen at the same time?
  • Will they all participate or only some?
  • Will you be sharing documents, and if so, which type (video, audio, office document)?
  • Type of meeting: formal, casual – there are even Apps that allow you to wear a virtual costume or makeup if you’d like to add some laughter to the event.

You also must consider the type of devices that the rest of participants will use for connecting, and make sure that the APP that you chose works for them too. If they must download the App, they will have to know up front. Otherwise you can use an App that doesn’t require all participants to download, in which case, you can send a direct link so that they can log on to participate in the meeting.

8.     Organize the meeting / streaming

If you’re running a meeting, try to have all your talking points and the documents you’re going to share ready beforehand. If there is any document that your colleagues must work on during the meeting, send it beforehand so that they can have it handy as well. This way, you won’t have to spend the first few minutes of the call waiting for everyone to get up to speed.

Prepare all the points of the meeting and follow your order. If several people will be participating, make sure everybody follows the structure of the meeting.

9.     Appropriate attire

As we already suggested in the teleworking tips that we sent on one of our previous Flash Newsletters, even though we are working from home, we must dress accordingly. We can’t wear pyjama’s during our video conferences. Of course, there’s no need to overdo it with a full-on, three-piece suit. Find a middle ground and dress casual, or whatever the dress code is at your workplace.

Yes, pants are optional, but why risk it? If you forget to turn off your camera before you stand up at some point, it could be embarrassing. I’m sure we’ve all received WhatsApp jokes with silly video conference dressing situations.

White or black clothes are not recommended. Clothing colours should be neutral, to not take the light away from you face.

 

10.  Mute yourself while you’re not speaking

When you’re in a video meeting with a lot of participants while you’re at home, it’s best to keep yourself muted. Only unmute yourself when you need to speak. This eliminates any background noise on your end or if somebody else starts talking in your room, which is likely to happen since you’re at home. You don’t want to rush to find the mute button, do you?

11.  Focus on the meeting

Even though it’s tempting to use video conferencing time to assist other work obligations, such as check your emails or even answer them, it’s not a good moment. Try to pay attention when someone’s speaking and keep your eyes on the camera, just as if it were a real-life meeting. If you’re not paying attention, your colleagues will notice.

12.  If you can’t keep children away, make the best of it

If you have kids, when possible, ask someone to take care of them while you’re on a video call, or find them an activity to keep them busy while you’re in the meeting. However, sometimes they will barge into the room anyway. Given the current situation, people are understanding. You can even make the interruption give a little personal touch to your meeting. You can apologise and step away from the meeting for a moment to assist your family, after introducing them to your colleagues.