Opinion: 15 tips for your daily videoconferences

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Thanks to social distancing, my days are filled with meeting after meeting, all done from my office, kitchen table or out on my sunny deck. I got to say, I am not hating it. Are you, like me, discovering that it’s nice to be at home?

As we navigate reopening, I’m rethinking which situations need me in the flesh and when it might be more practical – and cost effective – to work remotely. Videoconferencing is changing the way we go (or don’t go) to work. However, virtual meetings can be frustrating. I’m a fairly easygoing person, but technical issues and sketchy internet service and have led me to meltdown like an over-tired toddler.

Deep breaths. I’m getting better at it. In the last few weeks, I’ve learned a few things to make our remote reality a bit more Zen and a lot more productive.

Here are 15 videoconferencing tips from my experiences:

1. Set up at a desk or a table. On a videoconference the other day, I noticed the person I was talking to was located somewhere between a Dyson vacuum and a one-piece ski suit. Sit at the table.

2. Check your internet speed with a test tool like SpeedTest.net or Fast.com. An information technology pro or your internet service provider technician can help you upgrade if necessary.

3. Is your computer more than 4 years old? That means it’s old. It’s important to have the right tools, and computers are so much better and less expensive than they have ever been. For instance, a new Google Pixelbook is $650.

4. Multiple screens are especially helpful with videoconferencing. Put the “Brady Bunch” grid of attendees on one screen and your work or presentation on the other.

5. Figure out how to zoom in. If everyone is squinting to see your QuickBooks reports, change the view to 150%.

6. Natural, indirect sunlight is flattering. Or set up one of those specific-for-video “ring” lights. You can order one online from Walmart or Amazon for about $15. Avoid backlighting, or you will look like a witness who doesn’t want to be identified on “Dateline.”

7. Put your computer at eye level, by lifting it with a few books or a computer stand.

8. Take note of your background. Simple and neutral is best. Do not share a messy desk or living room. You can add an image – wallpaper – with Zoom or Google Meet. Save the funny filters for videoconferencing with family members.

9. Turn off notifications. I regrettably have sent a sidebar text to a team member during a conference, only to then watch it pop up on his screen as he was presenting. Gulp.

10. As you log in, there are often prompts to check your audio. Take a moment and do it. Newer computers make it easy to find external audio components.

11. A corded headset is best for call quality. My Apple earbuds work great. You can get fancier; if you are into tech toys, the sky is the limit.

12. If you use your computer mic or an external mic, don’t get too close to it. You’ll sound like Darth Vader.

13. Once you are in the conference, keep yourself muted unless it’s your turn to talk. Google Meet has a cool feature now that allows you to toggle the mic on by holding down the space bar.

14. Bad connection? Do the tried and true trick of shutting down your computer and turning it back on. Log into the meeting again.

15. It’s never OK to go to the bathroom on a videoconference. Just in case you were wondering.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.