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7 tips for better video calls

7 tips for better video calls

If you’re one of the millions of employees that is now working from home, you’ll have accepted that video calls and video conferences are now a part of your everyday life.

They’re not the same as meeting someone face-to-face but they’re the best we can do for now, so here are a few tips to make the whole video calling experience better.

1. Find good lighting

Whether you’re chatting with friends or having a video call for work, presentation can still go a long way. You want your friends or colleagues to be able to see you clearly and to portray your best self.

For the sake of everyone else on the call, try not to sit with the light behind you. Backlighting will make you look like a dark and shadowing figure in front of a blinding ethereal light, which is probably not the look you’re going for.

If your home desk is positioned with a window behind it, consider moving to a different spot when you’re taking video calls or rotating your workstation a bit. Search your home for a location with soft natural lighting and make that your designated video calling spot.

Direct sunlight is also a bit jarring on a webcam, so if you can, find a spot near the sunlight but not directly in it. As when taking selfies, a soft natural light positioned to the side or slightly up (not overhead) creates the best look. It makes you look the most natural and doesn’t cast shadows that make you look tired.

2. Position your camera properly

Whether you’re catching up with your mates or giving a presentation at work, no one on the other end of that video call wants to spend that time looking up your nose.

Try to position your camera so that you can look directly at it, just like you would if you were talking to someone in person. You can do this by raising your laptop or monitor, attaching a dedicated webcam at a more convenient height or simply moving the camera/computer farther away from you.

3. Don’t check your emails/messages/social media

Moving the computer away has the added benefit of preventing you from checking emails or messages or browsing other work while you’re on a video call. Not only will this distract you, it also distracts others on the call.

Remember, this is a video call, and everyone can see your eyes moving around when you’re clearly not paying attention. Plus if you forget to mute your microphone they’ll all hear you typing since your keyboard is literally on top of your mic.

4. Mute your microphone

This is a big one for work calls, so if you’re not speaking, put your microphone on mute. Even if you’re alone there can be background noise or the aforementioned typing sounds that can be really distracting for others.

The default view on some platforms like Google Meet and Zoom automatically shift the video spotlight to whoever is talking. So if you cough, type or take a sip of tea while ‘unmuted’, that might be enough to switch the view from the speaker over to you.

It’s also a good idea to adjust your settings to join calls with your mic on mute as default. That way if you join a meeting late you won’t accidentally announce it to the entire group.

Just remember to unmute yourself before you start talking — we’ve all been there.

5. Look at the camera, not yourself

In a time when we all feel disconnected, it’s important to make more of an effort to show that you’re engaged in your conversations. In real life you would do this by making eye contact, on video calls you do this by looking at your camera, not at yourself.

Avoid the temptation to spend the entire call checking out how you look and instead make regular eye contact with your camera. If you want, spend a minute or two before you join a call making sure you look ok. Switch your camera on and then fix your hair, move yourself around to get the best lighting, and then log in.

6. Don’t rely on your laptop camera

You don’t always have to use the camera that comes built into your computer. If you want to get serious about your video calls you could use a dedicated webcam as it will likely produce a higher quality image than your laptop. In fact, the selfie camera on your smartphone is also far superior; the iPhone 11 has a 12MP TrueDepth front-facing camera which is far better than the 720p FaceTime camera on a brand-new, 16-inch MacBook Pro.

7. Check your internet connection

Video calling services like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and FaceTime will all dynamically adjust the quality of your video call depending on the speed of your broadband connection. However, while you may stay connected, the image and the sound quality will be drastically lowered.

Since video calling is likely to be a part of your everyday life for a while now, the demands on your broadband may have changed since you first signed up with your provider. So run a quick speedtest to make sure you have a decent download and upload speed.

For more help with choosing the right video calling platform, find the right one for you with our guide.

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