Become a Videoconferencing Pro with These Tips

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Still feeling lost at sea when you have to meet with others by video? “Take Control of Zoom” author Glenn Fleishman shares a host of tips that can help you tune your setup and improve your confidence.


Glenn’s book is much easier to use and understand than trying to work through the scattered bits on I recommend it highly.

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Thanks for those Glenn. Always nuggets I take away.

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One more point: do make sure that your name is presented appropriately. “Glenn Fleischman” would be fine for everybody. “Glenn” would be fine for friends and family but not for a business meeting. “gfleishman” or “glennf” would be inappropriate for anyone. The renaming function is by your name in the list of participants, under the “more” menu.


Would not be appropriate for me, as it’s not my name! :smile:

Regarding audio, I tell people that they should NEVER use their computer’s built-in mic and speakers. No matter how many hardware and software “features” the manufacturer’s marketing department claims are present, they always produce bad sound. Low levels, unclear audio and creating echoes of what other people say are the most common problems.

Additionally, if you are generating echoes, you will not hear it yourself. Everybody else will hear it. So if everybody is complaining about echoes and you don’t hear it, then you are the one causing them. Mute your mic immediately and don’t unmute it unless you have to speak.

Actually, it’s good etiquette to always keep your mic muted when you’re not talking, even if the system is working perfectly, just to keep background noises from your site out of the call.

Regarding choice of audio equipment, one choice you didn’t mention is a high quality conference room type speaker. I use a Jabra SPEAK 410 for my conference calls. I’ve never had a problem with it, and I don’t need to wear a headset.

If you can’t afford good audio equipment, then the simplest way to avoid the problems of creating echoes is to use headphones or earbuds instead of your computer’s speaker but use the computer’s microphone. The idea is that the audio levels from most headphones won’t be loud enough to feed-back into the microphone (unless you set the microphone gain and headphone volume very high). It’s far from perfect, but it works if you don’t have a better alternative on-hand.

Regarding video, I tend to keep my camera off all the time. Most of my meetings are technical or business-oriented. People care about what I’m saying and the slides I’m presenting. They usually don’t care about what I look like or what other people in the meeting look like. So leave your camera off unless it’s a conference where you know it is important (e.g. a personal gathering of friends).

Glenn wrote: “Apple still puts an ancient 720p camera in its latest laptops, and the company’s choice is not unusual.” I wonder how important higher resolution is. Virtually every article on video production says that in most viewing situations, humans can’t tell the difference between 720p and 1080p. Added to that limitation of human perception, I’ve read that Zoom isn’t transmitting greater resolutions right now, and may be sending less than standard definition in most video conferences. Finally, each viewer’s display device may further limit the resolution of each participant’s image.

Given these factors, what advantages will video conference participants see in increasing the resolution of their cameras?

I agree with Charles Maurer about the importance of using a clear and correct name in most video conferences. In a conference yesterday, we had three people who labeled themselves ‘Bill’, two ‘John’, and several with ‘cute’ avatar names. It caused confusion.

I can certainly see a difference between 720 and 1080, whether that difference matters is another thing. For talking heads in a Zoom call I don’t think it does, but opinions would vary, what is acceptable for professional practice is going to seek higher quality from participants.

On a side note in our college for tutors presenting material or demonstrating techniques or discussion of texts and editing of same we are exploring ‘document cameras’ such as this

Curious if any others have experience of these.

There’s a very noticeable difference when the subject is sitting far away from the screen, and it increases with the size of the screen. So it’s an important consideration when someone is going to be sitting right in front of a desktop monitor or iPhone, or someone is relaxing on a comfy couch and watching a 98 inch TV.

My question was in the context of the article, on video conferencing, especially Zoom conferencing. I’m guessing that the percentage of people using Zoom via a 98-inch TV is vanishingly small.

I do, too, but some people manage to make it work and it’s “free” in the sense you already paid for it. I generally think it’s a bad idea.

Apple’s cameras are ancient — the 720p is just part of it. The difference isn’t slight between 720p and 1080p (100% more pixels), but it’s more about the ancient part: Apple is using cameras that lack more modern capabilities for dealing with low-light and mixed-light conditions. If it were a perfect 720p camera that would be one, thing but it’s a bad one. It’s also a tiny incremental cost to bump to 1080p.

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Thank you, Glenn. I appreciate the additional information.

I’ve heard good things about document cameras, and Zoom has a share screen mode designed for them (share second camera). I have just set up a cheap version of this, which is a swing-arm with a screwed-in wall mount coupled with an iPhone tripod adapter. (I bought this swing-arm ($25, sold out at the moment), already owned a Glif ($28, you can get cheaper ones), and True Visage (free, a simple passthrough video app).

The swing-arm sits above a laser cutter that has a very flat surface. I can use this approach to demo stuff on the laser cutter with an overhead camera and to put a piece of foam core on top of it and put documents or objects on that!

I think it really depends on the situation. If you’re the presenter and will be consuming the entire screen (a-la a YouTube livestream), then you want high resolution, because much of your audience will display your video full-screen. Even moreso if you’re going to archive the content - you want 1080p at minimum for that.

On the other hand, if you’re just one participant among many, then you will probably not be seen as more than an animated thumbnail, in which case any camera should be good enough. Lighting, gain, contrast and other related features will be more important than resolution in this situation. (Of course, Apple’s cameras may not be up to par for that either.)

FWIW, my Mac’s webcam is an ancient FireWire iSight camera. I think it’s only 640x480, but it has mechanical focus and a pretty good range of gain settings. When used in conjunction with iGlasses software, to allow manual manual image adjustment, it seems to work just fine for chatting with friends.

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Thank you, David. I remember how exciting the iSight camera was. It’s fun to hear of one still in service.

Mine still works too. It’s a beautiful piece of design. I wish all webcams had a twist-to-physically-shut-off facility.

Maybe for professionals, but for informal and/or infrequent uses I can’t see going out and buying special mics & speakers, or cameras.

As for this part…

  • Position yourself so your head fills the space. Your head should occupy most of the top-to-bottom space of your onscreen space. If you’re farther away, other participants may be unable to see your facial expressions, which may in turn cause you to seem distant and unengaged. It can stand out particularly if the size of your onscreen image is noticeably different from other session members.

Nope… NOT for ASL (American Sign Language) users… it needs to cover the signing space.
( preferably, from top of head to above the waist either sitting down or standing up.

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