Ensure your Home Office has Adequate Lighting, a Good External Camera, and Sharp Mics
My goal as a customer-facing manager is to always appear professional and polished when meeting with clients via video. To share at-home video conferencing best practices, for every budget and work style, I consulted with Brian Fichter, VP of Visual Collaboration and Workspace solutions at NWN Carousel.
NWN Carousel team members regularly speak with customers onsite for valuable face-to-face time, yet we’re also flexible in offering virtual meetings. While home-based employees don’t need a “newsroom” set up — there are basic principles to follow when creating an environment that enhances your communications.
Brian Ficther and his team of VCW engineers have consulted for some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies across the country to provide Visual Collaboration best practices for their WFH employees. And in the process, we’ve learned a great deal!
Get Good Sound – Audio Concepts
Audio is the arguably the most important area we need to address. Video and lighting help you look “the part,” but without sound you can’t deliver the message.
- Do your best to have your workspace separate from the rest of the house’s activities.
- Minimize distracting noises with pets and other people in your living space.
- Many microphones have some degree of background noise-cancellation, but the quality of that technology varies, and you will want to be aware of its limitations ahead of your call.
Good: Built-in mic and speakers on your computer
For many workers, the built-in hardware on their computer may be adequate. However, it is a good practice to use wired headphones at a minimum to avoid echoes from your speaker audio. Additionally, you should be aware of any sensitive content you are sharing in public spaces.
Better: Headsets with built-in mic
There are typically two different types of headsets for this purpose: mono- and stereo-headsets. Mono-headsets have one earpiece and a band that goes over the top of your head. The stereo headphones have two earpieces. Both styles will either have an extended microphone or one built into the earpiece.
Best: Videobar with Speakers and Mic Making use of a personal or professional 4K videobar can really elevate your meetings. Not only do you not have to worry about wires or wearing a headset, but the newest devices also provide features such as acoustic echo cancellation, background noise suppression and full-duplex conversations.
Lighting is oftentimes one of the more overlooked elements to video calls. Regardless of the static nature of your workspace, there are options you can use to ensure you have the lighting needed to look your best.
- Your computer screen is not going to give you the ideal lighting for your conference call. Choose additional lighting sources whether this is room lighting, natural light, or desk lamps.
- None of the bulbs used for direct lighting on your face should have clear lenses as the shadows created can distract viewers from your call. Instead use materials to diffuse the light, keeping in mind that some bulbs can get hot, so avoid anything flammable.
Good: (one-point lighting)
If your office can be re-arranged, ensure you do not have a major source of light (big window, external door, bright lamp/room light, etc.) at your back. Instead, try to set up your light to be directly in front, or at a 45-degree angle to your face. If moving is not an option, you will want to close your shades to block the outside light and use a lamp instead.
Better: (two-point lighting) Two-point lighting is a good option for most people because it adds depth to the flat image on most video calls. The goal is to have two different light sources at the same angle (45 degrees) to you, and parallel to your camera. If possible, one light should be slightly brighter than the other.
Best: (three-point lighting)
Three-point lighting adds a light behind you. The purpose is to add more depth to your image and makes you more three-dimensional on your call. The back light can be color or white and can be aimed at the wall behind you.
Scratch the Built-in Camera – Go External
The last piece of the puzzle is your camera. Most people may use their built-in laptop camera, but there are limitations to this including poor aiming, and less-than-flattering angles.
- Treat your camera as you would a conversation in person. Focus directly into the camera to ensure that even in a large meeting you look attentive to the participants.
- If you wear glasses, participants will see the reflection of your screen in the lenses, so avoid multi-tasking.
- Be aware of your background. A messy room will take away from your message…every time.
Good: Laptop camera
If your computer has a camera located at the top of the screen, and your laptop is aimed so the camera is at the same height as your face, then you can have a good video experience. Leverage blurred backgrounds or virtual backgrounds if your room is not as organized or presentable as you’d prefer.
Better: USB Camera (Full-HD 1080p)
Making use of an external camera will dramatically enhance your video quality. Dress your space to share personality with the participants using art or shelves to add items that mean something to you but be careful to not create a cluttered look.
Best: Personal or Professional Video Bar
Making use of a video bar gives users access to features such as automatic camera-framing and automatic light adjustments. Another option is to make use of all-in-one desktops that double as a monitor for a meeting space (See image). These systems also have microphones, cameras and speakers built into the screen to facilitate a smaller footprint.
Modern Meeting Considerations
We can all take simple steps to elevate our professional presence on calls. Everyone has experienced a meeting where poor lighting makes it so you cannot see the face of the presenter. Additionally, poor audio or a cluttered background distracts from the message to clients and peers. Experiment with a setup that works for you!