With COVID-19 drastically changing how we are doing our work, video conferences for me have become the new normal. I am now working from home and my team has been using Zoom for all video conferences and chat communication. This is new for a lot of folks so here are some tips to make better video calls.
Look at the camera
This goes a long ways. People will trust you if it appears you are looking at them when you are talking.
If you have multiple screens, make the screen with your web cam your main screen so you at least looking in your audience's direction.
If you are looking at something during the call (emails, powerpoint,...) place it right under the web cam on your screen so you look more engaged in the meeting.
Sit close to the camera
It is nice to see your face. Try to make your face take up a lot of the video feed. When there are multiple people in a video call the thumbnail can be quite small and it gets hard to scan the thumbnails and see who is in the meeting.
Upload a profile picture
If you have a good profile picture upload it so others can scan the chat or video feed and see who you are. If you don't have a nice picture go make an avatar that looks something like you instead. Try something like https://avatarmaker.com/
Also change your display name to your name. Zoom will sometimes choose to display your email instead of your name.
Know your keyboard shortcuts
Get familiar with the video chat service you are using. Zoom has keybindings for a lot of the controls. I use the toggle video (Alt + V) and audio (Alt + A) a lot.
Make sure to disable your audio when you are not talking. This will clean up the audio noise for everyone in the meeting.
Lighting for video can get complicated. There are a few simple things you can do to make your video look better without any new equipment.
First off if you can sit by or opposite a window with natural light, this can yield good results.
If you are in a darker room with no windows, get a lamp and set it next to you. Turn off the overhead light. A strong light source from above can look really strange.
If you want more lighting tips and ideas there is a ton of content on YouTube. My hacky setup is a desk lamp with a full spectrum light bulb with some gift wrap tissue paper taped on it to diffuse the light.
Add a green screen
If you have a green screen that is ideal. Zoom lets you choose a background image and the green screen improves the video quality.
What if you don't have a green screen?
You can sit in front of a solid colored wall. Before I purchased a green screen I had an old solid blue bed sheet that I hung behind me and that worked about as well as my green screen.
Add an external mic
You can improve the audio quality by getting an external mic. I already had a few microphones sitting around so I used what I had.
So those are my tips. In some ways I prefer these video conference meetings over in person meetings. What things have helped you have better video conference calls?