Are you needing to bring more polish and professionalism to your virtual meetings but don’t want to turn your office into a professional-grade recording studio?
You aren’t alone. We’ve been at this virtual meeting thing for a while now, but many of us are, understandably, still struggling with poor quality meetings.
The visual and audio quality of your virtual meetings can make a real difference to their effectiveness. Grainy images, being cast in heavy shadow (or completely washed out), and poor audio can make our communication less effective. On the other hand, showing up for virtual meetings and having a high-quality image with crisp audio can make you look even more polished, professional, and competent…especially when you’re working with external clients.
Alas, trying to figure out how to set up your space without it costing a mint can be confusing and time consuming. In this video, you’ll learn how a few relatively low-cost, easy to use pieces of videoconferencing tech can create outsized results in boosting the quality of your virtual meetings. And here’s a bonus for all you road warriors out there – the most important pieces are also easily portable!
(Embedded video below being cranky? Click here to watch on YouTube. You can also scroll down to read the full transcript.)
Get my virtual meeting gear equipment list at https://laurensergy.ck.page/videogear
Is it time to upgrade your virtual meeting game? I’ve got some recommendations that will seriously boost the quality of your next meeting.
Greetings, and welcome to Communication Q&A, where I – Lauren Sergy – help you tackle important communication issues in today’s workplaces.
Today’s question revolves around virtual meetings, and it comes from Edwin, who asks “Hi Lauren. Even though my office is open, we’re still doing a lot of virtual meetings and remote work. I’ve been making do with my laptop camera or smartphone, but I’d really like to look more polished. What gear to you recommend for getting a more professional look in my video? Please don’t say I have to get a DSLR.”
DSLR, for you non-camera types, is a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera – they’re high quality photography cameras and can get pretty expensive.
Well, Edwin, this is a timely question. Virtual meetings are here to stay. The quality of your sound and video can go a long way towards making a good impression and creating a better experience for the people you’re videoconferencing with.
And yes, you can do this relatively inexpensively – you don’t need a DSLR and you don’t have to turn your office into a recording studio to look sharp.
Here are my top three recommended pieces of equipment to polish up your virtual meetings. And I want to note that this is NOT a sponsored video, none of these companies are paying me – this is just what use and like for my own virtual meetings.
The number one thing to fix is Lighting – your camera needs light to work, whether you’re using an external webcam, a smartphone, or an embedded webcam in your laptop. Cameras need light to do their job, so if the light is too low, you’ll get a grainy image. If your light is too bright or direct, you’ll look washed out.
Natural light from a window is great, but it changes a lot throughout the day, so you’ll probably need to supplement it with additional lamps. You’ll also want sheer or semi-opaque window coverings, like a simple uncoloured curtain, to control how much light is coming in through the windows.
Now I do all my virtual meetings from a dungeon dark basement, so I need lots of artificial light. The light I’m using right now is a Neewar 480 LED light with a softbox diffuser. I really like it because it I can control both the white and amber color light, as well as the intensity. This helps me customize the light to work with my skin tone.
But honestly, couple of desk lamps can be just as effective. Ideally, use two lamps, positioned at about 30 degrees on either side of your face. This helps give your face enough shadows to give it depth. One can be brighter than the other, or they can be of equal brightness.
If you’re using desk lamps, be sure to get the right kind of bulb. You want a daylight bulb – something in the 5000K range, with about 600 to 800 lumens. Then, experiment with lampshades or cloth drapes (only if you’re using LED bulbs, please don’t start any house fires) until you find the intensity and color you like. Don’t get too fussy – you do want this set up to be easy. If you’re on the road a lot, make use of hotel room or meeting room windows, and bring a portable cell phone ring light so you can easily supplement overly low lighting.
Next, get an external video camera. External cameras tend to be much higher quality than embedded laptop cameras, and you have more option for where you position them. I also find them less awkward to set up and position than smartphones.
I absolutely stand by the Logitech C920 series. Right now I’m using this, a C922, which has a slightly higher frame for low lighting situations. These will cost you in the $100 to $120 range. I use this camera for virtual meetings and real-time presentations, as well as for pre-recorded talks or videos. It gives me a consistently sharp image. The Logitech is reliable and easy to use, and it’s little external microphone is pretty good quality if you need to use that for your audio. Plus, it’s small and easy to pack along if you’re on the road.
The last piece is your microphone. Good audio is paramount, and the embedded microphone in your laptop doesn’t count as good audio. The cheapest and easiest thing to do is to use a headset. I recommend the in-ear variety, because those big noise-cancelling headphones with the microphone in front of your face will make you look like an airline pilot. I like these – the basic headset that comes with your cell phone. Their microphones are great and are designed to cut down background noise. I don’t recommend airpods or Bluetooth earbuds, because they tend to be unreliable and often cut in and out.
The next step up from a corded headset is an external microphone. This give beautiful audio quality. I use this – an ATR 2100 USB mic. It gives excellent sound, doesn’t pick up anything coming from my speakers (so no annoying echo), and it cuts down background beautifully. The Blue Yeti is another great choice, and Blue Yeti has a Nano version, which is sized down for desktop users.
Something to remember is that good equipment won’t always guarantee you a perfectly sharp videoconference image. If there’s heavy bandwidth usage for either you or your other meeting members, software like Zoom often downgrades the quality of the image to help maintain video speed. But overall, investing in equipment like what I’ve mentioned will make a huge difference.
So there you go, Edwin – lights, camera, audio – three easy and cost-effective things that are going to bump up the quality of your virtual meetings.
Now if you are wanting to bump up the quality of your virtual meetings, go download my virtual meeting gear sheet. It has a list of everything I just spoke about as well as a few more options. You can get it at LaurenSergy.ck.page/videogear – I’ve put the link in the description below.
And if you want even MORE ways to have more polished, effective, and enjoyable virtual meetings, pick up a copy of my latest book UNMUTE! How to Master Virtual Meetings and Reclaim Your Sanity. It’s available at your favorite online bookstore, and you can visit unmutebook.com for more info.
If you enjoyed today’s video, please click ‘like’ and subscribe to my channel so you can keep up to date on all my latest videos. Thanks so much for joining me, and I look forward to seeing you on the next Communication Q&A.