How to set up a successful video conference from home

Perfect video conference from home - hero image

Earlier this month a video of a couple of kids interrupting his father’s interview with the BBC became famous. The man in question was Professor of Political Science Robert E Kelly who was being interviewed in regards to the recent impeachment of former South Korean president Park Geun-Hye.

The unexpected and endearing moment went viral instantly and inspired a horde of endless gifs, memes and video parodies. But it made us think, why didn’t he lock his door?

With that in mind, we set up to create a simple guide anybody can follow in order to prepare for a successful video conference.

5 simple tips to set up a great video conference from home

How to set up the perfect video conference from home - BBC Kids interview

1. Do some Feng shui ahead of time

You don’t need to practice actual feng shui, but just keep in mind that your surroundings can greatly impact how the people on the other end of the screen perceive you.

Make sure your surroundings are clean and uncluttered
Any glasses that may be lying around, crumbs on the table or unattended laundry that’s being collected on the background, should be taken care of.

There should be enough light
If it’s possible, make sure you’re illuminated by natural light so your coworkers can see you clearly. While natural light is often the best, it can also be too much if it’s a sunny summer day. In those cases, try to get a white fabric like a curtain to counter the gleam. Make sure the light is in front of you and not right on top or behind because then you run the risk of looking like a character in an M Night Shyamalan movie.

Make sure decorations are appropriate for the occasion
Your Che Guevara poster may look cool hanging in the living room of your industrial flat, but your right-leaning conservative customer may find it offensive. There are certain clothes we don’t bring to the office for a reason, the same thing applies to decorations. Make sure everything that’s on the frame is safe for work (SFW) and when in doubt, just do the video conference against a white wall.

Choose the right space
Again, your living room with the Che Guevara poster may be worthy of a feature on the Apartment Therapy blog, but if its windows lead to a street with heavy traffic then it will probably be too noisy for a video conference.

Things to remember:

  • Tidy up your space
  • Make sure there’s enough light
  • Curate the elements that are in the frame
  • Beware of background noise

2. Get acquainted with the Software

Having the right software installed and being familiarised with it is key in order not to find yourself in embarrassing situations (this poor woman found out the hard way). If you’re not a tech savvy person, then at least make sure you know when the camera is recording and when it isn’t.

Some of the best software for video conferences is:

  • Skype for business
  • LyteSpark
  • WebEx
  • GoToMeeting
  • Join.me

If you want to learn more about these programs, head over to techradar.pro where you’ll find a post that goes over each one of them in detail.

And for those who are on a budget, the regular version of Skype and Google Hangouts can do a decent job as well.

3. Make sure nobody can interrupt you

Kelly already got the memo, but there are still lots of people who forget to lock their doors during video conferences. In the infamous clip, it was kids who walked into the room so in the end, the whole ordeal was quite harmless, but what if it had been a barking dog or a spouse in indecent attire?

How to set up the perfect video conference from home - Kelly Tweet

Sure, these situations probably wouldn’t cost you a job, but you can avoid an awkward situation by taking some simple measures:

  • Be alone in the room
  • Let the people you live with know you’re doing a video conference and when
  • Ask them to be somewhere else while the video conference is taking place (if you live in a small flat, for example)
  • Lock the door
  • Lock the door
  • Lock the door
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4. Do a test run

Before the actual video conference, call a friend or a coworker to test your hardware. It would be frustrating to go through all of this process only to find out during the video conference that your microphone is not working properly or the wifi connection is awful.

Things to check for:

  • Image sharpness
  • Internet connectivity (is there any lag?)
  • Sound quality
  • Compatibility with other software you might need during the video conference (like a Powerpoint presentation)

5. Respect the video conference etiquette

During regular meetings, you’re expected to silence your phone and pay attention. The same thing applies to video conferences, except that there’s an added difficulty level since technology is involved. Still, if you keep these notes in mind then your video conference should go smoothly even if it is from home.

Make sure the camera is at eye level
Weird camera angles are not only unflattering but also distracting to the other person. Keep the camera at eye level for a clear frame. If you’re using a laptop, stack up books underneath until the hardware reaches your eye, which brings us to the next tip.

Look at the camera instead of to the screen when you’re talking
This one might sound like a no-brainer, but we’re used to looking at people’s faces when we talk which is why we tend to stare at the screen rather than the camera when we’re on a video conference. It might take some getting used to, but if we look at the camera instead of the screen then the others will get the feeling that we’re looking into their eyes and then the message will get delivered in a better way.

Mute the microphone when you’re not talking
Again, background noise can be quite distracting and even if you’re in an isolated room your bodily functions could still act against you, think of a sneeze or a cough — or God forbid a burp or a fart.

Dress like you’re going to a regular in-person meeting
One of the perks of working from home is that we can wear whatever we want, but when you’re in a video conference you need to think of it as an actual face-to-face meeting rather than a freelance job because the stakes are the same.

Oh, and I know it’s tempting to wear boxers with your button-up, but I’d stick to trousers if I were you. Because if for some reason you need to get up and fetch that paper you forgot in the middle of the conference, then it could get very awkward.

Final words

Before we leave, let’s go over very quickly over everything we talked about in the post.

Curate the elements that are in the frame

  • Careful with how the light illuminates you
  • Avoid noisy backgrounds
  • Keep your decorations SFW
  • Clean and organise before the video conference

Software

  • Learn which one is best for you
  • Get acquainted with it
  • Learn at least how to turn and off the camera and the microphone

Avoid interruptions

  • Let everyone know what you’re doing
  • Ask them to give you some space if possible
  • Lock the door!

Test your hardware

  • Call someone else before the video conference

Behave accordingly

  • Put the camera at an eye level
  • Look at the camera instead of the screen
  • Mute the microphone when you’re not talking
  • Dress accordingly — it may be on video, but it’s still a meeting

We hope you found the tips above helpful if there’s anything else you think we should add, please let us know. Also, if you enjoyed this post then we’d recommend you go over and check out our “50 Social Media Tips to Help You Promote Your New Brand” infographic.

Text: Harald Meyer-Delius
Research: Luna Giontella


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