There are many software you can use to make a videoconference. I won’t get into the debate of which one to use, as I work for the company that invented H323 – that won’t be objective.
What I want to discuss here is which tools you actually need to make a professional videoconference meeting. First and foremost, you need a camera, speaker and microphone. But that’s not enough, because you need also lighting and environment.
If you work in an office, that’s not difficult, but things get complicated when you’re at home. In any case the principles are the same.
- Find some neutral backdrop, either 50% grey or light blue (that will help the white balance)
- If the room is big, keep in mind that curtains could help reduce echo and screen from direct light
- Avoid backlight at all costs
- Avoid patterns as well, moiré effect could be a pain to watch
- Keep you mic away from fans and noisy stuff
- In your office, ask for professional lights, at home you can always go for low consumption bulbs (both with color temperature in 3200K – 4000K range)
- Don’t be cheap, buy a good webcam like the Creative Labs LiveCam inPerson HD or the Facevision Touchcam E1
- Same story for headset, but here you need to find the most comfortable for your ears. I’m a big fan of Plantronics, but any Microsoft headset will do good.
- You can use your webcam microphone (both models above have excellent microphones), but in that case you need to use proper speakers (placing them on each side of the screen is ok).
- Try to have a decent sized screen, 20″ to 24″.
- Try to stay around 80-100 cm from the camera.
- Position the webcam on top of your screen
- Keep the screen center at eye level, to roughly ensure that when you look at the screen you almost look in camera. Maintaining eye to eye contact is important to avoid a wrong interest perception by the other party:
I have an home office, as my company does not have an Italian office. I’m quite on the road, but I also spend several periods connected from home. Working in videoconferencing, it should be obvious…
Anyway, lately I’ve been experiencing some back and neck pain, mostly due to wrong posture at desk. I did some research and I found an interesting article about posture, chairs and desks. After replacing my chair with a better one, I also decided to optimize my workplace as well.
When you work from home you need obvious items but the overall goal is to have an efficient workplace that does not eat too much energy (I pay the electric bill). So I compiled a list of what is needed to get it done:
- Lighting: I use a cheap Ikea desk lamp with a low consumption bulb – 800 lumen, 15W, 4000K. The color temperature is mandatory for video white balance (never use Ikea bulbs, they are too warm – around 2500K).
- Desk & Chair: it doesn’t really matter which you choose, just keep in mind your health and handy holes for cables.
- Screen: even if you own a laptop I suggest a bigger (23″-24″) lcd or led screen.
- Docking station: these days you don’t really want to carry a 5kg laptop, right? For Mac users, if you don’t have enough money to buy this, you can stick with this.
- Keyboard: I’m a big fan of Unifying so I opted for this keyboard and trackball (the former because it’s solar powered and the latter for my carpal tunnel).
- Desk phone: at home I have a nice All-in-one fixed/voip phone that has the great function to connect to my mobile via bluetooth so I can make and receive mobile calls from my handset/speakerphone. No need for weird headsets.
- Wireless AP: Any IEEE 802.11n AP is good, but I personally prefer Airport Extreme.
- Surge protector: I’ve found an interesting on from Belkin. You have always-on sockets and others you can turn off with timer.
- Cable management: organized cables are a blessing. I always opt for DIY solutions, mostly from my favorite site Ikeahackers.