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Last updated: March 27, 2023

Regardless of which video conferencing solution is chosen for communication, it is very important to prepare the locations where a call will take place to experience the highest possible quality conversation. The following are suggestions and tips to guide you.

General Considerations

  • If the conversation is high-risk/high-value, at least one test should be performed with all participants before the actual conversation.
    • It is very important to ensure the test is performed with the actual equipment all participants will use. If a participant adds or removes a microphone, video camera, or changes computers, another test should be performed.
  • Remember that accidents can happen: pets can meander into the conversation or voice their opinions, cell phones can ring, and items can fall and clatter. While all participants should prepare for these eventualities, it is best to accept that distractions sometimes slip into the conversation. 
  • Remember that any participants within range of the webcam or the microphone are involved in the video conference: whatever occurs within range of either device will be transmitted to all participants.

Lighting

Proper lighting is an essential ingredient for a successful, high-quality video conference. "A webcam isn't the most flattering piece of technology," according to Stephen Winzenburg in an article for the Winter/Spring 2012 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, "[it can] make you appear gaunt, overweight, beady eyed, or narcoleptic. And often you look all those things at the same time." To ensure that all participants see each other in the best possible light, everyone should:

  • Ensure the environment is well-lit by turning on as many lights as possible;
  • Be mindful of camera angle, backgrounds, and any other light sources that could affect the conversation;
    • A room with a view might be a nice place for an in-person chat, but sunshine streaming in can wreak havoc on a videoconference
    • If you must have a conversation in a room with a window, be sure to test your setup around the same time as you anticipate having the conversation to ensure a consistent experience
  • Test, test, test, test, test: almost all software and computers have the ability to provide participants with a preview and this preview is what other participants will actually see--make sure the contents of the preview are what you want the other participants to see. 
  • If a high-quality conversation is desired, consider purchasing a dedicated webcam instead of using a computer's built-in webcam (if applicable). LITS has enjoyed success with devices like the Logitech C920.

Sound

Sound issues are often the cause of video conferencing woes. In addition to the ambient noise issue covered in the "Location" section, there are other potential problems to be aware of:

Echo/Feedback

These problems arise whenever a sound input is located near another sound output. If you place a microphone in front of another speaker, a feedback loop will be generated (i.e. a loud, screechy, piercing sound). Be sure to place the speaker far away from the microphone, wear headphones, or invest in a microphone with built-in anti-feedback technology.

Configuration

If participants are unable to hear each other, see each other, or connect, there may be a problem with the configuration of peripherals, the  software (e.g. Zoom, Google Chat), or the drivers that the computer uses to communicate with devices. LITS strongly recommends testing the full setup before any video conference.

Accessibility Issues

Hearing Aids/Lipreaders

All communications conducted using these solutions will be affected to varying degrees by synchronicity issues. For example, participants may notice that mouths move independently of the sound they generate. While this is becoming a more common experience, it can be jarring, especially for those who need to read lips to understand what is being said. Proper balancing of audio is also key to ensuring that participants whose hearing is impaired can participate equally in the conversation.

Location

All parties should consider:

  • The ambient noise in their respective environments;
  • Outside parties who may be affected by overhearing conversation;
  • The speed and quality of the internet connections at each location. You can test your bandwidth here.)

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