I’m going to outline why every conference call should be a video conference. Then, I’ll list some products and tools that’ll make you look and sound better.
The Power of Facial Feedback
Lights, camera, action! Video conferencing levels up team collaboration. We strive for “cameras on” for every Solomon meeting. Have you ever given a presentation to a silent conference call? You might know the vapid feeling well. It’s awkward because there’s something big missing from the experience.
Without facial feedback, the participants are flying blind; no nodding heads, no glances of affirmation. All one can hope for is that “circle back” guy chimes in to spark some semblance of engagement. “Let’s table that thought”!
The Harvard Business Review goes one step further.
“If you can’t read what your counterpart is feeling and instead focus only on what he or she is saying, you’re highly unlikely to achieve everything you could have”.
The author posits that the key to successful interaction lies in the ability to read micro facial expressions. My belief is that we do this already. Humans are good at it because it’s an integral component of the human experience. A lifetime of interaction has hard-wired this perception into our psyche.
“The secret is to pay attention to the spontaneous and involuntary microexpressions that rapidly flit across everyone’s faces…If you know what to look for, they can provide an instant, honest window into how your counterpart is feeling.”
Video conferencing is a must-have in my opinion. It will go a long way in easing the difficulties of working remotely.
Level Up Your Setup
Here’s some practical tools to video conference like a pro.
Lighting. As discussed, we’re perception inference creatures. Does your workspace look like a world of warcraft clave headquarters? Get some lighting to help out! I took some time to learn about studio lighting. The good news, it’s pretty easy and affordable to level up your appearance. Well, at least from a lighting perspective.
The goal is to eliminate shadows that’ll turn your beaming self into a lurch like creature from a horror movie. The key is lighting gradient and positioning.
Warm light makes people look healthy. Instead of our PNW pale radiance, we can use the mask of warm light to evoke a vitamin D rich illusion.
The next step is positioning. One lamp shines directly from the front. The next lamp shines from the side. This positioning eliminates the hard shadows and contours that elicit fear.
These Sacoo LED desktop lamps work great and are what I personally use. There’s some more affordable options I haven’t personally tested which also look promising. It’s important to find lamps that have color/temperature controls. The warm amber light portrays an appearance that’s friendlier than the typical blue clinical vibe of a typical LED set-up.
The next step is dialing in audio. If you’re in a noisy environment, it can be very helpful to have noise-canceling headphones. However, I’d caution against the air traffic controller vibe that a large over the ear set-up will exude. Rather, a great option is the new AirPod Pro earbuds from Apple. Which, if you’re a Mac user will seamlessly integrate with your laptop, and also offer impressive microphone clarity.
Lastly, if you’re the lucky type who works with other groups of people in real life, it’s very helpful to have a stand-alone USB microphone. This MXL A404 microphone has been a solid addition for facilitating conference room calls on the go. It eliminates the need for uncomfortable social bubble violating laptop huddles. It also greatly improves the clarity and resonance for the other participants on the call.
I hope these tips are helpful. Working remotely can be a huge benefit. These simple, yet powerful additions will turn amateur video conferencing into the professional-grade. Beyond appearances, they’ll solve a lot of the common gripes that stifle team productivity.
Enjoy your remote freedom!