Your ideal setup for online meetings and podcasting
2020 ushered in the era of online meetings. Even as the pandemic wanes and people start to go back to physical offices, there’s no end in sight for online meetings.
You only need a laptop or mobile device to join an online meeting. But you can seriously up your game with a few small tweaks that will make you stand out as an online meeting superstar.
Even better, when you upgrade your setup for meetings, you’ll be in great shape if you decide to branch out into online conference presentations, webinar production, podcasting, or video blogging (vlogging).
So let’s get started on how to improve both your sound and your appearance on video calls.
Most people join Zoom meetings using a built-in microphone on their laptop, iPhone or tablet. The sound isn’t ideal and often sounds like you’re talking into a tin can. These mics cause echoes, and anyone at your meeting can hear what’s going on around you at home.
The cheapest way to upgrade your sound is to buy a headset. Even a simple headset, such as one that came with your phone, will usually sound better than a built-in mic. It also helps prevent an echo because other conference call participants’ voices won’t come out of your speakers and back into the microphone.
If you want to sound even better, upgrade to a high-quality external microphone. Ever wonder why the hosts of your favorite podcasts have rich, high-quality voices? You can obtain sound like this too with the right mic.
External microphones come in two varieties: condenser and dynamic. Condenser mics pick up all of the sounds around you, while dynamic mics focus more on your voice. While condenser mics are good for some applications, dynamic mics are best for online conferences. They are less likely to pick up noises like your air conditioner blowing. You can get a good dynamic mic with a stand from Amazon starting at about $100.
There are a couple of things to note if you use an external microphone. First, you’ll want to check how the mic connects to your laptop. Some use USB while others use XLR. USB is compatible with most computers, but you might need an adapter for XLR. A USB microphone will be fine for video conferencing.
Second, you’ll still want separate earbuds to listen to your calls. Otherwise, your microphone might pick up the sounds from your speakers and feed them back into your microphone. Some microphones have a headset output on them. Otherwise, you can just plug your earbuds into your main device.
Another way to improve your sound is to improve your environment. Find a quiet place in your home that is free of distractions. Ideally, it has wall-to-wall carpet or soft surfaces to absorb sound and prevent echoes.
Here are some things you can do to improve the sound quality in your room.
First, add a rug if your room has hard floors. You can also put bedding and other soft materials over hard items that might deflect sound.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, a few well-placed acoustic panels can do wonders to prevent echos.
Now that you’ve perfected your sound, you can focus on looking your best on-screen. There are many options here, and you can easily spend thousands of dollars to perfect your look. But you can get most of the way there without spending much money.
Let’s start with your environment. Zoom meetings taught us to be aware of our visual surroundings. Do you really want everyone else on the call to see how cluttered and disorganized your house is?
A nice background for a Zoom call is a tidy bookshelf or a wall with art on it. Make sure that you aren’t directly in front of a bright window, which will make you look “washed out” on the screen.
If you don’t have an ideal background, consider buying a green screen. Zoom offers virtual green-screen effects, but a real green screen works better.
A green screen makes it easy to add a virtual background behind you. You can look like you’re taking the call on a beach or at a coffee shop, even when you’re at home in your pajamas.
Elgato makes a good portable green screen that you can collapse and store when you’re not using it.
Another key element to looking good is your camera. Much like microphones, it’s best to use an external camera rather than the one built into your device.
Logitech has a good 1080p webcam for under $100.
Prices can escalate quickly if you want to look even better. Some vloggers and YouTube stars use a traditional camera to record themselves. A popular option is the Sony a6400. Paired with the ideal lens, these cameras will give you a look that your colleagues will surely comment about.
If you want to take your quality to the next level, consider adding acoustic panels and a real camera.
Put it all together
For just a couple hundred dollars, you can sound and look like a movie star in your Zoom meetings or other online calls and presentations.
And once you build your home office studio, you’ll want to check out our articles on podcasting, vlogs, and blogs, how to create a podcast, and getting started with video marketing. Don’t forget to check out the Tech Space Podcast sponsored by Namecheap. You’ll find fascinating stories from the worlds of tech, plus under-the-radar news you may have missed.