Remote web conferencing is easy and routine for many. For others, it’s a method of communication replete with technology blunders waiting to happen.
As I write this, most of the civilised world is beginning to practise social distancing and self-isolation, confining themselves to bedrooms now converted for the sole purpose of living life online amidst tangles of wires and USB headsets, glaze-eyed and drawn out.
Self-employed designers, marketers, consultants and anyone else working in the online digital spaces will already be well aware and well versed in such a lifestyle, relying heavily on internet telephony software for live multimedia sessions.
So too do teenagers, who love nothing more than avoiding interpersonal contact while indulging in their constructed virtual world of exotic shapes, colour and sound.
But now it’s time for the regular folks to join in and perhaps even love the convenience of communicating entirely from a small room – minus the dirty dinner plates and cereal bowls.
Conduct Your Online Meetings Without Wasting Time or Annoying Other Participants
In order to create meaningful web-based interactions with clients, customers or colleagues, online meetings must be as good as or better than a face-to-face real-life scenario.
A combination of voice chat, live computer screen sharing and custom-made quick videos privately published to YouTube can not just fill a communications gap in the absence of actual meetings but exceed it.
The popular choice for online voice and video chat is Skype, which is free, owned by Microsoft and available for just about every internet-enabled device.
There is also software called Zoom, which normally has a time limit on the free version, but under the covid-19 situation, they’ve lifted the 40 minute restriction. It’s like having access to the pro version for nothing, and it’s excellent. I used it to create a “virtual pub” recently.
Then there’s TeamViewer (free) which allows online conferencing with a handy remote control feature allowing one person to control another’s computer.
1. Use a Proper Computer with a Webcam and Microphone
Smartphones are okay for online remote conferencing if there’s no other option, but the screens are tiny and fiddly.
For this reason, a well-done online conference – whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 hours – will go much better if everyone is comfortably seated at a laptop or desktop computer.
This way, you all have both hands free to type on the keyboard and operate the mouse, as well as performing other tasks such as copying links into the instant text chat or sending/receiving email.
2. Avoid Using a Wireless Internet Connection
Wi-Fi connections drop out. We’ve all had the experience where the other person’s voice or video crackles and stops.
It’s particularly irritating having to ask people to repeat themselves, and even more so if they’re the type of who embarks on rambling monologues, oblivious to the protests of the others.
Get yourself an internet ethernet cable using an RJ45 connector to ensure the computer has solid online access.
Normally, when the connection is very weak, the video part of a Skype conversation will automatically cut out to save bandwidth, leaving only the audio.
A wired connection ensures an all-round better experience.
3. Use a Decent Noise Cancelling Microphone
Using Skype for its free voice calls is brilliant but the issue of background noise rears its head time and again because of the type of microphone most people have.
Seriously, you need to sort this out. Laptop and smartphone mics are “omni” which means everything – and I do mean everything – is audible.
Loud televisions, noisy neighbours, screaming kids. You name it.
The solution is to buy a microphone with a noise-cancelling design known as a dynamic cardioid polar pattern.
This means only sound directly in front of the microphone is picked up, whereas any other noise is muted.
I purchased my ATR2100 USB microphone years ago, and actually spent months researching it.
It was about £50 brand new and has paid for itself a thousandfold.
If you’re not wearing headphones, have the microphone as far away from the speakers as possible to avoid feedback and echo.
4. Record and Upload Your Online Meetings using Screen Capture Software
Assuming you have a successful online remote conference, it would be great to send a recording of what was covered for members of the team who couldn’t make it or need a refresher.
This is where the ridiculously good Screencast-O-Matic comes into its own, with the ability to record whatever is on your screen and edit the footage and sound later.
For $15 a year you get to use the full software without the 15-minute time limit normally imposed on the free version.
Worth it in my opinion, as I use it a hell of a lot.
I normally upload the sessions directly to YouTube as an “unlisted” video, which means it’s hidden to the public but accessible to anyone with the YouTube link I’ve sent to them.
The YouTube channel can be either a business channel or a personal one. By default, you should see a personal channel already set up for you.
Make sure the new YouTube channel is fully verified (if I remember correctly, it involves a text message PIN) to get all the features you’ll need to upload videos.