How to Look (and Sound) Good on Video Calls

A laptop sitting on a table. Text reads, 5 Ways to Improve Your Video Calls.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably doing a lot more video calls than you used to. The current pandemic has got us all well-versed in communicating via Skype, Zoom and Google Meet. However, as comfortable as we might be with our new found communication skills, there are still a few easy things you can do to take your video conferencing skills to the next level. In this post, I look at five ways that are guaranteed to make you look (and sound) great at your next virtual meeting.

1. Raise Your Laptop

To look your best on a video call, raise the height of your webcam to eye level. Nobody wants to look down on you from above, or look up your nose from below, so sit your laptop on some books or a few board games to get that webcam level with your eyes. Granted, this does make it a little harder to talk and use your computer at the same time, but if you have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse nearby, you can neutralize that problem pretty quickly. For a more permanent setup, try a laptop stand. And if you can’t raise your laptop, lower your chair!

2. Try a USB Mic or Headset

We all know that we should mute our mic when we are not speaking, but what else can you do to optimize your audio? If you raised your laptop up so the web cam was at eye level, you are already one step closer because you just moved the microphone closer to your mouth. However, there are definitely more things you can do to improve your sound quality.

At the top of that list is an external microphone. They are almost always going to sound better than the built-in mic on your computer. The ones that come with your iPhone headphones can be a little hit and miss, so try a USB mic, or a USB headset if you prefer. Make sure to move the microphone close to your mouth, and try to avoid the largest, most echo-prone rooms in your house because even the best mics will have a hard time in those room.

3. Embrace the Light

The number one rule for looking great on video calls is not to have a window behind you. Your face will be dark and hard to see, while your background will be white and blown out. It’s not a great look. Webcams are simply not good enough to deal with that amount of dynamic range. If you can, do the opposite; put the window in front of you. Natural light is almost always going to be more flattering than the canned lights in your ceiling so try setting up a small table in front of a window. If you can’t find any good natural light, consider some adjustable LED lights. Placing one at 2 o’clock and another at 10 o’clock can help lift the shadows on your face.

4. Remember Your Background

If you are joining a video call from your bedroom, be sure to make your bed and pick up any laundry. If you are in the kitchen, clear off your countertops and put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. In short, try to minimize the distractions for other people on the call. Make a good impression. If you get stuck on short notice and don’t have time to make things nice, try a virtual background in Zoom. It can be fun to put yourself in space or on a tropical beach, but you can also make use of Unsplash to find some natural indoor environments and upload those as your virtual background instead.

5. Make a Good Impression

You might be working from home, but that doesn’t mean you have to look like you have just rolled out of bed! Dress appropriately for the meeting you are about to join. There will obviously be different expectations for different meetings, so just do the right thing here.

You should also try to look at the webcam instead of the people in the middle of your screen. This is a hard habit to break, but if you want to look like you are maintaining any kind of eye contact with the people you are meeting with, then you need to look at the webcam. When on Zoom calls, I will often use the Mini view so that I can drag that window to the top of my screen where the webcam is. That way, I am always looking up at the people I am conversing with, and not down at the middle of my screen.

Last but not least, Zoom users can also try the Touch Up My Appearance feature. I don’t think it does a lot for my face, but others I know swear by it. Zoom describes it as a soft focus filter that smooths out the skin tone on your face. It’s not going to take years off your appearance, but it might help you feel a little less self-conscious in front of the camera.

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