Monkey Monday - February 22nd, 2021

5 hacks to make your video meetings look good and sound great.

Monkey Mondays | Video production

Today Chris is sharing five simple tips to improve your video calls. All you need is some basic equipment to transform your on-screen performance.

COVID has meant we’ve all had to switch to online alternatives to hold meetings and deliver presentations. Even after the pandemic has gone away, we think video conferencing is still going to play a massive part in our working lives.

We’ve been in hundreds of these meetings now, so we know what works and what doesn’t. If you’re plagued by echoing or distorted sound, or if you’d like to appear more professional in your meetings, these easy tips will help you up your video conferencing game.

Here’s the breakdown

00:00 - Intro

00:45 - Tip #1 - Use headphones

01:33 - Tip #2 - Get a better mic

03:10 - Tip #3 - Use a big light source

04:11 - Tip #4 - Dress the set

04:59 - Tip #5 - Practice makes perfect

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Transcript Show / Hide

Hey there. It's Chris from Rusty Monkey here. Um, and it's another Monkey Monday, and it's just a solo one this week because, um, we've been doing a lot of Zoom calls and we've been really busy, and I just wanted to share some advice around Zoom calls, uh, Teams meetings, and Google Meet, uh, meetings. And, um, I just want to share five top tips of how to make yourself look better and sound better in those meetings. So, that might be the difference between you winning a contract or you getting an idea across. Um, and yeah, it's really valuable.
Um, so. First tip is plug in some headphones. That is the biggest thing you can do, even if you're using your microphone from your laptop. Um, it's much better to plug in some headphones, even if they're hidden a bit like this, because you're not going to get any echo. And most of the sound problems you get from any meetings are from people who've got their sound wound up too high, and the computer is fighting to try and get rid of the echo. And it's really difficult. So if everyone on that meeting was wearing headphones or earphones, that would improve the quality massively. And if you're doing that, that's a great start.
The second one is improve your microphone. Obviously, I've got a reasonable microphone on an arm here. And, um, just before recording this, I went onto Amazon and just had a look at how expensive things are. I mean, I've spent about - maybe this is probably five or six years old now - but that was about £150, £200, because it's a reasonable microphone. But looking on Amazon, you can get a tabletop microphone on a stand for about £25 and a Boom Army one for about £50. And you could try it out, it just plugs into a USB. And if it's not any good, send it back. But all these ones from Amazon have got over 5,000 good reviews, so surely they're going to be half decent and better than the microphone on your computer. So just try it out. It makes a massive difference. A lot of people, when we chat to them on Teams or whatever, say, "It looks like you're just about to do a radio show!" And there is a reason why it looks like that, it's because that's what we want it to sound like. We want people the other end to go, "Wow. That sounds really great." And it means that, uh, people on the other side of the conversation are going to listen to you much easier than if you're really quiet or really loud. Um, we've had a few recently where it's been quite tricky, and you kind of turn off to people if they have bad sound. So I'm a cameraman and the first two tips that I came up with are to try and get better sound.
Tip three is get a light. I mean, you can get cheap ones from Amazon again. Um, but it just does make a massive difference. I mean, a lot of people are quite vain and quite worried about how they look on these meetings, and actually a big soft light just above the lens can make the biggest difference. It can fill in all your wrinkles. Um, like I probably look younger using that than if I didn't, if you have half sunlight coming in, but not many people actually do it. And, um, if you have a big source of light just near your camera, it's not too difficult to look at. People imagine that if you put a light on yourself, as you're trying to speak, it's going to be quite difficult to find the camera and your eyes are going to be quite strained. But the bigger the source, the easier it is going to be. And, um, you'll, uh, look really good compared to everyone else in the meeting.
Tip number four, do a bit of set dressing. I mean, I've gone to town here because I used to have a bigger desk facing the other way in this room. And just over there is a bed. Um, so what I decided to do was to do a bit of redecorating, get a smaller desk, put it the other way round and then try and dress what's behind me to look a bit more professional. So put a plant in, stick a picture on the wall. Um, yeah. And, I've done a bit extra by putting some of my TV lights in here, but it works pretty well. It's just those little touches that make it look as if you've thought about it.
Tip number five is record some samples before you go live. Refine it. In Apple's QuickTime, if you're on a Mac, you can record a screen capture with the setup that you're going to use in your meeting. So you can test exactly how you're going to be seen by other people in the meeting. And it's really powerful because you can just tweak the settings and make sure it's going to look good.
And once you've got the bug, you can add different cameras, you can add switches in to go between that and a presentation - we do that quite a lot now. But there are many things you can do, but these simple tips will help you just elevate yourself in a standard Zoom or Teams or Google Meet. Just give it a go. It's not expensive, and it makes a massive difference. Okay, I'll leave you to it. And I'll see you next week for another Monkey Monday. Hopefully Matt might be able to join us. All right. Speak to you later.

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