We’re all seeing the surge of working from home adoption by many organisations, and I’ve taken part in many Zoom and Teams web conferences or group calls now. It still astounds me how poorly prepared some individuals are, or how little effort some senior business representatives put into these meetings. And I’m not talking Suit and Tie.
Grainy, off-focus video with muffled and distorted audio feeds quickly leave even the most professional individuals looking unprepared. Below are a few affordable hardware options to consider.
All those conspiracy video’s you’ve watched of “big brother watching you” through your laptop’s camera while you work have had you plaster sticky note after sticky note over the lens, but now you need to use the damn thing but no amount of cleaning alcohol is going to remove the lens scratches or “gunk” built up in the tiny microphone recesses. Here are a few plugs in options that provide outstanding video quality and tick a few audio boxes while at it:
– Logitech C920 – USB connection, windows 10 downloads the drivers required for normal use quickly, Zoom and Teams should detect the device and give you the option of selecting it from the “Video” drop-down menu. 1080p 30fps will greatly outperform even an un-scuffed built-in camera on your laptop, and better yet you can position it somewhere other than the top of the screen of your laptop (if you’re into finding your best angle and all that). A little costly at the £90 mark but the tech its packing makes it worthwhile. Dual microphones for stereo recording, audio isolation to prevent loopback (nothing worse than all the meeting participants hearing themselves playback through your microphone).
– Logitech C270 – same compatibility as above, lower on the quality but much lower on the price. If you’re constantly getting comments that your video feed isn’t great this is a much friendlier cost-effective solution
– Your Phone – Free up your computer screen by joining the meeting on your phone, leaving you to carry on working if the meeting isn’t quite relevant but requires your participation.
Digital SLI Camera – I’m no professional photographer so don’t have access to one of these to test, but having recently participated in a web meeting with someone using their Digital SLI Camera (Canon), I was blown away by the quality. Here’s a video guide on how Canon camera owners can achieve this.
I’ll admit, this one grinds my gears. The carelessness of some web meeting attendee’s and their audio blows me away. From picking up the audio of your partner screaming at your cat for knocking a glass of water over on their laptop in the other room to some of the best Darth Vader impressions of 2020 (that’ll be breathing straight into the mic), audio etiquette seems to be non-existent. Stop using the built-in speakers and microphone of your laptop, consider using a headset. Here are some recommendations:
– Logitech H110 – No awards are going to be won here for sound quality, but it gets you away from using onboard audio of your laptop. Just make sure you have dual audio jacks available on your laptop (3.5mm mic and line-in)
– Creative Chatmax HS720 – USB connectivity, inline audio controls including mute mic button. A step up from the previously linked headset at not too greater cost increase. Still not going to be the best audio device you’ve graced upon your ears, but progressively getting higher in quality in both audio and comfort.
– SteelSeries Arctis 7 – Wireless Headset. Need to get up and answer the door or see one of your children? No cables no worries. Leave the meeting the view of your empty chair as you deal with whatever distraction needs seeing to and never leave the discussion. Simple to set up with some easily accessible software from the SteelSeries website to download and install. Rated and reviewed as one of the best headsets these would serve as great listening devices for your laptop while you work outside of the barrage of web meetings we’re all attending these days. The Microphone retracts when not in use, has a quick and easy mute button and if you’re feeling adventurous, take advantage of the dual sound driver allowing the use of a mixer wheel on the right ear cuff to fade more or less “Chat” or “Other” audio to your ears allowing you to lessen the meeting audio and increase your music with one quick scroll. Review.
– Smart Phone Headphones – If you’re sporting your smartphone as your web meeting device, don’t leave it on speaker for audio. Go dust off the box the phone came in and pull out the free headphones. More often than not they have an in-line microphone. This will be less about your comfort and more about respecting that of those in the meeting with you.