Simple, Flexible, Affordable


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Videoconferencing is an excellent way to communicate and collaborate with teachers, students, colleagues, and experts, while saving the time and money associated with travel. Modern videoconferencing technologies also allow users to share high-resolution graphics (i.e. computer images, documents, websites) simultaneously with the virtual face-to-face interaction.

Historically, videoconferencing was expensive and location-dependent — participants needed to congregate in one room specifically equipped with videoconference technology. This type of “large room” videoconferencing still has its place, but now there are a lot more tools and options for bringing videoconferencing to a desktop or mobile environment. Removing the need for a single videoconference location increases the simplicity, flexibility, and affordability of videoconferencing; collaboration options increase because connection barriers decrease.

Simple:

Click a link in an email or wait to receive a call — it can’t get much easier.

Flexible:

Connect from your desk, your home, the local coffee house, or while traveling — virtually anywhere. You can remain connected to people in the event of a sickness or other emergency; no more driving on dangerous roads during winter for professional development!

Affordable:

Not only are the costs of traditional room-based equipment coming down, but software prices are dropping, too. Instead of needing to purchase large pieces of equipment to manage videoconference calls, most videoconferencing is managed with network servers, which are less-costly to purchase and maintain.

 

Desktop Videoconferencing Tips


Collaborating via video is simple, flexible, and affordable, but it can be even better if you and your colleagues employ a few tips.

Know Your Background

This can be one of the biggest distractions, especially if your background is a window. Cameras key in on the outdoor light, causing your image to appear dark and sinister. Adjust your camera position to avoid the daylight, or simply close your shades or curtains.

Too much daylight in the background creates a shadowy figure.

Too much daylight in the background creates a shadowy figure.

Closing the shades doesn't eliminate daylight, but it works well if you cannot reposition the camera.

Closing the shades doesn’t eliminate daylight, but it works well if you cannot reposition the camera.

Another background to watch out for is less obvious — the ceiling. A lot of laptops have built-in cameras, which is nice, but most people tilt their laptop screen toward the ceiling in order to see it well. This gives your audience a nice look up your nose, which might not be the intended view. Instead, either lower your chair or raise up your laptop so that you’re looking at your audience instead of down to your audience.

The usual tilting of a laptop screen gives a nice view of the ceiling and my nose.

The usual tilting of a laptop screen gives a nice view of the ceiling and my nose.

Adjusting my position makes for a more flattering view.

Adjusting my position makes for a more flattering view.

Lighting Matters

Similar to the problem presented by a window in the background, poor lighting can also make for a very poor image. Coffee shops have excellent ambiance, but usually poor lighting. If possible, turn on more lights where you are, or rotate yourself so the best lighting it hitting your face instead of the back of your head.

Too little light casts too many shadows.

Too little light casts too many shadows.

Adjusting my lighting makes for a more flattering view.

Adjusting my lighting makes for a more flattering view.

Body Mannerisms

This is not a phone call, wherein you only need to be conscientious of what you say; this is a videoconference wherein you need to be conscientious of what you do. Remember that everyone in the conference can see you — yawning, picking your ear, leaning over, talking with a colleague — even if they cannot hear you. Use the self-view option of your videoconference software in order to remind yourself that others can see you.

Etiquette Makes Friends

As with other conference technologies, a little conference etiquette goes a long way.

  • Mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking. This is also from the teleconference era, but knowing how to mute yourself so that random noises — sneezes, phone calls, barking dogs — don’t interfere with the content of the conference.
  • If you need to ask a question, raise your hand. Take advantage of the idea that others can see you, and raise your hand like you are in grade school. This allows people to finish their thought(s) and take questions without interruption.

Raise your hand!

  • When speaking, state your name and location — “This is Nate in Madison.” This will also allow the video to switch to your location so that everyone can see you.
  • If you want to solicit questions or responses from your audience, direct your questions to a particular site, person, or region — “Any questions from the northwest? How about the central region?”
  • Are there any other techniques you use to minimize distractions and create engagement during a videoconference?

    Learn more about how ICS supports desktop videoconferencing.