5 pro tips for the best video calls

In just a few short weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way Americans live and work. I’ve been inundated with questions from business owners and employees about how to make the transition. You can ask me your questions here.

Step one: You need the right tools. Google, Microsoft and a host of other Big Tech companies are making their business software available for free. Tap or click here to get your hands on what you need.

Next on the list? Security. Our home networks and devices are, on the whole, much less secure than those at the office. IT professionals everywhere are cringing. Tap or click here for three essential steps to keep cybercriminals out of your business, literally.

And that brings us back to software. Many businesses are now relying on teleconferencing to get the job done. What if you have no idea what you’re doing? Let me help.

There are a few tricks you can use to ensure a smoother conferencing experience with minimal glitches — no matter what system you’re using.

1. Check your connection

There’s nothing more annoying than a lagging connecting and spotty video when you’re trying to conduct a meeting. Before you launch an important call, test your internet connection. Speedtest.net is my go-to.

Video calling and screen sharing require upload and download speeds of at least 128Kpbs. HD calls require even higher speeds: 1.2 to 1.5Mbps.

If your connection peters out mid-call, switch off the camera. It’s not ideal, but you don’t need those high speeds for just audio. If all else fails, hang up and call in on your phone instead. Check the meeting invite for the call-in number and be prepared to enter a code to get into the meeting.

FOR YOU: New to working from home life? Tap or click here for a primer on the basics.

2. Make sure your camera and microphone are working

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people have never configured their cameras and mics. After all, many manufacturers don’t even enable the hardware right out of the box.

On Windows:

Click the Start menu >> Settings >> Privacy >> Camera.

Then toggle “Allow apps to access your camera” to the on position.

Repeat the same process for your mic by clicking on Microphone from the left-hand menu and toggling “Allow apps to access your microphone” to the on position.

On a Mac:

the camera and microphone are enabled by default. To make sure they’re working, check the FaceTime and Settings apps.

For the camera, open the Facetime app and make sure your face is visible. The green light should be on, indicating the camera is active.

For the microphone, open Settings and search “Sound Input” in the search bar on the upper right. Click Sound Input and begin speaking out loud. If your mic is working, you’ll see the bars light up under Input Level.

If you don’t see this, try turning Input Volume up higher until you notice the bars light up. This means your microphone is picking up sound.

TECH KNOW-HOW IN YOUR INBOX: Learn something new, master your tech and stay safe online with my free newsletters. Tap or click here to sign up.

3. Go mobile

A software glitch can sabotage meeting participation, so give yourself a solid backup.

Most of the biggest productivity tools like G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and Zoom all offer mobile versions on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Just make sure you download them before you need them.

Keep in mind that some, like G Suite, are spread across multiple apps. You can chat with your coworkers in Google Hangouts, for example, but you’ll need Google Meet for group meetings. Tap or click to see how you can get free premium versions of these productivity apps.

Pro tip: Make sure you log in with your work username and password instead of setting up a new account.

4. Take a breather

Audio lag, or latency, is a common issue for video conferencing. And with more people working from home than ever, slower internet speeds could make this even worse. Tap or click to see the impact so many people working at home could have on our connectivity. 

To avoid talking over one another, try this easy trick: Pause longer than usual when you’re finished speaking. This acts as an invitation for others on the conference call to speak — especially those struggling with lag.

Your team can also take turns speaking rather than chiming in all at once. It might be easy to jump in and out of a conversation when speaking face-to-face, but teleconferencing is a different story. Be courteous and wait for a pause in the conversation.

5. Dress for success

This one’s a lifehack for all the newly remote workers out there. One of the most important parts of successfully working from home is separating your work life from your home life.

The lines can blur when you sleep in the same space that you work, and it can make you feel like you never have a chance to disconnect.

To keep yourself productive (and sane), get up and dress for work as you would normally. Now, I’m not talking about a full suit, but pajamas aren’t ideal, either. The psychological impact is immediately obvious.

Dressing for work puts you in a working mindset. Changing to leisure clothes when you’re done working for the day separates the feeling of your work life from your home life.

Designating an exclusive spot in your home for work is a good way to keep your mind away from the distractions of home life, too.

Working from home is a major adjustment for many people. But in the end, the technology and a few life hacks make it possible to maintain your livelihood during times of uncertainty.

Plus, you can’t beat that ultra-short commute from your bed to your desk. Just don’t forget to stop by the kitchen for some coffee.

BONUS TIP FOR EXTRA KNOW-HOW: Set up emergency medical information on your iPhone

We’re certainly living in uncertain times. And if you have an illness or a serious allergy, you need to be prepared for emergency situations. But if an emergency occurs, you may be unable to inform someone of your medication allergies or medical conditions.

That’s why you should set up a medical ID profile that displays on your phone — even if it’s locked. This feature allows emergency responders to access your information quickly.

Tap or click here for step-by-step instructions.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.