Video conferencing is an ideal way for businesses to communicate in the 21st century, utilizing the latest high-tech equipment to form connections, collaborate on projects, realize goals and cut the waste associated with in-person conferences. Learn how to optimize video conferencing quality in five key areas to make the best use of this technology.
The first step to optimizing video conferencing quality is choosing software that is made for professional use. Skip the free programs like Skype and Google Chat, and research options that will enable the smoothest possible video and audio.
Five highly-rated options for robust, professional video conferencing software include Adobe Connect, PGi's iMeet, Cisco WebEx Meeting Center, Fuze Meeting Pro and Citrix GoToMeeting. While these are far from the only choices for high-quality video conferencing experiences, they earn points for ease of use, allowing lots of participants at once and working seamlessly with most major platforms including Windows and Mac.
Short of renting a broadcast-quality video conferencing space or installing one at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, these options will provide the most significant boost in video conferencing quality.
Even the best software won't produce quality video conferences if it's used with a low-resolution camera. While it's not necessary to go all out and drop a lot of money on professional-quality video cameras, choosing a high-resolution camera can make all the difference.
When choosing a video conferencing camera, consider high-definition webcams with at least a 1280x720 pixel resolution and 30 frames per second, like the FREETALK by Everyman HD. Or, go one step further and select a digital video camera instead of a webcam. They offer sharper, faster images and can be set up on tripods. For large groups, you may want multiple digital video cameras pointed at different areas of the room.
Before you begin your video conference, check the camera angles to be sure that nobody is being cut off. Limit background movement and distractions. Hanging a simple, solid-colored backdrop is an easy way to create a professional look.
One of the most important aspects of capturing high-quality video is lighting. If the room is too dark or unevenly lit, the images sent to your remote participants will not be up to par. Lighting changes don't have to be expensive - sometimes it's as easy as flipping a switch.
Ensure that background lighting is never brighter than foreground lighting, and never use the light from a computer monitor as the main source of light on a subject. Overhead lights are okay, but lighting directed straight at the subjects will produce a better result. Try diffusing the light with shades or paper for a softer effect.
Finally, optimize video conferencing quality by making sure that your chat participants can hear you clearly. Crisp, clear sound is just as important as visuals in a video conference, and it can be achieved simply by ditching built-in microphones in webcams for headsets or separate microphones.
This doesn't have to mean that everyone in your video conferencing group must wear a headset or pass around a microphone. Multi-directional tabletop microphones will capture the words of nearly everyone in a room. Wireless microphones are yet another simple, inexpensive option that will drastically improve sound quality, so that your conference partners watching over the internet don't have to strain to hear.
All of these improvements are for nil if your internet connection can't handle streaming high-definition video and sound. Low-bandwidth connections will cause blips and hiccups in streaming video, and while standard high-speed internet can handle basic video chat, other aspects of web conferencing increase the load.
Some types of video conferencing software may require an in-house, dedicated server. Check with your IT consultant or request help from the manufacturer of your software to determine your specific requirements.
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Editor's Note: PGi is a Mother Nature Network sponsor.