Ensuring Video and Conference Calls Run Smoothly

If you need to talk, attend or present remotely, follow these tips to ensure everyone has a smooth experience.

Whatever app you’re using, and whatever its features, these simple tips will ensure everyone can see and hear each other clearly.

Too long to read? Here’s a short checklist which you can copy and paste:

  1. Use a wired connection if possible; close other apps

For a little more detail and a few more pointers, see below.

1. Use your strongest connection

The most important thing you can do is ensure you’ve got a solid connection to the Internet.

Usually, WiFi or cellular (mobile) connections are not strong enough to offer a completely reliable connection, especially for video calls. If you can, connect your device directly with a wire (called an ethernet cable).

Secondly, ensure there’s nothing else using up your internet bandwidth. That means, on your own device, ensure you don’t have lots of other programs running or browser tabs open (all of which can silently suck up bandwidth); and if other people share your connection, ask them to minimise usage during your call if possible.

2. Speak one at a time

Be stringent about your etiquette: only one person ever needs to speak at once.

Interruptions can make it hard to follow a conversation at the best of times. When the line can potentially be a little fuzzy as well, people talking over each other may make it next to impossible.

If someone’s speaking, wait for them to finish. If you’re speaking, be aware that others may want to speak. Pause and ask if anyone has anything to say, before you continue — so no one feels the need to interrupt.

3. Mute yourself

If you’re not speaking, remember to put yourself on Mute.

Only the person who is speaking should be unmuted. This ensures their voice is not lost among other background noises coming from other participants, such as breathing, room noise, echoes, traffic, screeching cats, etc.

It also reduces the strain on the internet connection. If you mute yourself within the app, it knows it can stop transmitting that audio data over the line, saving precious megabytes.

4. Turn off video

If the connection gets too choppy, turn off your video feed.

It’s great to be able to see each other and conduct a normal conversation remotely. But if the calls starts to break up, kill your video first. The video feed is the largest part of what soaks up your bandwidth.

In particular, if you’ve shared your screen, remember to stop sharing when you’re done. That screenshare will continue to use bandwidth even while you all carry on talking about something else.

And while your video is on, try to ensure there’s sufficient light in your room that people can actually see you.

5. Keep presentations simple

Slides presented remotely should involve minimal movement or animation — ideally none.

A slide is a static image — that’s easy enough for your application to transfer down the line. But as soon as there’s any movement or animation at all, it has to attempt to send up to around 60 images per second. It’s a much bigger strain.

Even simple fades are just as bandwidth-intensive as impressive loop-de-loops. The computer doesn’t distinguish between a “simple” change or a more exciting one. If a bullet fades in over 1s, just imagine that it has to go through 60 steps to get there: 1.6% faded-in, 3.3% faded-in, etc.

For the smoothest results, ensure all animation is turned off before you begin presenting. Or, if building your slides now, the only effect you should use is “Appear”.

6. Test it in advance

You and your participants should each try to do a test run in advance, especially if you’re using a new app.

Struggling to get conference calls to work is a tale as old as WebEx (so, about 25 years).

It’s impossible to foresee that when you try to connect from your trusty laptop, for some reason no one can work out, it just says no. Don’t waste the first 30 minutes of your call on tech support.

You don’t all need to do a test call together, but you should try to say hello to at least one other actual person. The key thing is to run the test from the same device you intend to use in the real call. Then you can be assured that it works, and you won’t be caught out.

How well does remote working work?

We hope these little tips will help you enjoy smooth and clear video and conference calls.

Are you having to work remotely at the moment? Let us know how you’re finding the experience, and whether you found our checklist helpful.

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