There is a quote, attributed to Mark Twain, about eating a frog first thing in…
Those of us still working at home some or part of the time have a system going by now. The physical location for work, our computer setup, and perhaps some actual or virtual background.
Today, I want to spend some time on the technical setup that can both make your presence online more dynamic and reduce your Zoom fatigue.
Your internet connection matters for AV. Not just speed but how you connect. If you are having issues with how well others hear you or interruptions in the sound, your connection may be to blame. Whenever possible actually wire into your internet via ethernet cable. This should be a best practice for your most important conversations and presentations even if you use WIFI some of the time.
The view behind you also matters. In general, unless you have a green/blue screen you should skip the virtual background. It is otherwise quite disconcerting to have parts of a person disappear and reappear as they speak. A great lo-tech solution is to get a piece of fabric, even a nice (ironed) sheet and hang it behind you. Please note that busy patterns such as close stripes, or small repeated patterns will bleed and cause unfortunate video effects.
I go with a curated view of my workplace that is interesting and shows my personality so that my background speaks as well.
While a webcam isn’t a necessary add-on, you should really consider it. A crisp, well-lit video brings you into focus for the people on the call. We have all now experienced looking into dark, grainy, and/or blurry boxes on a screen — not a good look.
If you are presenting a lot, especially client-facing, you might also consider external lighting. I use an LED ring light for this but there are many options.
The best sound setup doesn’t have to break the bank but does require some investment.
Microphone: I am going for a pretty simplified take on audio, if you have more AV knowledge or curiosity there is definitely more to know and understand. The higher stakes your video presentations are, the more you should learn about AV in this medium. Everyone who can do so should be looking at some external microphone.
But for the rest of you: If your only use for a microphone is speaking in meetings and your space doesn’t have a lot of vibrancy on its own you might consider a dynamic microphone such as the AT2100. It is inexpensive and really creates a nice, clear sound for most. I use a dynamic mic most of the time, usually through its USB interface which suits my sound needs and is quickly set up and put aside. You want to have the mic set up in a cardioid pattern and speak fairly close to it for the best results (and least capture of your room’s sound). Note that the mic above comes with a very low-quality plastic stand so you might upgrade that at some point.
If you present a lot, you probably want to get an XLR microphone and a preamp so that you have more versatility in how the sound is being processed. If you need to go down this route, I’d definitely consult a sound professional who understands your needs so you end up with the right solution for your situation. Or as you encounter colleagues who sound great, ask them about their setup.
If you are buying a microphone for singing, you definitely want a condenser mic and to capture in an omnidirectional pattern so that you pick up the room. This is much more complex then just grab a Blue Yeti (although the Yeti can be a lovely mic for speaking) so if you sing regularly you should chat with someone who knows how to mic for your style of singing. Hit me up if you need to be pointed in a direction.
There is a lot here but, again, these are pretty simplified solutions for creating a setup that works for you without too much investment. The more important these meetings, and presentations are to your professional future, the more you should consider working with someone to make sure you spend the money once and end up with solutions that work for you. As always, I am happy to chat and help you get started — email here.
This Friday at 12:30 pm EDT, Gina will be live on FB. These will be short voice alignment sessions aimed at voice skills building. Watch it on the GROW Voice FB page. I hope to see you there.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.