In our new normal of social distancing, video calls have become a fact of life. Video conferencing apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype make it easy to stay connected with work, friends, and family — while staying safe and comfortable at home.
In the real estate industry, brokers are using video calls to reach out to their colleagues and clients, and even help lead virtual tours and open houses of listings. Baird & Warner Title Services, our very own title company, has also developed methods for 100% contactless and remote closings, to provide a seamless experience while social distancing.
Outside of work, video calls can be a great way to have a game night with friends from around the country, or even host a virtual party or get-together with your neighbors.
It can take some time to get used to video calling, especially if this technology is new to you. Looking for some tips for making sure your next video conference goes off without a hitch? Whether you’re checking in for a work meeting or celebrating a holiday with family, here are five simple ways to prepare before your next video call:
1.) Pick the Perfect Spot
Location, location, location. Before your next video call, try to find a spot in your home that can help you focus on the conversation — and minimize the risk of issues and distractions for everyone on the other end.
Look for a quiet spot in your home where there will be minimal “foot traffic” from family members (including the furry, four-legged ones). Before the call, you can even hang up a “Do Not Disturb” or “Recording In Progress” sign, to remind people to be quiet.
Try to find a place where you can speak without too much of an echo, and try to cut down on ambient noises in the background by closing the window and making sure you’ve turned off the TV and radio. Test your microphone before the call to make sure your audio input sounds clear and free of feedback.
And remember that nothing interrupts a video chat like lags and internet outages. Avoid taking calls in a room where your WiFi tends to be spotty. To help ensure better call quality, you can plug into the internet securely with an ethernet cable, or invest in a system to help boost your wireless signal.
2.) Clean Up Your Background
During a video call, remember that the other people on the line want to focus on you — not the rest of your home.
Before a call, open up a video window and see what will appear in the background behind your head and shoulders. Take some time to clean up any visible messes, and take down artwork or decorations that might be distracting or clutter up the screen.
If you can, try to find a background that is plain and simple, with solid colors that can help keep the focus on you. If you’re nervous about showing off your space, Zoom allows you to add a virtual backdrop to your calls.
3.) Be Mindful of Your Lighting
Have you ever wondered what makes professional movies and photo shoots look so good? One of the keys to a great image is proper lighting. Fortunately, you don’t have to invest in expensive equipment to optimize the lighting for your next video call. Instead, just focus on following a few important principles.
First and foremost, avoid rear lighting. When you sit directly in front of a light source, it can make your face look shadowy and obscured. Instead, try to position yourself so that the light source for the room is in front of you or off to the side, where it can brighten up your face completely.
If possible, try to avoid being lit from below or from directly overhead, as both of these positions can also create deep shadows. If you can, try to look for a light source that will look clean and natural on camera, and avoid lighting that casts you in a distracting color or makes it hard to see you on video.
Looking for more lighting guidelines? Here are a few resources worth checking out:
- The BBC offers “five tips to look your best on video calls”
- USA Today has gathered five easy ways to improve the lighting during your video calls
4.) For the Best View, Keep Your Camera at Eye Level
Whether you’re using a smartphone, a built-in laptop camera, or a separate webcam, try to set up your equipment so that you can get a clear and unobstructed view of your face.
Sit a comfortable distance away from the camera — not too close or too far. If you’re nervous about looking just right, you can have a test run before your call, to see what distance looks best, and if there are any seating arrangements that help you stay in frame comfortably.
When possible, try to set up your camera so that it is at eye level. As Aliya Chaudhry explains for Verge, this makes it so that “it appears as if you’re looking at the person you’re talking to” when you’re on screen. If your camera is too low, it looks like you’re leaning over your viewer; too high, and you’ll look small or removed. You can always create a quick, DIY platform out of books or a box to elevate your camera to just the right height.
5.) Plug In Your Favorite Headphones
Wearing headphones can make video calls easier for you and everyone on the other end of the line. On your end, plugging in headphones can make it easier to hear the people you’re speaking with, and block out ambient noises and distractions.
For the people on your video call, plugging in headphones can help cut down on echoes and feedback, and help make sure that your call remains private and secure.
How Are You Making the Most of Your Time at Home?
This is the time to remember what’s truly important — health, family, and the bonds that tie us together. Whether it’s now serving as a school, office, playground, or simply a safe space, our home has never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.
We are here for you, no matter what. We understand that you still have important real estate decisions to make, and our mission is to make achieving those goals easier. We will continue to provide the most updated information and guide you through this extraordinary time with a calm and steady hand.