Video chatting used to be a novelty activity on the computer, but now it’s more ubiquitous than ever. Distant friends and families use video chatting to intimately communicate, and businesses even take advantage of it for teleconferencing, perhaps to connect multiple branches that are located around the world.
Skype has been the dominating service for years, but multiple apps have sprung up over the last couple of years that are making the video chatting market more popular (and perhaps, more saturated) than ever, including Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s Hangouts, Facebook and even Snapchat.
However, as video chatting becomes more popular, users need to be aware that there is a right way to video chat and a wrong way as well. Sure, some of your friends that you FaceTime with might not care that your microphone sounds horrible or that they can barely see you from that window glare, but more often than not, they find it annoying.
It’s not about looking or sounding professional when video chatting just to impress, but simply making the experience better for the user you’re chatting with. Here are some tips to follow to ensure that your next FaceTime video chat goes smoothly for both of you.
Have Good Lighting
This a very basic principle in all forms of photography and videography, and it goes double-time for video chatting: Make sure you have good lighting.
What does this mean, exactly? All you really have to do is make sure that you have a light source pointing at your face and try not to have any light sources behind you. This will create a silhouette and the people you’re chatting with won’t be able to see you — they’ll simply be blinded by the bright window you’re sitting in front of.
Luckily, it’s not too difficult to obtain good lighting while video chatting, since all you have to do is pick up your laptop and sit by a window with the light pointed directly at you — no need to go out and buy expensive light kits
Place Your Webcam at Eye Height
This tip isn’t terribly important, but it’ll make you look the best while video chatting to a friend, family member or even a co-worker if you’re telecommuting. Place your webcam at eye height, so when you look straight ahead, you see your webcam looking right back.
However, you also don’t want too much blank space above your head, so if you need to, tilt down the webcam ever so slightly so that there’s just a small gap between the top of your head and top of the screen. This will make you look the most presentable and won’t have people looking up your nose.
And for the love of all things that are holy, put a little bit of breathing room between your face and your webcam; we don’t want to see the fine details of your face when it takes up the entire window.
Use Headphones or a Headset
If there’s just one tip that you take away from this, it’s that you should always wear headphones or a headset. It’s not just a tip, but it’s practically an unwritten rule for video chatting. No one likes to hear feedback, which is why you should at least wear a pair of headphones so that the sound from others talking doesn’t get routed back through your microphone and back into their own speakers.
If you can, buy a decent headset that comes with a boom mic. The problem with built-in mics in laptops and other devices is that their range and sensitivity is set really high so that it can pick up voices from a several feet away. That’s cool and all, but it also means that it’ll easily pick up background noise, like dogs barking or a hair dryer blasting in the distance.
Headsets with boom mics can be far less sensitive since you’re talking straight into it. This means that headsets can block out any annoying sounds that occur in the vicinity of the video chatter, whereas the default built-in mic on a laptop would easily pick up such noise. The specialized mic on most headsets will drown out any background noise, and the quality will be much better overall.
The Wirecutter recommends Microsoft’s LifeChat LX-6000 USB headset and after using it for several weeks, we agree with them. It’s comfortable to wear and has an inline control that lets you adjust the volume, answer/hang up calls, and even mute your mic with just the push of a button, which brings us to our next tip…
Mute Your Mic When You’re Not Talking
While a headset with a boom mic will block out most background noise, it obviously won’t block out all noise, and sounds of dogs barking can still make their way through. Plus, people don’t want to hear you breathing, coughing, or clearing your throat. This is why you should mute your mic when you’re not talking.
If you get a USB headset, it will most likely come with a mute button built in, that way you don’t have to keep clicking on the mute button on the software end when you’re video chatting, as that can be a bit cumbersome. However, having a physical mute button that you hold in your hand makes it a lot easier and quicker to mute and unmute your mic.
As for using FaceTime on your iPhone or iPad, you obviously can’t use a USB headset, but even just the stock earbuds that come with your iPhone are good enough to take the place of one, and you can easily mute and unmute your microphone from the touchscreen.
Make Sure You Have a Good Connection
Video chatting takes up a lot of internet bandwidth, which is why you should make sure that you have a good connection. Most of the time, not video chatting at all is better than being signed on and delivering a laggy video and audio experience to your chattees.
If you can, be sure to plug in to an ethernet connection if you’re using your laptop; a wired connection is way more reliable than a wireless connection. If you’re on a smartphone or tablet, all you can really do is just make sure that your WiFi or data signal is good enough by looking at their respective icons in the menu bar and making sure you have at least close to full bars.
Turn on Do Not Disturb
No one likes to hear someone else’s phone go off in the middle of a video chat, especially if it’s a work-related video chat meeting. Plus, depending on the volume of the ringtone, it could potentially shriek through your mic and out of the speakers of your chattees at an alarming volume.
Furthermore, the last thing you want during a video chat is a distraction, and not giving your full attention to the person you’re chatting with is slightly rude, so it’s in your best interest anyway to put your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb.
Have any other tips for good video chatting etiquette? Shout them out down in the comments below.