Several of the sales teams I have been helping over the past couple of weeks use Skype in day-to-day engagement with buyers and clients. A few people have asked for help in improving the quality and performance of their video calls, so I thought I would share my top 5 video tips with all of you, in an effort to help more people. Social Business is about human-to-human connections… and a great way to do that is through a high quality video connection.

The video in your Skype Calls or Google Hangouts should be invisible

There are some really simple things you can do to optimize the quality of video in your Skype video calls. Really poor video quality – jerky frame rate, heavy pixelation, freezing video frames – detracts from the interaction. If it’s really bad, the conversation ends up being about troubleshooting the video and not about the intended topic of discussion. And… honestly, poor video does not make a great impression.

Make a great impression with great video

 

check.pngTOP 5 TIPS

Here are my Top 5 Tips on how to optimize the quality of your Skype (or Google Hangout) Videos, ranked in order of prioritization (in general conditions).

(1) Lighting
Good lighting is probably the #1 trick to better quality video. You want lots of light, and you want lots of light shining onto your face – coming from behind the camera and not from behind you.

  • Natural light is the best: Sit by a window, facing the window, so that the light illuminates your face. Don’t sit with your back to a window, you will become a silhouette. 
  • Indoor lights: If you are indoors and have a floor or desk lamp, place it behind the camera shining on your face; if you just have overhead lights, turn on all the lights you can.
  • If you have multiple lights: Place one light on the left (at 45 degrees) and one light on the right (at 45 degrees) so that they illuminate both sides of your face.
  • More light = better video quality. Low light = grainy video.

 (2) Hardwire

Speed Speed Speed. You want the fastest and most consistent internet connection you can get.

  • Whenever you can, connect to the internet with an ethernet cable – this is much faster and more consistent than a wifi connection.
  • If you can’t use an ethernet cable, get as close to your wifi as possible… the more bars you have for your wifi signal, the better the quality of video you will get.
  • If you have a MiFi or smartphone with a Personal Hotspot, run an internet connection speed test to see if your mobile hotspot connection is faster than the connection supporting the closest wifi (hint: guaranteed to be faster than a DSL supported wifi). (e.g. http://www.speedtest.net/)

 (3) CPU & Memory

Video calls require a lot of CPU cycles and memory. A key tip is to shut down as many of your open applications as you can to free up CPU and memory for Skype.

  • Close applications that frequently check for updates, such as instant messaging (e.g. Sametime), email, social dashboards.
  • Close your web browser, if you can.
  • Close any graphics, photo, or video applications, if you can.
  • If you know how, purge your memory to refresh your system and free up unused RAM.
  • If you are using a smartphone or tablet (with Skype app), shut down other open apps to reduce the multi-tasking demands on your device.

 (4) Audio

A key to good video, is good audio. Webcam and video camera microphones tend to pickup ambient noise – the sounds of your environment.

  • Move to a quiet location: Sit where there are no barking dogs, car traffic, passing trains, construction sounds, cube mates talking, etc.
  • Headphones/Mic: If you have to do a video call in a setting that has some background noise, use a headphone/mic  (e.g. the white iPhone earbuds w/mic) or bluetooth wireless mic. A mic on your body, will capture more of you talking and less of the surrounding noise.
  • If you don’t have a headset that works with your laptop, see bonus tip below on using smartphone or tablet.

(5) Background

Be mindful of your background. The background creates a sense of environment, of context.

  • Make sure it’s appropriate and ‘professional’.
  • Clean up or move clutter or distracting objects if needed.
  • Adjust the camera angle to move something unwanted out of frame.
  • Try to sit where the background has a relatively even color or brightness.

 

BONUS Tips:

  • If you do a lot of Skype Video Calls, consider an external webcam (recommend Logitech) – will have much higher resolution, light sensitivity and better built in microphone.
  • If your laptop is ‘older’, do a compare test using a smartphone or tablet (w/ iOS/Android Skype App) – I have found that people get much better video using the HD cameras on their mobile devices than using their laptops.

Follow these tips and you should see a significant improvement to the quality of your video calls, enabling you to focus on the conversation, and not poor quality video and audio.

Hope you find this helpful.

 

First published at: Executive Social Academy Top 5 Tips to Optimize Your Skype Video & Google Hangouts.

About Jim Claussen

Jim Claussen, Digital Engagement Strategy Manager, Social/Mobile/Commerce, at IBM and Founder of the Executive Social Academy. Jim helps leaders and organizations grow into social and digital engagement, shifting how they engage their workforce, prospects and customers to build advocacy, harness new innovation, unlock collective knowledge and grow business in today's connected economy. Leading with the why, Jim coaches leaders and teams around a people-centered focus first, and the ins and outs of the technology second. Jim helps people around the world through coaching, speaking, podcasting and the Executive Social Academy.

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