Can You See Me Now? Tips on Video Conferencing

By:  Carol Emmens










In this day and age, everyone is frustrated by the hassle of travel especially frequent fliers who travel for business. That is a key selling point for video conferencing.

Telepresence rooms do not replace face-to-face meetings but they come close; unfortunately, their use is usually limited to high level executives due to their cost (usually from $200,000 to $300,000). Telepresence rooms are fully outfitted with state of the art equipment and furniture and are sometimes shipped as a “room in a box.”

There are rooms devoted to video conferencing but there are downsides to them: the need to learn how to use them and the need to schedule them. Consequently, the rooms are often booked in advance but left unused and empty. Ironically, however, video conferencing use is now increasing rapidly. Why is that contradiction occurring?

What has changed is the use – often on the fly – of video conferencing in conference and collaboration rooms; there is a need to meet “now.”  There is an increase in the use of desktop video conferencing by remote workers; those who use video on home laptops, tablets and phones want to use those devices to connect with their colleagues at the office.  What makes that possible is that all types of rooms and spaces with Wi-Fi can be used to do a video conference in a “cloud”.  In essence, a laptop, software solutions or apps offer video conferencing, online meetings, and mobile collaboration on one platform.

Regardless of how the videoconference is conducted, there is still a need for everyone to see and hear what is being presented in the meeting room. There are four audiovisual essentials for video conferencing:

  1. Display Device(s)
  2. Camera(s)
  3. Microphone(s)
  4. Speaker(s)

Video: Display Device/Camera

The size of the room and the number of participants govern the selection of a display device: projector or flat screen. If you share information such as PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, product specifications, a second display or a non-glaring white board is highly desirable.

The camera dictates the quality of the image and needs to suit the goals of the video conference; a webcam is acceptable for desktop conferences, but a good camera or even a high definition camera is needed for meeting rooms.  Important features to consider are: the zoom capabilities, viewing angles, focus presets, and lenses. The placement of the camera is critical as well.

A top notch camera is still not a guarantee of good video; it will be unable to compensate completely for poor lighting. Ironically, sunlight is not good for a video conference as it can cause glare and interfere with the camera or the monitor. An interior room is preferable but it is possible that the lighting will need to be changed or enhanced with additional lights. It is also important for the lighting to be evenly distributed.

Audio: Microphone(s)/Speakers

Despite the name video conference, the video is sometimes less important than the audio.  Distortions or glitches in the video are more easily tolerated than poor sound or squealing noises. If the sound is not clear and understandable, your conference could be a dismal failure.

The number of microphones and the placement of them on the table or in the ceiling are based on the dimensions and layout of the room and number of participants.  An excellent microphone placed too far away from the speaker is all but useless; for example, a high ceiling is not appropriate for microphones. Table microphones, on the other hand, can pick up the fan noise of laptops that are de rigor at meetings.

The acoustics of the room affect the quality of the audio too. The room needs good sound adsorption and insulation because sound bounces and reverberates, creating echoes that are transmitted. Sound absorption materials such as carpet or curtains or absorption panels greatly improve the quality of the sound but avoid absorption clusters which could potentially muffle the sounds you do want heard. Eliminating or cutting down the sound coming from outside the room and paying attention to the sound coming out of the ventilation and air conditioning systems is also essential. Those sounds cause hissing at the other end if not dealt with properly.

Another consideration is the installation and use of assistive listening devices. These devices are not only for those who may have a degree of hearing loss. At times, individual headsets will assist in assuring all attendees to a video conference or meeting will be able to hear all presentations effectively. In addition, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), requires certain types of businesses to have a number of these devices installed to be compliant with the law. The experts at Zeo Systems can assist you in determining if your business must comply with the ADA and to what extent.

There are many options depending on whether you use a video conferencing system or a cloud based solution, your budgetary constraints, the number of employees who may be involved in a particular conference, etc. No matter the situation, Zeo Systems can assist you in selecting the the best equipment to support its uses while staying within your budget.