Tips and ideas for using video conferencing technology during times of remoteness or isolation.

Video socialising is a great way to familiarise yourself with the technology, the processes and the experience of ‘meeting online’ with family, friends – and service providers, such as your Financial Planner, your Accountant; and perhaps, your Lawyer. 

During the period of the COVID-19 containment lockdowns many of us are learning or enhancing skills in regard to socialising online.  We offer the following tips and ideas to help prepare for successful and beneficial video socialising engagements:  they are our views, based on experiences we have had so far introducing some clients to this medium.

Screen, speakers and light all working well

The five key elements for a successful video socialising (conferencing) experience, are: stable and reasonably fast internet connection; a computer with an up-to-date operating system installed; a video camera; a microphone; and speakers.  Another factor that should be kept in mind but of less importance (unless it is just dreadful), is the environment in which you will be located for the meeting. More on that below.

  1. The Internet:
    • Stability of the service is marginally more important than the speed/ bandwidth issue. With most of us on the NBN now, this shouldn’t be a problem for most of you.
    • If there are problems with your service, we suggest contacting the service provider, whose technical team should be able to help resolve the issue. (For the immediate meeting that has been interrupted by this problem, a telephone conference referring to relevant hardcopy documents can be held instead.)
  2. The computer: can be a desktop or a laptop (or even a tablet) provided it is of recent vintage, and
    • Its Operating system is up-to-date, will in most cases ensure the best experience during any type of video meeting.
    • Whether it is PC or Apple, Android or iOS should deliver similar quality visual and audio experience.
  3. Video camera:
    • For the majority of sessions conducted in this way, the specs of the video camera don’t need to be high-end. Most modern laptops and tablets will have a video camera built into them that will be adequate for most situations – as might some desktop devices. 
    • If there is no camera inbuilt to your device, your local ‘computer store’ staff will be able to guide you as to a serviceable model at a reasonable price. For the die-hard online shoppers, there are many forums for you to make some research, you could call one of our team, talk to a family member, or ask around to see what your friends are using.
  4. Microphone:
    • Devices that have inbuilt video cameras often also have a microphone. Whilst the onboard video camera may be adequate the positioning of the microphone, the ability to conveniently mute (and unmute) it, blocking out any unwanted background noise is important and it may be preferable to use a headset or similar technology (that will also facilitate the Speaker requirement mentioned below).
    • Whilst the price of such devices (microphone/ headset) need not be high, a better experience will be had according to the quality of the sound – and your ability to be heard by others in the meeting.
  5. Speakers:
    • Inbuilt speakers will usually be adequate, as will most ‘plug’n’play’ devices attached to your computer, but if the meeting discussion needs to be confidential and you are unable to locate away from others who are not involved or have any legitimate interest in the meeting, using a suitable headset will resolve most issues.
    • Whilst in most circumstances, quite basic equipment will satisfy the needs of most users, noise cancelling headsets are very helpful (particularly if you are working from home with a pet that makes some noise – or perhaps children who like to be heard). These headsets can be priced in the moderate to high-spec, expensive range and so it will come down to personal preference when choosing this equipment.
  6. Environment:
    • The main matters to consider when selecting the environment in which you will participate in a video meeting, appear to be: background noise, lighting and the backdrop to your image from the video camera perspective.
    • Background noise needs to be eliminated as much as possible: whilst your microphone is ‘live’ everybody else on the meeting will have any background noise as a distraction that could interfere with the efficacy of the delivery of messages being relayed in the meeting. The noises that are of most concern are, loud and incessant noise; and shrill noise.  You won’t need to move into a ‘cone of silence’, nor a recording studio, but be mindful that if the noise around you is interfering with your hearing of the contribution of participants, it is probably impacting others as well.
    • Lighting is important and needs to be reasonably bright, illuminating your face (without it being glaring or a spotlight) – and evenly illuminating the room in which you are participating. One purpose for the use of video technology is for participants to see each other and to ‘read the faces’ of their fellow contributors: lighting helps in this process, yet it doesn’t need to be highly technical or expensive.  An ideal location from a lighting perspective might be a sunroom, a covered verandah, or a home office with a window that you are facing toward (or that has normal domestic lighting shining toward your face).
    • Backdrops are interesting – and no doubt you will have been watching numerous interviews on News channels during this era of social distancing, where at least one of the participants is working-at-home and you have noticed, even commented on, what they have in their room behind them. Something you don’t want is a glaring source of light that leaves you sitting as a shadow; nor do you want your fellow participants to see the underwear hanging to dry on a line behind you (as was seen on a television interview recently).  There are many ways to deal with the background issue (including the Zoom facility to project an image on to a green screen behind you) and individual preferences will dictate how you manage this matter.

The above suggestions should help you to prepare for, and participate in, successful video socialising/ conferencing meetings; and we look forward to meeting with you electronically in the near future.

There are just a couple of other matters that are worth considering in this context: the medium (or platform) to be used; and the cyber security and privacy issues that surround them.

Video conferencing medium

The medium to be used to conduct the video socialising/ conferencing can vary from the recently popular Zoom, the more established GoToMeeting, Facebook, WhatsApp and possibly others.  The more familiar you are with the medium, the less distracted you will be in taking part in the meeting. To familiarise yourself with the medium to be used on the meeting in which you will be participating, we recommend that you go to the website for that product and seek their ‘how to’ information – that will almost certainly be in video format.  If the provider site doesn’t take you to a YouTube channel, it is highly likely that other users of the medium will have put something on You Tube that will assist you. 

The video conferencing links to You Tube above are to two different areas: we suggest you at least look at the second one.

Online privacy and security

Those of you who are security conscious (as should we all be), should undertake research to satisfy yourselves as to the efficacy of the platform being used.  At this time, we are aware of some problems having been highlighted in regard to a number of the platforms, but there are security settings that can be set – and controls exercised over how participants can enter the discussion – that satisfy our needs in this regard. 

Your friends at
ContinuumFP