PCMag.com is a leading authority on technology, delivering Labs-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak has caused dozens of tech conferences and conventions to be cancelled over the last few weeks. Now companies are closing down their offices and asking employees to work from home. If you have been affected, chances are most of your in-person meetings have been changed to conference calls.
Working from home might sound great at first, but having to do all your own IT work can be a hassle. After all, the last thing you want is to have a technical issue right when it’s time to dial in; there’s no one to help troubleshoot your connection, and it can really get in the way of a productive afternoon.
Make sure everything is right before the call begins. Here’s how to prepare for video conference calls from home, or wherever you might be working from.
Windows Phone: Be Aware of Your Surroundings
If you need to appear on camera during your call, make sure you know what’s going on around you. Close that window if you’re on a noisy street and flip on a light. PCMag’s lead camera analyst Jim Fisher stresses that “Soft fill on your face is all that matters.” Using a desk lamp with a shade should work, as long as you can avoid harsh, direct light. “If you’ve got big windows, face the windows so they light you up; otherwise the camera is going to struggle with exposure.”
Windows Phone: Get Creative With How You Connect
Most companies have a favorite service they use, like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. If you’re working on a personal computer, all you have to do is download the appropriate desktop app or click a link and log into your account.
However, if you have to think fast and find the right video call service that fits your needs, remember that most mobile messaging apps have video capabilities. Apps like Facebook Messenger, Signal, Android Messages, and Google Hangouts, among others, allow for limited video calling. Many of these services also have web and desktop apps. FaceTime also allows group chats and supports receiving phone calls on your computer.
Windows Phone: Clear Out the Bandwidth Hogs
One of the downsides of video chats are the pixelated screens and choppy audio that comes with lackluster bandwidth. If you’re expecting a video call or three, make sure the smart devices in your home aren’t hogging the connection.
If the kids are streaming video games or Disney+, the robot vacuum is mapping your home, or hefty software programs are running on your PC, all that activity could disrupt your video call at an inopportune time.
To start, check your internet speed to know what you’re working with and whether you’re getting what you pay for. If you’re worried about someone else using up your connection’s resources, here’s how to see if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi.
Windows Phone: Log In Early
Don’t wait for the meeting to start to find out your connection is bad or your software doesn’t work properly; test it before the conference starts. You can do this in Zoom by using the program’s test feature. WebEx also has a Personal Room that can be used for testing.
In Skype, click your profile picture and select Settings > Audio & Video Settings, and there should be a camera preview under the Video section. You can also look for Sound Test Service in your Skype contacts to test audio quality.
If Wi-Fi is still giving you trouble, fish out that dusty Ethernet cable for a direct connection, which should hopefully cut down on any potential speed issues or sudden dropouts while video conferencing. If your laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port, pick up a cheap USB to Ethernet or Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter.
Windows Phone: Avoid Feedback
Don’t rely on your computer’s iffy built-in microphone and speakers. Find yourself a nice Bluetooth headset or even gaming headphones to use when you’re on a call. They connect easily to your computer while also offering comfortable over-ear fits with a strong microphone.
Windows Phone: Don’t Forget a Charger
Long conference calls can drain a laptop battery pretty quick. And you don’t want to have to step away from the meeting to find your charger as battery warnings blink on your screen. Make sure your laptop is plugged in and powering up. There are also some portable chargers powerful enough to recharge your laptop in a pinch. Our Editors’ Choice is the iMuto Portable Charger X6 Pro, which has a 30,000mAh capacity in a 1.5-pound body.
Windows Phone: Have a Backup Plan
No matter what program you use, have a backup plan in case something goes awry, whether that’s switching to an audio-only call or throwing in the towel and realizing you’re in a meeting that could’ve been an email.
This article originally published at PCMag