How to Make Your Video Calls Look and Sound Better

If you’re using a phone or laptop, there’s a good chance your camera is horribly positioned for video conferencing. You want your camera at eye level, facing you head-on—so stack your laptop on a couple of books if you need to elevate it. “Frame yourself to show your head and shoulders,” says Rosen, “and make sure the top of your head is at the top of the frame.” You don’t want your colleagues to have a Killroy-style nose-and-eyes only view of your face. If your computer’s built-in camera is low quality, a USB model may help you get a better-looking image, too.

If you’re using a phone, you have a few extra considerations. Make sure it’s in a horizontal orientation, since that’s better suited to the computer screens your colleagues are probably using. And try to rest it on a stand—again, at eye level—rather than holding it, so you don’t have shaky video. If you’re giving a presentation and have notes written down, try to stick those bullet points by your camera, so you aren’t constantly looking down at your desk.

Look the Part

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Photograph: Whitson Gordon

Finally, while it isn’t a tech tip specifically, Rosen stresses the importance of your own appearance and body language. Wear clothes you know you look good in, and that aren’t the same color as your background—you don’t want to blend in, which is remarkably easy in a compressed video feed sent over the internet. In addition, avoid busy, repeating patterns—like thin stripes or small plaid—that tend to moiré on camera. And for heaven’s sake, wash your face—don’t let the sweat from your workout turn you into a shiny mess. (If you have naturally oily skin like I do, Rosen recommends patting yourself down with a little anti-shine powder—no matter your gender. In my experience, blotting yourself with kleenex will do in a pinch, too.)

“Remember you’re on camera,” Rosen says. “Smile, pay attention, don’t look all around the room. Think about where you place your camera, and where people are walking by.” He recounts a recent video call where a participant’s family member walked by in their underwear, mortifying the caller and ruining the meeting. “When something goes wrong—and it will eventually—try to go with the flow. Laugh it off, and don’t let it throw your game.”

Good Audio Is Crucial

If there’s one thing I took away from my college video production class, it’s this: People will watch crappy video, but they won’t listen to crappy audio. This can be especially challenging with video calls, since you can’t hear how you sound on the other end.

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