Follow these tips to improve your next video conference.

If you’re using Zoom, or another video conferencing tool, on a daily basis, you’ve probably realized that conducting meetings over video has its unique set of challenges. Here’s how to master what has quickly become the new normal.
 

Set up your space.

Step one is to eliminate distractions — both for you and those on the other side of the screen. Jori MacNaught, a human-centered design coach at LUMA Institute, advises that you check what’s on your desk and behind you before every video call.
 
When it comes to situating your laptop, MacNaught recommends adjusting the screen to a height that enables you to look straight into the center of it, and, if possible, have your arms at a 90-degree angle when typing. “You’ll maintain better direct eye contact with the camera,” she says. “It’ll also help prevent neck strain and tension headaches.”
 

Know your light.

Avoid backlit areas, such as a spot with a window behind you, because others won’t be able to see your face clearly. And sitting directly beneath bright overhead lights can create a distracting halo effect. Your best bet? “Have warm or natural lighting in front of you and/or to the sides,” MacNaught says. “I have desk lamps with warm white bulbs on either side of my monitor and a large window to my right.” Make sure to test the video first so you can see how your face appears on screen.
 

Do a sound check.

Join your video meeting a few minutes early to test your sound. And rather than rely on computer microphones — which don’t have the best sound quality — MacNaught recommends using headphones or earbuds. “Computer microphones can also let through very loud typing noises when you forget to mute,” she says.
 

Become a master of mute.

It’s been said that forgetting to mute is the new reply all office blunder, so get used to muting and unmuting yourself often — and quickly. “I mute and unmute myself dozens of times in a meeting to make sure I’m not disrupting a call with dog barks, throat-clearing, sneezing, typing, etc.,” she says. For larger meetings, attendees should mute themselves as a default. “This can automatically reduce background noise and potential disruptions,” MacNaught adds.
 

Stay focused.

Counteract distractions by snoozing desktop notifications and minimizing other windows that aren’t related to the session. “This is especially important if you’re screen sharing,” MacNaught says. “People can tell when you’re not paying attention or multitasking.”
 
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