5 handy hacks for videoconferencing

Blitz your next online meeting instead of being 'that person' who's annoying everyone else with incidental noise or family members walking past in the background.

Today, meetings are taking place in cyberspace instead of the conference room, so there's a lot of new etiquette to brush up on, as well as new challenges we all have to overcome. One of the perennial problems is unwanted noise – and a clacking keyboard is inevitable if you're taking notes. Luckily, muting yourself or others is not the only solution! Read on for how to eliminate noise in a videoconference, and other cutting-edge ways to up your game.

1. Crystal clear audio in one step
Regardless of how good your computer's sound card is, speaking to the onboard mic is not a precise science. By the same token, if your partner or kids are nearby, maybe you don't want them to hear what other people in your company are saying. If your co-workers are sharing confidential information with you, it could even be in breach of your contract.

Solution? Plug in your earphones: they are arguably the fastest and simplest fix for audio issues of all kinds.

2. Eliminate background noise
Another great way of cleaning up the audio in your meeting is by using Krisp, a free application that uses AI to filter sound. It's compatible with more than 800 apps, and it can be used for streaming and recording as well as online meetings.

It will filter out unwanted sound that your mic might be catching – regardless of whether it's coming from the drummer next door, or your attention-starved pooch. One of the bonuses is that it can eliminate incoming noise from the audio feed of other people in your meeting, too.

3. Use a virtual whiteboard
A picture is worth a thousand words, so save your breath and draw a doodle using the Whiteboard function. This is supported by a range of conferencing platforms including Zoom, MS Teams and Cisco Webex. It can be easiest if you're using a stylus with your tablet or touchscreen laptop, but failing that, you can always scribble away with your mouse.

4. Hack your background
A messy bedroom or home office can create a bad impression – or even worse, a reflection in the window behind you can show you're only dressed for business from the waist up. On MS Teams, you can use the Background Effects function (next to the mic switch) to blur everything behind you, or replace your background with one of several images to choose from.

One of the cool but less well-known features of Zoom is replacing your background with an image or video, even if you don't have a green screen. However, you need some reasonably high-spec hardware to do this.

5. Run a chat window on the side
Zoom, Teams and other platforms support running a meeting chat, usually in a sidebar, where you and other people in the conference can enter text that everyone can see. It's a great way to add a comment about what someone else is saying without cutting across them and breaking their flow. The chat box also makes it super easy to paste links and attach files without needing to share your screen.

Need more inspiration when it comes to working from home like a pro? Click here for three of the best home-office essentials.

-April 2020

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