Whether you’re collaborating with a colleague down the hall or a client on the other side of the globe, video conferencing enables frequent face-to-face meetings whenever they’re needed. But like any technology, there are challenges to using it well. Begin following these eight best practices today and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a video conferencing rockstar:

#1 Use a Headset
Nothing impacts productivity more than choppy audio quality. Help others hear you clearly by wearing a headset. This will reduce outside noises and disruptive echoes. If you’re on a multiparty call, be sure to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking to avoid adding any additional background noise. Also, avoid meeting delays and potential embarrassment by checking your speakers and audio to make sure they’re working properly before the show goes on.

#2 Watch Your Lighting and Positioning
Basking in sunlight is scrumptious, so who doesn’t love a window in their office? But, when it comes to video conferencing, don’t position yourself so it’s behind you. Natural light is harsh and creates a silhouette effect. It’s best to sit with your back to a wall, and if you have a window, lower the shade.Also, the wall behind you is an opportunity to broadcast your brand. Hang a sign with your company logo and decorate tastefully around it to give yourself some extra professional polish. It’s a great way to promote your products and services without saying a word.If there’s no window in your room, make sure it’s bright enough by turning on more lights or adding a lamp. The ideal way to illuminate your face is to point the light towards it and to look in its direction. Again, make sure the source isn’t positioned behind you.

#3 Communicate with Confidence
When you start, ask participants if they’re able to view content or hear you clearly. However, if only one person has a problem, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to solve their network or hardware issue. Record the meeting and offer to share it with everyone, so those having networking troubles will have access to it.Try not to turn your head from side-to-side while you’re speaking, look directly at the camera, and avoid looking down. (Recording the video will prevent the need for note taking, keeping your head up.) Also, when sharing content, be sure to position it so that you’re still looking directly at the camera while referring to it.It’s always helpful to learn as you go. By studying a recording of a conference you participated in, you’ll be able to notice any little habits or gestures you use that are distracting. This way you can make minor tweaks that will help you become a more professional speaker.

#4 Announce When a Recording Starts
Use proper meeting etiquette. Let everyone know ahead of time that you’re recording it. This will help the meeting stay focused by minimizing personal conversations. Also, be sure to provide attendees with access to the recording. This will help everyone to be engaged.

#5 Avoid Dressing with Patterns
To appear your best, wear light, neutral earth tones or solid, pastel colors. Light blue is an excellent color. Avoid wearing any fabrics with distracting patterns, such as stripes or polka dots, the colors red or white, or any bright color.

#6 Adjust Your Camera Angle
By using self-view mode, you can test the angle of your camera prior to a call. Avoid awkward angles and position your webcam at eye level.We’re all on the move… a lot! If you’re using your mobile device for a video call, keep it as steady as possible and hold it out in front of you at eye level.

#7 Resist the Urge to Multitask
Keep your eyes on the camera. Today, everyone operates in multitask mode. It’s how we function. But, during a call, avoid this at all costs. It’s professional video etiquette to give your participants your complete attention. Avoid the urge to check your email or phone while listening. Also, try not to look down for long periods of time.

#8 Be Prepared
Arrive early to the meeting and make sure your audio and video are working. If you’re hosting a multiparty call with multiple presenters, get a copy of their presentation, just in case they have difficulties with sharing content. Be sure to watch the time and keep the meeting moving according to schedule.

By following these best practices for a video call, you’ll be able to host a productive, professional meeting.  To learn more about video conferencing from an expert with over two decades of experience, contact your local IVCi Sales Representative at 800-224-7083 or visit www.ivci.com.

There it is again, that unbelievably annoying high pitched sound. What is it? One person says it’s an echo, another person says it’s a reverberation and yet someone else is saying it’s feedback. All I know is it’s driving me absolutely crazy and somebody just needs to make it stop!

If you video conference on a regular basis, chances are you’ve been in a similar situation. People are throwing around different terms left and right then arguing over whose side is at fault. With all of this going on it can be difficult to determine exactly what the problem is let alone how to fix it.

Here’s a quick overview to help distinguish between echo, reverberation and feedback along with some tips to help reduce each one.

Echo, also known as reverberation, is almost always a problem on the far end of a video conference and is the result of a reflection of sound. When a participant speaks into a microphone, the audio gets transmitted to the other side through their speakers. Then, their microphone picks up the audio and sends it back to the speakers in the local room. Participants in the local room hear what was just said again since the speakers on the far end are not cancelling out the audio properly.

To minimize reverberations, an echo canceller or acoustical ceiling tiles can be installed. Additionally, minor adjustments to the type and placement of room furniture along with the installation of shades or a heavy rug can help improve acoustics in the room.

Audio feedback, on the other hand, is almost always an issue with the local room. It occurs when a sound loop exists between an audio input (microphone) and an audio output (speaker). Essentially, when a participant speaks the audio passes through a microphone to the speakers and gets amplified. The process continues to repeat as the microphone picks up the noise, amplifies it further, and passes it through the speaker. Eventually a sound, ranging from a low pitch to an extremely high pitch, is emitted which can disrupt the conference in addition to be extremely annoying.

To minimize feedback, microphones and speakers should be spaced appropriately and positioned so the speaker output isn’t feeding directly into the microphone. Additionally a digital feedback eliminator or noise filter can be installed to reduce feedback.

Audio quality plays a significant role in the video conferencing experience and should not be taken lightly. Poor audio can detract from the effectiveness of the meeting as participants are focused more on trying to hear speakers and tune out background noises than on the topics being discussed.

There’s a lot of technology that goes on behind the scenes of video conferencing in order to make it a seamless experience for the user. One of these processes that video conferencing endpoints perform is video encoding, or the compression of digital audio and video signals, for transmission across networks in an efficient and effective manner. Then, another video endpoint decodes, or decompresses that signal, where video is displayed on a screen and audio is produced from a speaker. Today, there are two major video encoding and decoding implementations that are in use by industry leading manufacturers – Scalable Video Coding (SVC) and Advanced Video Coding (AVC).

Advanced Video Coding (AVC) was introduced in 2003 and is currently one of the most commonly used formats for audio/video compression. A core concept in AVC compression is the use of a specified resolution and frame rate in every call. The specific call quality (SD, 720pHD, or 1080pHD to name a few) which is used in a particular call is based on a negotiation between endpoints or bridges in a call about the capabilities which they can support. One downside is that the endpoints in many cases can support qualities that the network between them may not be able to support. In this situation the endpoints agree to connect at the best quality they are capable of, but when the network cannot accommodate all of that digital data, packets are dropped and video can become choppy or completely freeze.

Scalable Video Coding (SVC) is a newer form of video compression which dynamically adjusts the frame rateor resolution in real-time based on varying network conditions. For example, if one participant’s network becomes congested by other applications on their network (file downloads, system backups, and internet streaming are common bandwidth “hogs”) the call rate (and resolution or frame rate) will automatically decrease in order to preserve call integrity at the cost of slightly lower call quality. One downside to SVC is that there may be increased processing required at the endpoint to support the constant monitoring of packet loss and there may be increased bandwidth compared to AVC to support similar resolutions.

Determining which option is right for your organization depends on your business needs and requirements, how you plan on using video, and what your network constraints are. For example, SVC may be a better option for an organization looking to deploy a soft video client to their entire organization on a shared network that is shared by many other applications. However, AVC may be a better option for a more controlled network environment where QoS can be implemented to ensure a time-sensitive data such as real-time conferencing data does not compete with other data which may not be time-sensitive (such as co-workers watching YouTube).

What is an AV Room? A place to collaborate? A place to meet with remote team members? A place to present PowerPoint slides? While the correct answer may be all of the above; none of these functions would happen without the proper design and configuration of the space. Technology integration and the actual room environment  are essential considerations when designing an optimal meeting space. As stated by Tim Hennen, SVP of Engineering at IVCi, “An audio visual integrated room is a meld of art and science. The art is in the design of the room itself; the lighting, furniture, and the selection of the right technologies that will eventually come together. The science comes in with the building of those technology connections and making each device work together as if they were one.” That being said, there are 4 core design and technology components that are imperative when creating an effective collaboration environment. Understanding these will also help with determining what you would like to accomplish within the room.

Video “What do you want to see?” Video in an AV room is about the display of content, how you see meeting participants on the other side of the video call,  and how remote participants see you. The equipment associated with video includes cameras, displays, a matrix switcher, a digital video processor, and a codec.

Audio “How do you want to hear/be heard?” Audio in an AV room is about how audio is projected in the room, how sound is sent to remote participants, and how you are heard to remote participants. Equipment for audio includes speakers, microphones, acoustic panels, and an audio control system.

Control “How do you want to control the room?” Control in an AV room is about managing what you display, where you display it, and who is heard. The equipment involved includes a control processor and the control panel.

Lighting “How will the room be lit properly?” Lighting in an AV room is about where the lighting is placed, where current natural light sources are located, and where you want your furniture and equipment placed. Lights, shades, and lighting placement are the essentials associated with lighting in an AV room.

Understanding how these components affect the collaboration space is as important as selecting the the technology itself. Poor lighting or acoustics impact the collaboration experience just as much as not having the right video conferencing or presentation equipment. Download a copy of our AV Buyers guide for detailed explanations of each core component in addition to some handy tips and tricks.