In my book, Improve Your Virtual Meetings, I discuss the importance of having good equipment. Using the right equipment won’t make you better at what you do, but it sure could help you come across with more professionalism.
I hesitate to say too much about my favorite products in the book, because a book doesn’t get updated as frequently as a website, and the equipment and software for virtual meetings is changing by the month.
Here, I keep a more current list of the equipment I recommend. Check back often, and feel free to join my mailing list if you would like to be notified of new advancements or good buys that I find.
In the book, I write that the specific phone you use is less-important than the service you have. Make sure you have spotless, strong service at the place where you usually work. It is crazy to have a phone that only has one bar in your office.
In the days of old, I recommended people have a land line for voice quality. That changed about 4 years ago, when I noticed that cell phone quality had finally caught up or even surpassed land lines.
Just use your cell phone, but make sure you have excellent connectivity wherever you expect to take the most calls. Don’t be the person who is constantly saying “Can you hear me now?” Instead, just be sure that your phone works, and if it doesn’t switch to a different carrier.
Headphones / Microphone
You will want to use a set of headphones with a microphone, unless you have outstanding audio quality from your computer. You have a few choices in this regard. I cover the pros and cons in the book, but as a reminder, they are:
- Wired headphones. Probably the most common. These simply plug in to your phone jack. The reliable and cheap option, but the noise reduction features (both for you and those listening to you) is often sub-par. The Marshall Mode (here on Amazon) is a good upgrade from the standard issue headphones that you get with your phone. They have a quality cord and excellent mic.
- Airpods or wireless headphones. These are like the wired headphones, but without the cord. Instead they use bluetooth to connect to your phone. The quality is usually very good, because these headphones have good microphones with noise reduction technology. You don’t want to skimp, because if you do you will have poor battery life and poor audio quality. We love the super-discreet Apple Airpod Pro (here on Amazon) which combines an outstanding mic system with good battery life and audio.
- Computer Audio. The speakers and microphone on your computer. I say avoid these, but recognize that at times they are the obvious option. The newest laptops and computers actually have much better built-in microphones, but 90% of computers out there provide for a poor experience in this regard.
- Headset. The type of professional-quality headset someone in a call center would use. A good option if you are on hours and hours of calls per day. The best value on the market right now is the Jabra Evolve 40 (here on Amazon).
The camera on your laptop or desktop computer has come a long way in the past couple years, but for heavy video call users, an external camera is still a good idea. There is a good chance that your computer camera has 720p resolution, which isn’t bad at all, but not as sharp as the 1080p that comes with most external cameras nowadays. The picture will not only be sharper, but it will be more fluid if you are moving on-camera.
An external camera is easy-to-use. You simply plug it in to your computer with the USB cable. There are lots of options on the market, many of them actually designed for gamers. For the business user, I like the HD Logitech 922 (here on Amazon), a great camera with the features we listed above.
For conference rooms where multiple people might be taking a conference call, there are some slick products that sit on a desk and follow the voices, pointing to whoever is speaking. They are spendy, but if you are shifting to a heavy video call culture, they are worth it. The Logitech ConferenceCam (here on Amazon) is an all-in-one camera with excellent video range and sound quality, able to get everyone in the room on the screen.
Back on the single user topic, like someone taking calls in their home office, I recommend adding a video camera stand for about $25. It will allow you to adjust the camera angle, height, and orientation very easily. I’ve been using the Smatree Flexible Cam or Phone Stand (here on Amazon) to get my camera angle just right for videocalls, and I really like it. Easily adjustible.
A few times in the book, I write about the importance of lighting. If you are trying to impress your client, customers, or boss, don’t skimp on having the right lighting for your video conferences. The simplest and cheapest solution is to sit near natural light coming in through a window. You want the window to either be in front of you, or off to the side but still skewing toward the front.
If natural light is not an option, consider augmenting with a nice, warm light on your desk, placed generally in front of you. It is designed as a reading light, but I am a fan of the highly-adjustible IVict Light (here on Amazon) which can be set to three settings. I like the “warm” setting for front-lighting on video calls. When not on a call, it makes an excellent desk reading lamp.
The natural height of a laptop camera is not conducive to a good video camera angle. It typically will have an upward angle toward your face. It will get a good look at your chin and nostrils, but not your hair or eyes. Eye-level is best.
If you choose not to go the external camera route, consider a laptop stand. It allows you to easily adjust the height of your laptop while on a video conference. The other choice is to put your laptop on a stack of books — something that thousands of workers do each day, but this gets a little old if virtual meetings are the norm for you.
The best laptop stands are scissors-style, so you can easily raise or lower it as you wish. The one I like right now is the simple but stable Lention (here on Amazon).
When it comes to the microphone, most virtual meeting attendees use the microphone on their headphones or their computer. I have already discussed why I don’t like most computer microphones, because the audio quality is poor and your computer has to compete for bandwidth with all of our other apps, not to mention the meeting’s video stream if you are using it.
For heavy conference call users or those who need to sound really, really good, every single time — like people who do podcasting or video-based educational courses — an external microphone might be a good idea.
The one that seems to be tops at the moment is the Blue Yeti Pro mic (here on Amazon), a large mic that picks up excellent sound and is a very high-quality mic.
It is hard to understate the importance of excellent wi-fi. Wi-fi is the backbone of every video meeting, and pretty important for pretty much everything you do in a home or remote office location.
Let’s first assume you find a quality internet provider. I can’t really make recommendations in that department, because it is highly-localized.
Getting a good router for your home or work location will help you make sure you are getting that max possible speed from the wi-fi that is making its way to your front door. Placement is also important – don’t have the router too far from your work location, minimize the number of walls between it and your workspace, and keep it away from appliances such as microwaves.
You don’t have to spend that much on a good router. My favorite right now is the NetGear R6400 (here on Amazon), a great model that doesn’t break the bank.
Conference Software / Service / App
There are many providers of video and audio meeting services, but the most popular in the business world today are Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Webex, and Teams – the Microsoft product.
Be sure you find a product that fits your particular needs, and don’t skimp on bandwidth or licenses if you want virtual meetings to become part of your organizational culture. If screen-sharing functionality is important, Zoom and GoToMeeting seem to be the best right now. I’m not a fan of Teams because the audio quality seems spotty.
Check back soon as I plan to do a more thorough review with a clearer recommendation.