As organizations look for ways to reduce the time requirements and cost of travel, video conferencing has emerged as an important way to foster communication and collaboration. The following tips can help an organization make the best use of its video conferencing equipment.
1. Prepare the room.
The conference room shouldn’t have windows — either to the outside or to other interior areas. If this is unavoidable, refrain from pointing the camera toward any window. Camera-friendly cloth window blinds should be used to minimize lighting problems and background distractions, as well as to improve acoustics.
Diffused lighting is more appropriate than direct lighting, as direct lighting will display an inconsistent onscreen image. The room should be painted in neutral tones and free of busy artwork within the camera’s field of view. Walls painted in a blue or gray palette, for example, provide a pleasing contrast from the participants.
2. Find the best camera location and display height.
In a typical one-screen conference room, the camera should be placed above the display, near the middle. In a two-screen system, the camera is best placed between the displays, near the middle, to aid eye contact. The display should be installed so the bottom of the image is just above the conference table height, making the participants who are farthest away look more like they are in the same room.
3. Use microphones effectively.
Ceiling microphones are ideal for a large conference room. Table microphones, conversely, can pick up extraneous noise such as paper shuffling or finger tapping and are best avoided. A good rule of thumb is to use one microphone for every two participants. If using only one microphone is unavoidable, it should be placed in the middle of the table, so everyone’s voice is captured equally.
4. Set up furniture to create good sight lines.
Many conference rooms have long, narrow tables that aren’t well suited for video conferencing. Using an oval table will help participants face the displays without having to lean. Also, chairs with high backs tend to block other participants; those with lower backs are a better choice.
If only a few people are participating in a meeting, they should gather close together, with the camera zoomed in to make everyone as large as possible on the screen.
5. Optimize data collaboration.
Data sharing in a one-screen system is best handled via monitors on the table. Some codecs allow data sharing on the same screen as the video, but that isn’t ideal because the purpose of video conferencing is to see the other participants. A secondary display can be mounted above the primary, with the camera separating them. With this setup, when participants scan from the video conference to the data and back, their gaze will cross the plane of the camera capture.
In a two-screen system, video should be displayed on one screen while data is shared on the other.
Document cameras and interactive whiteboards should be placed within the camera’s field of view. That way, if a participant is at the whiteboard, for example, he or she can give a presentation and remain in the scene.