May 13 2020

5 Ways to Troubleshoot Your Videoconference Call Before It Starts

Here’s how to prevent frozen screens, garbled speech and security concerns.

Jittery video, bad lighting and bandwidth challenges can make home videoconferencing tricky. Here’s how to have a trouble-free video call (and avoid unwanted guests).

1. How Much Bandwidth Do I Need at Home to Make It Through a Call?

For a one-on-one 720p video call, Zoom recommends 1.2 megabits per second upload and download bandwidth, while full HD (1080p) videoconferencing requires 1.8 Mbps upload/download. A gallery-view videoconference requires slightly more bandwidth: 1.5 Mbps for 720p; and receiving/sending 1080p video needs 2.5/3.0 Mbps, respectively. Microsoft Teams requirements are similar. 

According to M-Lab, the United States has an average download speed of about 48 Mbps, so most home setups should have the bandwidth for 1080p videoconferencing. Visit speedtest.net to check your network’s bandwidth.

2. What Simple Errors Should I Watch For?

Simple errors can be virtually eliminated by performing one task: a test video call with a colleague or friend before that important meeting. (If no one’s available, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have test meetings available.) 

Common errors that the test call will show include lighting, audio, video and clothing choices. Lighting might be the trickiest part to get right; aim for lighting behind the camera, or try a couple of lamps for side lighting. The test call will also show whether your audio and video are adequate and whether background clutter in your space needs to be removed. Choose solid-color clothing for your call. And make sure all your cables are plugged in.

3. How Do I Make Sure I Can Be Heard Clearly?

Luckily, garbled audio has many of the same causes as jittery video, so fix one and the other is likely to perform better as well. Before starting the call, close all unessential open programs and stop downloads and backups to conserve processing power and bandwidth. Set up in a quiet room to minimize background noise. Mute the microphone as soon as possible, and try not to talk over people. 

People who have frequent videoconferences should consider using a headset and an external microphone (and camera), as the sound (and video) quality is markedly better than with most devices’ built-in gear. Headphones or earbuds can help avoid echo and feedback issues.

4. What Steps Should I Take to Unfreeze Frozen Screens?

The most common cause of frozen screens is low bandwidth. As with choppy audio, ensure that no unnecessary applications (downloads, backups, etc.) are running and let others sharing your WiFi connection know to refrain from high-bandwidth activities. Avoid multitasking. 

If on a mobile device, consider going somewhere that your 4G LTE signal is stronger — ideally before the call begins. If having a choppy video connection is unavoidable, let the call moderator know beforehand and mute the microphone. Fortunately, videoconferencing apps auto-adjust resolution depending on available bandwidth, so acceptable-looking video calls are possible with less-than-ideal bandwidth.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Here’s what your IT staff should know about teleconferencing technology. 

5. What Security Issues Should I Consider?

The security woes of videoconferencing apps have been news recently. The problem started when non-IT people used apps that didn’t have security enabled by default. Fortunately, good videoconferencing security takes only a few minutes. To prevent unwanted people from joining your conferences, moderators should require meeting passwords, review conference attendees (even during the meeting), enable waiting rooms so no one can join before the host and lock the meeting once it has begun. And don’t share meeting links on social media; attendees should look out for bogus meeting links. Ones ending in .exe, for example, could be malware.

SolStock/Getty Images