Let’s travel back 102 years for a moment. October of 1918, New York City. The Spanish Flu is ravaging the nation. As the death toll increases, so does the amount of closing businesses: theaters, cinemas, shipyards, schools, etc. You stay put in your home, only leaving once in a blue moon to score a loaf of bread. You are isolated. You see no faces besides those that live in the same house as you.
Sound familiar? Well, for the most part, COVID-19 and the pandemics of yesteryear draw eerie parallels. However, one glaring difference is the fact that we now have modern technology to keep us somewhat connected. Video chat services — such as Zoom, FaceTime and WebEx, among others — have been the saving grace of many businesses, schools and personal relationships.
The ability to connect “face-to-face” with friends, professors and family is undoubtedly a blessing and I’m grateful for it … but let’s face it: video chats can be extremely frustrating.
Some of us are plagued with a spotty WiFi connection; some of us are talking to family members or professors who are less than skillful with technology; some of us are those family members who are less than skillful with technology, and some of us just can’t seem to find a good angle.
To aid in your shortcomings, here are my top five tips to nail your next video call:
Learn Whatever Service You Are Using Inside-out
Zoom? WebEx? Collaborate Ultra? Whatever services your meetings are on, get to know them. Most have a frequently asked questions page. You can also do a trial run with a friend or family member to play around with the features. For example, did you know that hearing others in a call sounds better if you turn off your microphone when someone else is speaking? I didn’t until a few days ago! Additionally, all services work differently depending on whether you are using them on a phone or computer. If you do some rehearsal, when it’s time to get on that important class call or group meeting, you will feel much more capable and confident.
Close Out All Other Tabs Before Getting on a Call
I’m no technology wizard, but through trial and error, I have discovered that when I close out all tabs on my computer besides whatever video service I’m using, my Internet connection on the call is much stronger. Nothing is more disturbing than someone freezing and then catching up in real time with an Alvin and the Chipmunks voice. Nothing is more embarrassing than being frozen yourself, stuck hopelessly in the position of an abstract Picasso painting.
Write Out a Step-by-Step Guide For a Family Member
Have you ended up wasting away a family call because someone didn’t know how to work the app or call service? Well, now that you have mastered video chat, write out a user manual for that person that just can’t seem to figure it out for themselves. The rest of your family will thank you.
Put Your Computer or Phone on a Table
Ok, now for vanity. If you’re like me, the way you’ve been holding your phone is probably giving whomever you’re talking to a front-row view up your nose. And if you thought you had beat the system by holding the camera way above your head, casually avoiding the double-chin-shot, I hate to break it to you; you look like the “don’t be shy, put some more” TikToks. And if you’re over the age of 45 and don’t know what that is, that’s ok — your roots are growing out by now.
No matter who you are, your arm is bound to get tired. Maybe holding your phone was suitable for short, pre-pandemic Facetime calls. But now, calls are lasting longer and holding a camera angle for more than 10 minutes is simply not sustainable. Use your computer if you have access to one. The goal is to create the angle one would have should you actually be sitting across the table from someone. Put your laptop on the table and create a 90-degree angle between the screen and the keyboard. If you only have access to a phone, put that on the table too, standing it up on a napkin holder or something similar, again, creating that perfect angle between the phone and the table. You’re welcome.
Have Patience. We’re All in the Same Boat.
All you can do is your best. At the end of the day, this is an adjustment for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up for image imperfection or call catastrophes. The Internet is, as we are all learning, imperfect (I know! Shocking!). We must build time into our schooling, businesses and family “gatherings” to allow for technological error. Video chat bloopers are relatable and funny, so let’s allow them to be one of the many unprecedented factors of this pandemic that brings us closer together.