The Basic Setup
Connecting with someone through video across the Web, when done right, can be as nuanced, productive, and effective as a face-to-face meeting. It saves time, prevents misunderstandings, gets things done fast, and, when used as part of your marketing and branding efforts, can amplify both the reach of your marketing and the equity of your brand.
To work best, however, a Hangout does have four basic requirements:
- Connection speed. Ideally, you need this to be as fast and stable as possible. I have been on Hangouts where participants have dialed in from the beach using a mobile phone and a basic Wi-Fi connection but the results are not ideal. Google has taken into account connection speeds and will always prioritize sound when the connection drops. This will work in a pinch and is fine when you are trying something innovative, but it is not what you want if you are trying to win the first-impressions battle. If possible, use a wired Ethernet connection to the web as opposed to Wi-Fi for Hangouts. Wired connections are more stable, produce a more consistent signal, and provide greater overall quality.
- Sound. Although a videoconference is an audiovisual experience, the most important element is sound. Your audience will forgive a picture that is not as good as it can be, but if they cannot hear what you say, the best HD broadcast in the world will not save you. You will need to invest in a good-quality headset. If image is important and you think that a headset is a little too geeky, then make sure that you have a professional-quality microphone connected to the laptop or the computer. If you are using a microphone, it is also important to use ear buds connected to the audio jack of your laptop. This eliminates the problem of sound played by the speakers being picked up by the microphone and producing an annoying echo in the Hangout.
- Video. Most laptops’ built-in video cameras produce an adequate picture, but you are always better off investing in a good-quality webcam. Laptop cameras usually have a poor frame capture rate that creates distortion every time there is movement. Again, when the battle of impressions is being fought, everything that contributes to seamless communication works in your favor. If you’re using a desktop computer, you will need to add a webcam. There are very few desktop models that come with a built-in one (usually found on the monitor), and they’re never that great in resolution.
- Light. By now it might be beginning to sound like you need to have your own studio set up, and in truth that would not hurt. Many online marketers and brands do have a specially set-up area that is lit properly, is free of distractions, and helps them project a professional image in Hangouts. Light is important because webcams are not that good at capturing image in low light. Their focus has to work harder to maintain the clarity of the image, and even tiny movements can cause camera blur. A good source of natural light or a good lighting setup alleviates this problem. The latter we will cover in detail a little later, so for now it’s best to try to have as much natural light as possible. One point I will bring up here is to make sure that light is directed at your face as much as possible. If you are backlit (with the window behind you, for example) the webcam settings will adjust for the intensity of the light behind you and you will find that you come across as a darkened outline, which totally defeats the purpose. If it’s daytime and you have a window to work with, try and position yourself so that it is either directly in front of you or to the side of you.