Technical Issues with Zoom Calls

The five main problems that effect the level of Zooming we are all doing during the Covid era, are internet stability, picture quality, sound, lighting and to a lesser extent, the need for reading notes or speeches while looking straight into the camera, in order to keep eye contact with your audience.

I am writing from a personal point of view, so some of these issues may not be a factor for you. Our Internet is stable most of the time, unless it lashes rain and the junction box on the road gets flooded, due to the fact that the door is a bit bent and water can get in to it (I do wish they would fix it). It is presently mid November, and I live in Ireland, so, as you can imagine, Internet stability is, lets just say, not ideal at the moment. Other factors that may affect your internet speed and stability are, the package you have, the ages of the cables in your house, the distance your house is from the junction box and the access to high speed broadband in area in which you live, as well as how well your modem is working and whether you use wifi or ethernet connections.

The picture quality is greatly effected by the camera you are using, I use the camera on my computer, I have however, downloaded the webcam updates for a variety of my cameras, in an effort to improve the picture, however, I am happy enough with the quality from the computer, so I will continue to use that. I would like the image framing to be a little wider, but, it is not such a problem that I am going to add a stand alone camera to my already full desk. This may change in time as the system evolves, and if I really wanted to use a lo-fi fix, I could push my chair back. Simple!

Sound for me was the biggest issue, as I cannot abide bad sound, or distracting sounds in the background or any of the interference and distracting noises that you frequently come across on either YouTube or Online Meetings. I will, like a lot of people, put up with dodgy video, but, bad sound is simply not acceptable. To this end, I bought a stand alone, USB, cardioid microphone, that I now have clamped to my desk, behind my computer, I can swing it out over the screen when I need it and it is not in frame and then push it back when I don’t need it. It improved the sound greatly for the people listening to me and meant that I did not have to wear my AirPods when on calls.

My lighting solution for a while was to turn up or down the brightness on my screen, as I felt the situation necessitated. This was not meant to be a permanent solution, so I started looking for mounts for some of my small free standing lights, but, the only mounting solutions I could find were tripods and this was not what I was looking for. I wanted a clip solution, so I could mount the light to my screen. However, if I couldn’t find a solution that I wanted, I was ok with using the screen brightness method, as I had received some compliments about it. It was a flat light, right in front of me, so it may not have been all that flattering, but, as far as I was concerned, at least people were not straining to see me in the darkness. I will get back to this in a minute, as I have now found a solution to this and the next problem. Hooray!

The final issue, which is much less of a problem for an awful lot of people, and more of a Toastmasters quandary, is the need to be able to present or read notes whiles looking into the camera. I, like a lot of Toastmasters, would read the speech from my screen, and would then not be able to make eye contact with my audience, which was not ideal. I tried moving the speech around the screen, in an effort to get it as close to the camera as I could, so I could try and minimise the sight of me reading from the screen, I did ok with this, but, I was still looking for a better solution. I had seen lots of people using teleprompters on YouTube and they seemed to be a perfect way to resolve the issue I was having, however, for the longest time, the ones I saw, all needed to be attached to a camera, and as I mentioned earlier, I wanted my Zoom setup to be small, discrete and most importantly, not something that was going to constantly annoy me. It also needed to not block either my screen or the camera and I did not want to spend a massive amount of money on the setup I bought.

Last night I found the perfect solution for me, it has two arms, one of which holds a ring light, the other holds a phone grip, they are both set on a clamp that I can attach to my screen! YAY! I then discovered that I could use the Pages App as a teleprompter that auto scrolls! Double YAY! I now have the perfect, small solution for my zoom meetings.

I have included links to the products I use below, the stand for the USB is not the exact one I use, but, it is incredibly similar. I have also included a link to a post I wrote on how to use Pages as a teleprompter.

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