Why is Sounding your Best in Zoom Important?

A lot of us have already spent time, ensuring that when we pop up on someone else’s computer screen that we have a background that looks half decent…and that we have the right lighting to ensure that we also look our best.  (How to look your Best on Zoom).  Interestingly how we sound on zoom is often neglected. 

Why is this? One possible reason is that to ourself we sound as we always have done - our voice has not changed. So, we assume that others are also hearing us as they normally would. None the less you have most likely noticed that when you are in a zoom meeting some of your colleague’s sound crystal clear, while others are extremely muffled, and you strain hear them. Of course, to themselves they all sound fine.  So, what’s the issue?  Microphones!

You’ll notice that when you attend a Zoom meeting,  one colleague is wearing big professional looking Bluetooth headphones, another simply is using their mobile phone earphones,  another a lapel microphone…and some people are not using any additional microphones at all! What should you do?

Test How You Sound to Others on Zoom

How can you tell how you sound to others when using Zoom? You can simply record your own voice in Zoom and listen back to it.  Yes I know we all hate listening to our own voice,  but unless you have a friend the other end loyally telling you how you sound this is the only sure-fire way to know.  It is super easy to do. Open Zoom and select New Meeting – join with Audio.  Then press the Record button and start speaking / singing! Once you close the meeting Zoom will save the file for you to listen / watch back. 

If you’re not sure that Zoom is picking up the correct microphone click the small arrow on the microphone icon at the bottom of Your Meeting screen in Zoom and find ‘select a microphone’ and check the correct microphone has been selected.   You can also experiment with the audio settings within Zoom.  Naturally the paid version of Zoom has more advanced audio settings available. Recording yourself is a great way to know whether you sound better with or without an additional microphone. Some laptops have particularly loud fans which can obscure your voice, if this is the case you’ll probably benefit from using an additional microphone.  Again…. record yourself and listen, it’s the best way!

Your audience will certainly appreciate your going to all this effort! A clear voice is easy to listen to and will ensure that what you say will be natural and effective.

 

What Microphone Should I Use?

For a detailed explanation of different microphones available please see our video – How to Sound your Best on Zoom.

 

  • Mobile Phone Earphones / Microphones: 

Your mobile phone will probably have come along with a pair of earphones with a built in microphone.  if you cannot see a microphone on your earphones, take a look at the earphone connector (the bit that plugs into your mobile phone).   It will either have 2 or 3 sections.  3 Sections means that you have earphones and microphone, two sections mean earphones only.   These simple earphones and microphones can be very effective when using zoom.

  • A Lavaliere (lapel) Microphone:   

These are the really handy microphones that you clip onto your shirt.  At Computer Tutoring we often use lapel mics when delivering Live Online Training Courses. Having earphones in for a while can start to feel uncomfortable.  Using a lapel / lavaliere mic gives you great sound as well as freedom of movement which will aid your naturalness.  Afterall natural easy communication is what we are all aiming for. 

  • Bluetooth Headphones:  

Lets face it, most headphones are designed with listening to music in mind.  The sound quality can be absolutely amazing, like you are in that concert hall yourself.  However, if they have a microphone built in, the quality may not be the same. 

  • Condenser Microphone: 

A Condenser Microphone will provide a professional rich sound.  Great for a narrator or DJ.  Basically, if it is your voice that is in play only, this is the mic for you.  However, if you need to be seen by your audience it may be tricky as it is quite large and may get in the way on your face.    

 

Having Fun – Performing Music using Zoom

Since the beginning of lockdown many musicians have been performing live sessions on Zoom. Other creative music lovers have even organised concerts on Zoom with friends performing from all over the world - others of us simply want to show our friends how we are getting on learning the piano, or what our latest song sounds like.

To ensure you have the best sound for a performance always turn on the ‘enable original sound’ option on Zoom.  This is found in Zoom audio settings, advanced.  It will make a real difference! 

 

Having Fun - Changing your Voice

We can change our background on Zoom, but what about our voice?  (to find out how to have fun changing your appearance on Zoom watch How to look my Best on Zoom’. …but did you know it is also possible to change your voice?

To change your voice on Zoom you will need to download and install a programme like Voicemod. Once installed, you can then select Voicemod as your microphone from within Zoom.

If you are organising a themed online party or simply want to have fun these voices are great. to listen to! For an example of some of the voices available please listen to this clip:  'How to Change your Voice'

 Enjoy experimenting with how to sound your best on Zoom!

 

5 Easy Steps to a Better Wi-Fi Connection!

We at Computer Tutoring focus on helping our lovely customers to get the most from their IT investment through training and support – which we absolutely love! With that in mind, we wanted to get right back to basics and send a little Wi-Fi help your way.

Guess what?....If your Wi-Fi connection isn’t great than everything you do online will be in steeped in frustration – so lets get to the bottom of how to get a better Wi-Fi connection.

1. Check what you are Paying for / what Package do you have?

It might sound obvious, but we are inclined to skim over the details and just look at ‘amount due’ section on our bill.  However, it’s well worth finding out exactly what your package includes.  If your internet provider is not delivering what they promised it may be that you are entitled to a refund.  Other benefits that come from reviewing your package are that you may well find that it comes with free cloud storage space which you could make use of! 

But how do you know if your internet service provider is or is not delivering what they have promised?

 

2. Check your Internet Speed.

You can check your internet speed by directly plugging your laptop into your router.  You will need the CAT5 cable that came with your laptop to do this.   

Download a speed test app on the device that you’ve plugged into the router (we used SpeedTest App). To see exactly what this looks this please see our latest video – Getting a Better Wi-Fi Signal Speed Test.  

So how do you know what is a good speed?  Run a Speed Test.  You will now see your Download Speed and your Upload Speed

Speeds vary! As an example Computer Tutorings Download Speed in London today is approx. 72 – 73 Mbps (megabits per second).  Some places and will be higher and some lower.  The higher the better!

Your Upload Speed will be slower – Ours today was 17 -18 Mbps. 

Basically, the higher the numbers the better.  

You will also see a Ping (milli seconds) figure.  This can also be called the latency figure.  You want a low Ping figure.   If you have a high Ping (latency) number may mean that you will experience a lot of freezing when using video conferencing  (Zoom and Teams etc) and when online gaming.

 

3. Test your Wi-Fi Speed.

This is the speed at which devices not directly connected to the router are running at (i.e your phone, tablet, ipad, laptop etc).

Download a speed test app on whatever device you want to test (your phone / tablet etc) and then run a speed test.  

You may find It is a couple of Mbps lower than when you directly connected your laptop to the router, but that is quite normal.

Many software providers outline their minimum systems requirements online (Zoom Bandwidth Requirements). This is helpful if you want some reassurance that your Wi-Fi connection is strong enough.

4. Check which band you are using

So, what does this mean?  Simply put they are radio waves.  The 2.4 Ghz band is very busy! As well as being used for WiFi it is also used by a myriad of devices including:

  • Cordless phones
  • Garage Door Openers
  • Baby Monitors
  • Microwaves
  • Radio Control Devices
  • and of course..Radios!

 
The 5Ghz is a newer technology and is a lot quieter.  

 

So how do you check which channel you are using?

This is very simple. Fist of all find your Router IP Address.  This will be a number on the back of your router or on a little card that may pop out of your router.   Type your router ip address (number) directly into your web browser.  You will be asked for your password.  This is your Admin Password (not the Wi-Fi code) that is listed on your router. Low and behold your router information will appear.

You now have access to router settings and can make changes. 

First of all check which band you are currently using (default is 2.4 GHz).  Select ‘Wireless’.  You should see the two bands (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz).  To get access to the 5 GHz band switch on ‘Separate Bands’.  You will now have access to the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz band. 

Now when you scan for Wi-Fi connections with your device you will now see 2 appear!  The first one will be your existing one (2.4 GHz), the other will be the new 5 GHz connection…it will look exactly the same as the first but with a 5 at the end.  You can rename it if you wish. 

 

Now you can connect your devices to the far less crowded 5 GHz band. 

When would a 2.4 GHz connection be Preferable? 

If your devices are far from your router or your house has extremely thick walls it may be that you are better sticking to the 2.4 GHz, as these radio waves travel further. However, if you are in fairly close proximity to your router a 5GHz connection will be much stronger.

For more information on 2.4 GHz Vs 5 GHz please see our latest video ‘Getting a Better Wi-Fi Signal’.

5. Check what devices are connected to your Wi-Fi.

While in router settings select My Network - This will show you how many devices are using your router and how much internet they are using.   If you have an important Zoom training session / meeting coming up, you can disable devices that are taking up too much Wi-Fi!

You can also scan the networks in your neighbourhood and see how busy the channels are.   

One way to do this is using a free download – we have used NetSpot (we used the free edition).  This will scan the networks in your neighbourhood and see how busy the channels are. 

You will see your own network connections pop up.  Your router will probably have a SMART capability.  This means that it will automatically change to the less busy channels.  If you do not have this option than you can manually select the least busy channel.  For 2.4 GHz you can select either channel 1, 6 or 11.   Select the channel with the fewest networks.

Lastly If your Wi-Fi doesn't seem to be working at all it is probably a problem with the internet provider - not you!

More and more of us are using video conferencing software than ever before.  Video conferencing has even become part of our daily vocabulary, ‘I’ll Zoom you later’ or  ‘I’ll Teams it to you’, plus part of our daily routine. Our Video conferencing appointments are now routinely diarised. 

Whether you are using Zoom / Teams or other video conferencing mediums occasionally or regularly it is important to consider how you are coming across to others.  

Looking your best will impact your:

  • Communication
  • Effectiveness
  • Image – how do we want to come across?

We are going to look at how the following aspects affect how you appear while using Zoom / video conferencing. 

  1. The Basics
  2. Lighting
  3. Your Web Cam & Video Conferencing Settings

 

1. The Basics

When you go out to work or meet friends, you make sure you've had a wash, brushed your teeth and combed your hair and generally look acceptable – the basics right?   The exact same principle applies with virtually going to work or meeting friends.  

Don’t let the fact you are communicating through video conferencing software discourage you from looking your best. After all communicating through video conferencing means that certain areas of communication related to touch and body language are reduced, so it vital that we concentrate on looking and sounding our best.  When we do we will feel energized and more confident which will in turn encourage and energize our audience.  

 

2. Lighting

Lighting is fundamental to looking good on camera.  This is clearly seen when looking at photographs.  You look at one photo of yourself and think 'Yay I look great!', then you look at another and think you look awful…. why the disparity?  Well it is probably down to lighting.

So you know light is important, so does that mean you can sit with the window behind you?  After all there is tonnes of light streaming in.  NO!  This is a classic mistake.  Only sit with your back to bright light if you want to look like a silhouette.  Your audience will not be able to make out your facial expressions, so smiles and frowns will be completely invisible. 

What’s the solution?  Simply turn around.  Instead of the light coming from behind you, ensure the light is in front of you. It will literally light up your face.

What if you have no choice but to sit with your back to the sun. Well artificial light is the answer.  Experiment with lamp positions in front of you. Light always needs to be in front of you.  Experimentation is the key here.  

 

3. Your Webcam & Video Conferencing Settings

If you’ve been using Zoom / Teams for a while now you’ll have noticed that people position there webcams anywhere from right down on the floor to the highest shelf in the house.  However the best place for your webcam is eye level.  This may mean propping up your laptop or phone on a few books to achieve the desired height, but it will be well worth it. 

Where should you look?

This can be hard but if you want to achieve eye contact with your audience the best place to look is directly at the camera lens.  It’s like looking into the eyes of the other people at the meeting.  Your screen itself is not a camera, so looking into the camera is the only way to achieve eye contact.  It's probably not possible to keep this up for the whole meeting, but if you really have an important point to emphasize looking into the camera lens will be most effective. 

Do I already have a Webcam?

There are a huge choice of webcams available to buy.  But before you buy one, did you know that your laptop probably already has one built in? To check if you have one, try searching 'webcam' in the Windows search bar. Also, did you know you can use your mobile phone as a webcam? 

If you want to experiment with using your mobile phone as a webcam, you can download software such as DroidCam (as the name suggests for android phone only) and connect up. For more information on how to turn your mobile phone into a Webcam check our our latest video: 'How to look your best on Zoom'

Webcam Settings

Depending on the quality of the webcam installed on your laptop, you may want to purchase a third party one.  Once purchased a webcam will come with its own video enhancing features.  Take time to look at the options available.  For instance many webcams have inbuilt image settings which will allow you to:

  • Adjust the brightness

  • Change the tones i.e warm and nostalgic

  • Use a choice of filters – including some very funny ones!

Adjusting these settings can have a great effect on how you look using Zoom / Teams or any other video conferencing software. Our latest video 'How to look your best on Zoom' includes tips on how to adjust your webcam settings. 

 Adjusting your Appearance in Zoom

As well as experimenting with your webcam settings, you can also adjust your video conferencing settings.  For instance in Zoom video settings there is a ‘Touch up my Appearance’ check box as well as ‘Enable HD’ option.  You can experiment with these settings.

It is also best practice to check your appearance in Zoom before joining the meeting. It is like taking that one last look in the mirror before entering the business meeting to make sure you haven’t got spinach stuck in your teeth.  Once you have joined a meeting without video, you can simply click on the little arrow next to the video icon, and check your appearance before turning your video on.

 

Maximize your time and effectiveness on Zoom or other video conferencing software by being clearly seen and looking your best!

 

 

 

Fast Changing Habits - Help at Hand!

There have been countless articles written, including our own below (Learning at Home a New Experience) regarding the Pros and Cons of working from home,tips on how to set up an effective working environment and advice on quite frankly – how to keep sane and positive during this uncertain period.

There is of course nothing new about business meetings and training sessions being conducted online, and for many of us – working remotely in our shorts and shirt and tie is something that we have been doing for years. 

However, for the vast majority of the population the idea of having a virtual office, classroom, doctor’s appointment and even a virtual party is brand spanking new.

As well as the technical aspects of adapting to an Online Life, there are also the social implications. We loved this article about Zoom Social Etiquette

Some of us have had extra time on our hands, but others have been busier than ever.  Migrating systems online, planning new business strategies – including how to socially distance in the work place is very time consuming.

Computer Tutoring have published a series of Zoom Tutorials designed for busy people, who need to quickly get up and running using Zoom.

How to Join a Meeting - Zoom 2 Minute Tutorial

This 2 minute bullet train video will take you from downloading Zoom to joining your first Zoom meeting

  1. How to download and install Zoom?

  2. How to use the Meeting ID and Password to enter the meeting?

  3. How to mute your microphone so that others can't hear you?

  4. How to leave a Zoom meeting?

 

Sitting to close to laptop

Wow! If your company has been anything like ours recently you've had to make some major adjustments to your work and home life. You wouldn't be wishing that you could place your webcam in front of a fully laden bookcase bursting with proof of your intellect. You may not have even taken part in a video conference before.

Having recently completed teaching an Excel Online Training Course, one of the things that was painfully apparent was the throbbing in my head. My eyes, back of my neck.

Up Close and Personal

What do I mean by this? Well the fact is that using the various video conferencing systems i.e. Zoom that we are all now using we are constantly looking at somebody's face at very close proximity - it is not natural. It's exhausting! The fact is that we are not used to conversing with people at such a close quarters. So when someone is right up in our face it makes us panic a little, I mean just imagine if you had a conversation in real life at such close proximity. This feeling can can cause our heart rate increase, or conversely cause tiredness.  It's downright weird. 

Try these 3 tips to combat video fatigue:

  1. Try to sit a little back from the screen. Don't worry too much about the cat walking in the background.  

  2. Make sure you move your whole body at regular intervals. Take time to stand up and have the occasional stretch, or stretch at your desk!

  3. I know it sounds silly, but don't forget to breathe.  Sometimes we are concentrating so much on our online
    companions we actually forget to take those all important deep breathes that help keep us calm.  

 

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and Government recommendations Computer Tutoring are not currently offering face to face class room training.  
 
We are however offering Live Online training courses.  We look forward to continuing to help our customers enjoy learning through online live instructor led classes.  
 
Our greatest wish is that we all keep safe during this time of crisis.