It’s time to think seriously about how we perform in remote meetings.
We played it through for a year, but it was exhausting. Not only did we feel lousy at the end of the day, but other people rarely saw us at our best.
Now that it is clear that the nature of work and meetings has changed forever, maybe this is a good time to grasp what is possible.
I put a rig together in my office that is noteworthy for two reasons:
Here is a quick example.
And here is a photo of what it looks like from my side.
Find out how to do it.
First! It’s free, takes about a minute, and changes the way you feel at the end of the day. Under Zoom, find the button for HIDE SELF-VIEWING. (Here is a link). This means that like in real life, you cannot see yourself. It turns out that looking in the mirror exhausts us all day. You have to change the setting at the beginning of each meeting (this should be at the top of the list of issues to fix), but it’s pretty easy.
By hiding your face from your screen, you can focus more on everyone else in the meeting.
Second also for free: rearrange your work area so that no light comes in from behind.
The next few steps will cost more setup and money, and I’ll cover them from the simplest to the most involved. Part of the magic of video conferencing is allowing people to join with no commuters or fancy devices beyond a phone or laptop. However, it has become clear that it is possible to achieve greater fidelity and impact by investing in technology.
Just as we don’t hesitate to buy a new outfit for a big meeting or pay $ 500 for a plane ticket, these are investments, and as part of your career they are pretty reasonable – and your boss should pay for them:
Get some LED lights. They’re incredibly cheap right now (here’s an example, but look around.) Put them to the left and right of your screen, a few feet behind it.
Get an external DSLR camera and connect it to your Mac or PC. This is a much bigger commitment, but the difference is startling.
You will need a camera, tripod, and recording box. Again, all three have alternatives, don’t hesitate to look around. I use this registration box, but your mileage may vary. (And scroll down to the bottom of this post for a camera alternative.)
This is how it works: The camera is on a tripod and sits directly above and slightly behind your computer screen. The HDMI output is sent to your capture box and then to your computer. In the zoom mode, switch the camera from your computer to the camera. Done. It’s also worth getting a power cord for your camera so you don’t run out of it. (You can add a microphone while you’re at it).
And then there is one last step, which for me was the biggest leap since self-insight.
If you look at the camera on a zoo call, you won’t see the person you are talking to. They stare over their head when you look at the camera, or they may be looking at them, but it seems to them that you are looking at your keyboard. In either case, there is no eye-to-eye connection.
It’s unnatural. You’d freak out if you had a real meeting with someone who never made eye contact. And it’s really exhausting because you end up spending your time doing nothing that people were designed to do, which is looking at each other.
The alternative? A beam splitter.
These are used for teleprompters. It’s basically a piece of fancy glass at an angle on a monitor or screen. The camera is located behind the glass.
You can look directly at the glass and the camera behind it, but instead of looking at the glass and the camera, you are actually looking at the teleprompter or whatever stuff is on the screen.
This setup is now much cheaper than I expected. Here’s a typical hood and bracket beam splitter, and here’s a monitor that should go with it. Total cost under $ 300.
[or if you’ve already got a late-model iPhone or iPad along with a Mac, there’s a new app called Reincubate Camo, which is a much better product than the name implies. It allows you to skip buying an external camera and use the device tethered to your Mac instead. You’ll still need a tripod, still and you can probably make it work with the beamsplitter…]
The entire setup, all of the things I’ve listed above, costs less than $ 1,000 – less than half that if you already have a camera or are using Camo. If you go to a meeting every day, that’s a few dollars per meeting over the course of a year.
It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for tools that are more productive, I hope it helps.