We’ve all been there – during an online meeting you may have heard comments like “you sound like a robot” or you can see someone’s video but not hear them or experience some sort of technical issue during the meeting. Working from home for the past 15 years, I have picked up many tips and tricks and I would like to share with you my top five that will not only help you have a better experience – but a better experience for everyone participating in the meeting. This will lead to a more productive and effective meeting.
Disclaimer: There is a lot more to this, and it really can be a science. I can probably create hours of video and many blogs on this topic, but this article is my attempt to boil it down to what I have found works well, while excluding deep technical details. Feel free to leave comments about what works well – who knows, you may help someone improve their online meeting experience!
1) Most Important – Network Optimization
If you can, use Ethernet and disable wireless
Plugging your computer directly in to the router using Ethernet and disabling the wireless connection on your computer will allow the computer to take advantage of the full amount of network bandwidth available with almost no interference. For me personally, I ran an Ethernet cable from the router in my guest room to my computer in my office. When not in use – I wrap up the cable (i.e. on the nights/weekends) and just use wireless. However for any meetings I join I always ensure Ethernet is connected.
Location of your computer and the wireless router
Wireless networks introduce many variables to your online meeting that can degrade quality resulting in a poor experience – the biggest of this is interference. The farther your computer is from your wireless router, the greater the signal loss, which will result in increased latency and loss of bandwidth. In addition walls, furniture and other objects can absorb the energy leading to further decrease in signal strength.
Note: While new Wi-Fi standards can help with this, you are still battling physics.
Tip: If possible, try to move your computer or wireless router so they are as close to each other as possible, with minimal barriers in between. If this is not possible, try to relocate the wireless router so it is at the highest point in the home: a bookshelf on the 2nd floor for example or even your attic. For me personally, I have mine on the top shelf of a bookshelf in a room in the center of my home to maximize coverage (for non-wired devices in my home)
Pro Tip: The wireless router your Internet Service Provider (ISP)that is built into your modem, uses old wireless standards, underpowered, and lacks Quality of Service. If possible, consider upgrading to a standalone wireless router. If your router supports multiple
Try to minimize network traffic during meetings
If your router does not have Quality of Service controls, then all network traffic being processed on the router is competition with each other. This consumes available bandwidth and can result in a “traffic jam” on your network resulting in a poor online meeting experience.
Tip: Minimize or eliminate sources of high bandwidth consumption during your meetings. Create a plan with other members of your household so you can minimize online video streaming or gaming from other devices during important meetings. In addition, on your computer, close any application that may be using network bandwidth such as email, stock streaming quotes, and your web browser. All that bandwidth matters!
Pro Tip: If your router supports Quality of Service or “QoS”, you can prioritize devices and types of network traffic. For me personally, even though my computer is wired during meetings, I have it set to the highest priority in the QoS configuration on the router. Next, any streaming devices or smartphones/tablets in the house are set to the lowest priority. Some routers support types of network traffic and are smart enough to understand the ports/protocols a Teams meeting uses – and prioritize it automatically.
If you want to learn more about bandwidth requirements for Teams and how it optimizes/conserves bandwidth see: Bandwidth requirements
2) When You and Others Turn On Video…
I am constantly reminding myself that not everyone in the meeting has an optimized network and may be in a different tech situation than I am (using wireless, far from the router, family members streaming video during the meeting, etc). Because of this I really consider the impact of what happens when I turn on my video and what happens when they turn on their video. Doing so may impact the entire meeting experience for everyone.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to tactfully tell your meeting participants that you will not be turning on video. While going audio only doesn’t have the full impact that video has, not broadcasting your video may prevent technical issues for the other participants – leading to a more effective meeting.
In addition, don’t be afraid to “turn off incoming video” in Teams, to avoid the incoming video streams that may impact your experience. (During the meeting, click the ellipsis and select “Turn off incoming video”).
3) Your Local Computer
As I mentioned above having applications open on your computer during a meeting can consume network bandwidth – but they also consume valuable processing time. During a meeting if screen sharing and video is enabled, the CPU has to process those signals – and this can be very taxing on the CPU if all applications are open and competing for that CPU time.
Tip: Close all applications on your computer and only open the applications that are absolutely necessary for the meeting (e.g. PowerPoint).
4) Use the Right Audio Device!
The most important thing you can do to give your meeting participants the best possible experience, is to give them the best possible audio quality. People will forgive terrible video quality, but they won’t forgive terrible audio quality. Not every headset and speakerphone is equal. Features like noise cancellation, wide band audio, on device mute buttons, and other optimizations can make all the difference.
Tip: Don’t use earbuds from a cell phone or the built in mic/speakers in your laptop. These can make your voice sound faint, have an echo/reverb, and overall poor audio quality. Consider getting a device that is designed to work with Teams that has features like the above built-in. You can find Teams devices designed for Teams on Microsoft Teams enabled devices. For me personally I use wireless headset Jabra Engage 75 (with a range of 500 feet allowing me to walk around the house while on a call) and the Jabra 510 speakerphone.
Pro Tip: Set Noise Suppression in Teams to “High”. This will help to cancel out any background noise (e.g. typing, laptop fans, kids playing, lawn mowers, etc). For more information see: Reduce background noise in Teams meetings
5) Don’t Share Your Desktop, Share the PowerPoint
If you are presenting a PowerPoint presentation – do not share your screen.Screen sharing uses almost as much bandwidth as video. If it’s a PowerPoint file, upload it to the meeting by clicking on the Share button and selecting PowerPoint. This consumes less bandwidth and results in a better experience for everyone.
Plus, you can do some really cool things like play embedded videos in the presentation! See this article for more information: Share PowerPoint slides in a meeting