Sunday, January 4, 2009

Set Yourself Apart With Video Chatting

Video phones (aka video chatting) are finally here! Now you can have face-to-face conversations in real-time from anywhere in the world (with internet access). Offering business associates the option to work with you remotely is another way to demonstrate you’re on the cutting edge and accessible to Gen XYZ.

Video chatting programs like Skype (have you seen it on Oprah?), ooVoo (cool visual effects), and iChat (a fav of MAC users) make it easy and economical to stay in touch with distant family, meet with business colleagues, record webcasts, and deliver video messages. Some programs even let you conference with up to 6 people at the same time, making virtual business meetings and sharing family events a breeze.

All it takes is a little know-how to avoid the common pitfalls that make you look unnatural. Here are some tips to make your calls go smoothly and make sure you look good to the person on the other end of the call.

The Programs

Programs like Skype (, ooVoo (, iChat, and Yahoo! Messenger provide the medium for video-chatting. Many are free (Skype and ooVoo) while others are bundled with other software (iChat) and services (Yahoo! Messenger). They are designed to simulate face-to-face conversation across a table – you look into a webcam and watch the other person on your computer screen. Some programs even let you conference with up to 6 people at the same time, making virtual business meetings and sharing family events a breeze. Once you download your program and create your user name, you just need a couple accessories and you’re ready to chat.

The Camera

Many new computers come with web cams built in to the very top of the computer housing. They are convenient and provide basic functionality. However, the positioning of these cameras makes for unflattering transmissions and discomfort for the person on the other end of the line. The problem – when you watch your colleague on your computer screen, they just see your eyelids…instead of experiencing real eye contact with you.

A separate web camera mounted to the side of your computer screen simulates more natural conversation. Mount it at eye-level, right next to your screen so you can quickly look back and forth between the camera and screen. This simulates natural eye movements that occur in normal natural conversation.

I’ve had the best results with the IPEVO Pointer Cam ($40, It’s independent and has light spring-loaded clamps, so you can mount it anywhere you want. The other great thing? You can also pick the camera up and adjust the focus to show the caller something in another direction, give a close up of details, or even play with unusual camera angles. Now the caller can see everything you see instead of being limited to a view of just your face. This might seem insignificant. After you chat a few times, you’ll really appreciate this feature.

The Lighting

Most room lighting comes from the ceiling. Down lighting literally creates a “horror show.” When the light comes from above, it creates shadows under our eyes, nose, and chin like a Freddy Kruger movie. Not the best look for you the first time your grandmother or potential employer sees you! The best lighting for video calls is soft filtered light coming straight into your face. Position yourself in front of a window with indirect light. Or use two clamp-on work lights from a home improvement store with frosted low wattage day-light bulbs. Aim the light straight into your face (the low wattage/filtered light keeps you from getting blinded). The IPEVO Pointer Cam allows you to adjust brightness and color settings for a flattering and natural look.

The Sound

Most new computers come with built-in speakers and microphone. These don’t work for video-chatting because the conversation from the speakers feeds-back into the microphone so the other caller hears themselves instead of you. You need a microphone that can’t “hear” your speakers.

A headset is an inexpensive way to solve this problem. The draw backs to a headset - you’re tied to the computer by wires, it can be uncomfortable for long calls, it messes up your hair, and only one person can participate in the call at a time.

I’ve had great results with the IPEVO TR10 Speakerphone ($79, separate models for PC and iChat). It has echo cancellation for natural conversation; hands-free so you have freedom to move around, works as speaker phone or handset for private conversations, and you don’t have to wear it so your hair stays perfect.

Want to test it out? Give me a call via Skype at sarahshah and see just how easy it is! Or, click on the link below to watch it all in action.