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A good video conferencing service is all but essential these days. Even if your team is back in the office, you probably have contractors, vendors and other associates who still insist on chatting over popular solutions like Zoom and Google Meet. And to take advantage of the communication features offered by these platforms, you will need the right hardware.
When it comes to video conferencing equipment, everyone needs a camera, microphone, speakers and a screen. But the video conferencing equipment market is so vast. Selecting the right equipment is tricky. Ultimately, the “right” answer is a function of what you do and your budget. The right fit for a home office is not going to suffice in a boardroom.
Here’s what you need to know about some of the equipment you’ll need
Common User Stories
For this exercise, let’s divide everyone into four personas—three focused on different kinds of individuals, and one representing traditional meeting spaces.
- Remote workers spend most, if not all, of their time working away from traditional workspaces.
- Hybrid workers spend about half their time between remote and traditional workspaces.
- Traditional workers spend most, if not all, of their time working in traditional workspaces.
- Traditional meeting spaces represent physical meeting spaces like huddle rooms and conference rooms.
Keep in mind that individual users across each persona might have similar needs. Factors like how often an individual is in meetings and the general nature of those calls will also have a large impact on determining the right video conference equipment. As we iterate through each technology type, we will consider each user type’s needs based on the frequency and type of meetings.
Remote workers or those who are in virtual meetings frequently will need a webcam. That goes double for those who meet with customers frequently, or who present to large virtual audiences. The webcams that come standard on most laptops will do the trick for most workers.
If you find your image quality lacking on your built-in camera, you may want to consider upgrading to a separate webcam. Advantages include a clearer picture and the freedom to move the camera around. Plus, stand-alone units offer higher image quality that you won’t find on most webcams that are built into your laptop or PC. Folks with a lot of public-facing presentations, aspiring podcasters and those with large audiences should consider 1080p+ models.
Best of all, individuals don’t have to make a hefty investment to upgrade from their standard cameras. Cameras with 1080p resolution can be had for under $100. Some cameras come with their own lights and/or microphones (as a side note, a light can make a good picture look great for $20).
The right camera for the traditional meeting space depends on how that space is used. If you’re constantly playing host to virtual guests (or a mix of virtual and in-person guests), then a traditional web camera isn’t your best choice. Advanced webcams use facial and voice recognition technology to track and follow attendants’ faces, so they’re always in frame.
Like with webcams, the standard, built-in microphones (and speakers) should suffice for most individual users. Also like standard webcams, they are fixed in place and aren’t as capable as their stand-alone counterparts. Hybrid workers are the most likely to benefit from the standard microphones on their laptop, given its portability.
A good microphone is a minimal investment for all kinds of users. Headsets are particularly handy for folks in shared working environments (at the office or at home). Not only do they keep your conversations private, but some prevent unwanted noise in your environment from bleeding into the conversation.
Meeting spaces will require a heftier investment in microphones than individuals. You have to tackle problems, like clearly capturing audio from different people spread out across the space.
Remote, hybrid and anywhere operations (AO) workers aren’t going to need their own interactive whiteboard at their desks, but they may interact with them. In most cases, whiteboards will be used in traditional meeting spaces like conference rooms or huddle rooms, although they will serve as a medium between the attendants in the virtual and physical world.
Smart whiteboards are a must-have for any traditional meeting space. They enhance meetings for in-person and virtual attendants, enabling the entire group to collaborate on a single surface. Visualizations help you get your point across and construct a solid, common consensus among the group. Many smart whiteboards integrate with collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex and so on, and allow users to connect to them remotely/wirelessly.
Frequently Asked Question
How do I improve my image quality in video conferences?
There are several factors that contribute to the overall image quality of your video conferences, including your internet connection, the camera you are using and environmental factors (like lighting and wardrobe). If you want to improve your image quality, make sure you are using a camera with sufficient resolution and use additional light sources to evenly illuminate your room. Green screens or digital background effects can provide some added pizzazz.
Do all whiteboards work with all video conferencing solutions like Zoom or Microsoft Teams?
No. Different hardware supports and integrates with different video conferencing platforms. You should make sure that any whiteboards you plan on purchasing can integrate with the video conferencing solutions that you prefer to use.