To host a professional, glitch-free video conference or presentation, you’ll want the best devices and smartest applications for the job.
What is a conference room?
A conference room is a facility designed for business meetings, seminars or presentations.
Conference rooms are purposefully designed to facilitate professional meetings and conferences. They often feature large capacity seating, catering areas, the latest audio, visual and presentation equipment and video-conferencing technology to dial in outside attendees.
You can find conference rooms in your workplace, in hotels, and as a feature of rented or serviced office buildings.
Conferences are a regular instalment of working life and should you need to host one from home, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the necessary items and equipment at your disposal in your own office room.
What should be in a conference room?
The top 5 things every home conference room should feature to ensure a high quality and frictionless experience are:
- A webcam
- Audio devices (headset or speakerphone)
- Communication software
- Digital presentation apps
- Optimal device layout & lighting
Next, we look at why they’re important and the best ones for the job.
If you work on a desktop monitor without a camera built in, you’ll need a webcam to run video calls. Most laptops come with a built-in camera, but even so, it’s often better to have a separate webcam device for video conferencing because:
- It’s easier to angle at eye level (the optimal position) while working or presenting.
- It’s more versatile, so you don’t have to pick up your laptop to move or film around the room.
If you’re looking for the best webcam for home working, most top picks for 2020 include:
- Razer Kiyo: features on-camera lighting with adjustable brightness to ensure you look your best
- Microsoft LifeCam Studio: promises sharp footage from a wide-angle lens as well as a high fidelity microphone
- Logitech C920 Pro: highlights include HD autofocus with light correction for sharp images and two microphones either side of the camera to pick up perfect audio
- Logitech Streamcam: provides smart auto focus and exposure and you can turn the camera to portrait mode to give an HD experience ideal when filming Facebook and Instagram stories
- Microsoft Lifecam HD 3000: features a sharp focus and built-in noise cancelling microphone to cut out background noise.
Laptops usually have microphone and speakers built in, which is fine for video calls if you can ensure there’s no background noise in your area while you’re presenting, which includes the sound of your typing during a conference call.
But to get the best results from your audio, choose a designated audio peripheral such as a USB conference speaker and microphone, or a headset. These eliminate peripheral noise much better.
Some of the best headsets and headphones for a home office are currently:
- Plantronics Voyager 5200: this device can detect when you’re wearing it and senses and alerts you when you’re talking on mute.
- Plantronics Voyager 4220 UC has broad compatibility, connecting to deskphones, smartphones and computers – and comes with Alexa built in.
- BlueParrott B550-XT if you live in a particularly hectic or bustling household, this headset promises to block out 96% of background noise.
But if you don’t like wearing a headset on camera, some of the best conference speakers for a home office include:
- Jabra Speak 510 Wireless: The Jabra is really easy to set up and you can use it via usb connection or bluetooth.
- Plantronics Calisto 610 Portable Speakerphone: This device is lightweight with voice controls and echo cancelling technology.
- Kaysuda Bluetooth Conference Speakerphone (Amazon link): This speakerphone allows conference calls via usb or bluetooth connection and is compatible with most mainstream programs like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and FaceTime.
Optimal face to face and screen-sharing software is a must for smooth-running video conference communications. Here are some of the best:
- Cisco Webex: This software allows you to record your own webinars or presentations and conference call with up to 100,000 people.
- Google Meet: As you would expect from a Google product, Meet offers an intuitive and frictionless user experience.
- Microsoft Teams: Replacing Skype for business, you can collaboratively edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel files within Microsoft Teams in real time.
Digital presentation apps
Without the advantage of your physical presence, your presentation materials potentially need to do more of the legwork. You’ll also want them to be compatible, shareable, and packed with features, like:
- Prezi: Compatible with Zoom, Hangouts, Cisco Webex etc, Prezi features smart layouts and themes and even allows you to appear alongside your visuals.
- Beautiful.ai: This program is great for automated design which means you can get presentations looking good in less time.
- Google Slides: Part of the Google suite, Google Slides is intuitive to use and highly compatible with other programs.
- Keynote: The choice for Apple users, Keynote has a good range of layout and transitions and is built to allow you to present a slideshow from an iPad, iPhone.
Optimal device layout & lighting
To offer clear audio and an optimal view of yourself when video conferencing at home, you’ll need to make sure each of your devices is set up and positioned correctly:
- Laptop camera or webcam: You want to make sure you’re clearly visible, without being too close to the camera. The ideal distance to present via a laptop camera or webcam is about a metre. You’ll want at least your head and shoulders within shot – and more of your upper body if you want to use persuasive hand gestures. You should also angle the lens so it’s directly focused at eye level.
- Audio devices: The positioning of your audio device largely depends on how well your voice carries but ideally leave:
- 6 inches between your mouth and the microphone when using a headset
- 1 metre or less between you and a conference phone device (although many can pick up sound from much further away)
- Lighting: For the best lighting while presenting over camera, choose a soft, forward-facing light to ensure your complexion doesn’t look washed out and avoid having multiple light sources that can cast awkward shadows across the room.
And that’s it. With reliable technical equipment, conference software to connect you with others, and apps that deliver nuanced, attention-grabbing presentations, you can command any conference room from wherever you are.