Better sound and video means people’s attention lasts longer!
I am on video calls over 90% of my working days. While I spend most of the time listening to other people, occasionally, I have to speak. Because I need to have the participant’s full attention, I want to tire them as little as possible.
Sound quality is crucial. If you ever tried listening to a podcast or YouTube video with lousy sound, you know how hard it is to focus on the message the speaker is trying to deliver. Unsurprisingly the same happens at business meetings.
Since most people use their laptop’s built-in microphone, it is not hard to improve the sound. Unless you live in a recording studio with good sound isolation, I recommend using a dynamic microphone. They capture less ambient noise than their condenser capsule counterparts.
I use high-end Rode XLR microphones (broadcaster), a high-quality boom arm, and a Rodecaster Pro. I also do voice-overs on videos and have a podcast, so I invested a lot more than most people need to.
A good cheap dynamic USB microphone will do the trick just fine. The Audio Technica ATR 2100x ($80) is an excellent choice. You need to find a way to get the microphone as close to your mouth as possible. It is essential to extract the best quality out of your dynamic microphone. A microphone stand is the best solution, and you can find one for cheap (around $20).
While being less critical than audio for meetings, I like to give the people I work with the best possible visual experience. Unfortunately, most laptops come with potato cameras. While they are mostly terrible, they can do the trick.
Light is essential no matter what camera you have. So take care of that, and you are halfway there. A ring light ($25) is an excellent choice. Avoid at all costs having light sources on the background unless you are planning to look like a criminal giving an anonymous interview.
If you want to take your video to the next level, take a look at the “Logitech brio” line of cameras (~$150) and the “El Gato Facecam” (~$200). They are both surprisingly good.
Working from home has some great perks. My days gained two additional hours for myself and my family in my particular case. However, I feel the need not to lose efficacy when communicating with my colleagues. That is why a decent setup is not an option. It is a requirement.