How to take your video chat skills to the next level

During the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, these tips can help you communicate online like a pro.

African American girl using headset, cell phone and laptop

“African American girl using headset, cell phone and laptop”

JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Now that you’re up to speed on video chatting, and how to stay in touch while sheltering in place, we want to provide you with a few tips on how to improve your video calls. Included is information on some of the available tools you can use, as well as some helpful hints about how to look and sound your best.

The camera

While your phone or tablet already has a camera built in, your computer or monitor may not. And even if your desktop monitor or laptop is just a couple of years old, the camera may be lower quality than what you’re used to on your phone. So how do you up your camera game? There are a variety of different options.

  1. Invest in a good webcam. Generally, you can get a high definition (HD) external web camera for less than $50. Most often, they’re better quality than the built-in cameras, and can dramatically sharpen your video. They don’t take up a lot of space either. Most are a few inches wide and clip right on to your computer or monitor.


    A better webcam can really improve how people see you. Many also have microphones built in.

  2. Lighting is key. No matter what type of camera you use, proper lighting is important. Always make sure the light is in front of you or coming from the from the side. It can mean the difference between people actually seeing your face in its best light or looking at a dark silhouette, or worse, squinting through the blinding glare from the light behind you.
  3. Look at the camera. Think of a video chat like an in-person conversation where you want to make eye contact. That means looking into the camera and not at the screen, especially when you are speaking. It might take a little practice, but it can go a long way to making your connection even more meaningful.
  4. Know your background. Before you start chatting, it’s important to check your surroundings. An exercise bike with the laundry hanging off of it may not make the best backdrop! And remember just because your phone, tablet or laptop can go from room to room, it doesn’t mean that everyone you’re chatting with wants to go there with you.
  5. Make sure it’s working. Before you start chatting, take a few seconds to double check that your camera and video feed is working and that you’re ready to go. You can usually check in the application (app) you’re using. And if it’s not working, make sure your camera is turned on, turn off any other app that may be trying to use the camera, and check that your computer is using the right hardware if the camera is external.

The microphone

The way you sound on a video chat is as important as the way you look. Your voice should be crystal clear and easy to understand with no feedback or echoing. To make sure you sound your best, consider a few of the following tips.

  1. Get an external microphone. If you’re working on a laptop or desktop computer, an external microphone can make all the difference in how you sound. Even the earbuds off your phone will sound better than talking into the built-in mic on your laptop, but a dedicated USB mic works even better. Just make sure if you do get an external microphone, you switch to that in our computer’s audio options when you are video chatting.

    Midsection of woman vlogger or blogger with laptop and microphone, talking.

    Female podcaster sitting at the table, talking on camera.

    Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

    If you’re on chat a lot, upgrading to a higher-quality USB mic like this one can be a game changer. But even a pair of earbuds can improve your sound.

  2. Where you sit is important. Whether you are using an external microphone or the one built into your computer, you need to be seated close enough so that people can hear you. The farther away you get, the softer your voice will become. Try to stay the same distance from the mic for consistent volume.
  3. Try some headphones. Many headphones or earbuds, wireless or wired, also have a microphone. Wearing headphones can help eliminate background noise, get rid of feedback that can cause echoing and help you hear better too.

    1. Earbuds with a built-in mic can be a simple, inexpensive upgrade.

  4. Manage the mute button. Wondering why someone can’t hear you? You’re probably on mute. That’s the little microphone icon you see on most applications. It will have a line through it if you’re muted. If you want people to hear you, you just click on it to turn off mute. Keep in mind the mute button can be your friend too, especially if you have noise in the background or if you’re coughing, sighing or trying to do something else while you’re supposed to be listening.
  5. Make sure it’s working. Most of the tips that apply to the camera, come into play with the microphone too. You have to always make sure it’s turned on, close all other apps that may be using the mic, and make sure your computer is using the correct microphone.

The internet connection

To make sure you have the best connection for video chatting, it’s important to take advantage of everything the Viasat service has to offer. At the same time, there are some simple things you can do to prevent video chats from freezing up, and to help ensure that calls don’t get cut short.

  1. Move your router. The best way to get a better video chat connection is to be close to the router so you can connect to it directly. While you may have to move it out of your closet and rearrange a few things, it will be well worth it when you can video chat without interruption.
  2. Close other programs and apps. If you can only go wireless while video chatting, that’s okay too. It’s important to just try to shut down other programs and apps that might compete for computer power.
  3. Stick to chatting. The more you try to multitask while on a video chat, the more likely it is that you’ll run into connection issues. Try not to upload or download files, watch movies or do anything that might interfere with the bandwidth needed for video chatting.

Whether you’re online for work, school, sharing a happy hour “quarantini” with friends or keeping in touch with loved ones, video chatting has become the new normal and an essential part of our daily lives. At Viasat we get it. These tools, combined with our Viasat Residential service, will help ensure you stay connected while video chatting like a pro.

Learn more about Viasat Residential service

Patti Rutkin is a fierce advocate of the customer experience. As the marketing lead for Viasat’s US residential business, she is responsible for raising awareness about Viasat’s home internet service within the communities it serves.