Webinars are key a tool for authors and publishers. They can be used to build your community, launch a product and to communicate to your tribe. While video chats are an essential tool, every video caster needs to upgrade from the standard laptop and built-in mic.
Here are the 6 things you can do to improve your video setup
- External headphones.
- Internet connection.
- External camera.
- External microphone
- External lighting
- Faster computer
If you use the built-in laptop speakers and microphone, you will probably get some feedback. This is seriously annoying. I use a pair of cheap earbuds that came with my iPad and simply plug it into my laptop and use a single earphone. This allows me to hear the guests and eliminates the possibility of feedback.
In the video, my white earbud is quite visible, but you can arrange the earbud so that it’s not too visible on camera.
2. Direct Internet Connection.
I’m always amazed at how many people use their WiFi connection on a webinar. At my house, I have an Xfinity cable modem that delivers 175Mb download speed. While this is impressive, its irrelevant as the webinar host. First, every single WiFi connection that is being used on your network cuts the speed in half. Everybody is connecting to their home WiFi router with laptops, smart phones, tablets, ROKU devices, smart TV’s, etc. Your real wireless speed is maximum of 54Mbs. Compare that to directly connecting to your router via Gigabit Ethernet. It’s 20x faster. So, keep the wire. You owe it to you audience.
I just got a Macbook Pro and it does NOT have a built-in ethernet adapter. So, I purchased a Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Connector from Amazon for $31. Worth it.
The most important internet speed is your upload speed. As the host, you are uploading your video in real-time to your video host, which is compressed on the fly, then sent to your audience. At my house, I have a 25Mbs upload speed, which is more than adequate. If you have 2Mbs, you are in pretty good shape with Google Hangouts. The higher the upload speed, the better.
3. External Web Camera.
The built-in web camera on most laptops is OK at best. My Macbook Pro has a 720p “Facetime” camera. It’s pretty good, but not good enough. In the webinar above, I use a Logitech C930e, which is available (as of this writing) for $99 from Amazon. You get a wider-angle lens, it’s 1080p HD. The included software also allows you to fine tune the lighting (white balance, etc.) so that you can deal with various lighting conditions. Must have.
4. External Microphone.
You’ll notice in the webinar that I don’t have a visible mic, but my sound is full. Underneath the camera view, I have a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. This microphone has several important features.
- It has a built in stand. When you tilt the microphone at an angle, it’s out of the camera view and setup perfectly
- It has a microphone pattern setting. I set it at cardiod pattern that works well for a webinar environment. Additional settings include omnidirectional, bi-directional and stereo.
- It has a big mute button on the front. Super easy to turn on & off during live webinars.
- It has good sound for the price.
5. External Lighting.
In my office setup, I have two tripods that are to the left & right of my external monitor. The tripods are elevated so that the LED lights are above my head, angling down toward my face from each side. LED lights are infinitely adjustable and generate no heat. The LED lights I have are battery operated, so I’ve included the specs for the chargers and batteries.
Here is the equipment I use (less than $100).
- 2 Amazon Basic tripods
- 2 Neewer LED CN-160 (160 bulbs). These screw onto the tripods.
- Batteries for the Neewer light above
- Battery charger for the batteries above.
This setup works well and you can dial in lighting the way you need it. The lighting “temperature” matches natural sunlight, so I’ve done webinars during the day where the left side of my face is lit from the sunlight coming through the window and the right side of my face is lit from right-side LED lamp. You can adjust the LED light to match the sunlight exactly so that you cannot tell the difference.
6. Faster Computer.
If you’re going to be doing webinars, you need to invest in a faster computer. The biggest factor is an external graphics card. (NOTE: This is going to get a bit geeky, but it’s important).
Most people don’t think to ask about a discrete graphics card. For example, I recently purchased a new Macbook Pro. The 13″ version comes with an integrated graphics card, whereas the 15″ has the option of a “discrete” graphics card. An integrated graphics card means that its integrated with the CPU. It shares processing power with the CPU. A discrete graphics card is separate from the CPU, so it has its own GPU (graphical processing unit).
So, when you’re processing live video, the GPU does processing independent of the CPU and its faster.
Second, when you’re editing pictures and video, your photo editing software (i.e. Photoshop) or video editing software (i.e. Camtasia, Premiere) will look for a discrete graphics card (GPU) and make the entire rendering process must faster and smoother.
A $400 Upgrade
Assuming you don’t need a new computer, the above recommended hardware upgrades will cost you less than $400. If you make an additional sale because of these upgrades, your return on investment will be instant. Plus, if you’re the one being interviewed, you really want your setup to be as good as your host. Your host will really appreciate it and they’ll probably invite you back…assuming you don’t suck as an interviewee. But, that’s a topic for another post.