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How a stack of books can make your video conferencing 10x better

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Look at this image below. 

On the left – you have a professional video setup (newscaster) and on the right, you have a guest with an amateur video conferencing setup.

Good Video Angle vs Bad Video Angle

The two images are obviously dramatically different in quality. The newscaster comes across as professional while the amateur on the right comes across as visually awkward, less professional and less trustworthy.

And this amateur isn’t just any joe-schmo – he’s the CEO of a large multinational corporation.

Now – you’re probably thinking that I’m being unfair to compare the million-dollar professional newscaster setup to a person working from home. And you’re right – the home setup won’t ever be as good. 

But would you be surprised if it could be darn close with just a simple stack of books?

Common Video Conferencing Mistakes

The CEO above – and I’m guessing most of you – is using a laptop at home for work. And it’s set up something like this.

This makes perfect sense of course – this is how you typically use your laptop to type, surf, etc.

But when you jump on a video conference – 3 problems emerge:

  1. The top of the laptop screen (where your video camera is) is several inches below your face. The result is the video camera is ‘looking up’ from below.
  2. The laptop screen is at ~45 degrees so the camera angle is actually looking into your nostrils.
  3. Since the laptop is positioned for typing – the keyboard is relatively close to you (~12 inches from your body). As a result – the video camera is also very close and creates a ‘zoomed in’ image when video conferencing.

Unfortunately – these 3 problems created the terrible CEO video image you saw above. And this is occurring in your images too.

I don’t know about you – but I’ve never met anyone that looked good zoomed-in from below staring up their nostrils.

Easy Solution

Believe it or not – the solution is super super easy. All you need is a stack of books.

3 Simple Steps

Step 1: Grab a stack of books and place your laptop on top. The goal is to raise the laptop CAMERA TO BE AT EYE LEVEL. This added height enables you to look straight into the camera – a key to the professional configuration. The amount of books depends on your height – but for me – this is a stack of books ~7 inches tall.

Using A Stack of Books for a Better Angle

Step 2: Reposition the laptop screen to be at or near 90 degrees. This removes the upward angle of the video image. Ideally – you want the screen to be perpendicular to your body.

Step 3: Push the entire setup further away from your body than you would while typing. The screen is ideally 24 inches away from your body. This distance then gets the right amount of your torso in the frame – another key to the professional look.

Using a Stack of Books for a Better Angle

And that’s it. Your setup is now nearly as good as the million-dollar newscaster’s setup.

Conclusion

With all of us spending more and more time on video – it’s time to master the basics. It’s amazing how a simple stack of books with a bit of spacing can dramatically improve your video conferencing quality.

And if you’ve done the book trick – and are now looking for 5 more advanced lessons – see this article.

If you have any questions – please feel free to contact me at @andytryba.

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Andy Tryba
Andy is a technology optimist and the founder & CEO of Think3, Founder & CEO of Crossover, co-founder & CEO of RideAustin and the CEO of a variety of technology companies including Engine Yard, DNN Corp, Kayako, Bizness Apps, FogBugz, School Loop, Agemni, SLI Systems, and Sococo. Andy runs each of these companies with 100% remote talent – across all functions.

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting, and works like a charm.

  2. […] camera close to eye-level and at an angle where it’s facing you directly, if possible. Here are some tips on how to kick your video conferencing game up a notch and look more professional during your video calls. As we get more connected globally, and […]

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