As the holidays are playing a little differently this year, there will be a lot of families using Zoom or some other best video chat apps for some face-to-face contact.
But as anyone who makes regular video calls knows, it’s not always as easy as calling everyone and talking.
Video calls can hurt you, especially if you’re trying to talk to people who aren’t used to them. To make your holidays a little less stressful and a little happier, we’ve put together a list of tips to ease the whole virtual Christmas experience.
Select and stick to the video chat app
If we all use video chat to chat with friends and relatives during this holiday season, let’s try to make it easier for everyone involved.
In other words, don’t mix in half a dozen video calls on different platforms. Choose one of the best video chat apps and navigate with it – ideally the one that people already have or are familiar with.
Of course, this is easier said than done if you plan calls with a lot of people, who all have to make their own calls. If one side has already decided to use Zoom, while the other wants to use Skype or WhatsApp, then it may be easier to do it in two ways just to keep the peace. But keep everything under control and make sure you use services that are familiar to everyone.
After all, you don’t want Uncle Jeff to keep everything, because Zoom didn’t have it installed before time.
Make sure everyone knows what they are doing
Every family has a fair share of members who don’t really understand the technology, whether their ignorance is voluntary or completely unintentional. If you want your formal invitations to go smoothly, it’s important to make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and knows how to use any app you’ve chosen for a big event.
If in doubt, do the exercise to be sure. If it works perfectly, it’s even better because you’ll get a little more quality time with your loved ones without the stress of a big day.
If you are talking on a call and you are not in a large group, switch on the headset while the call is in progress. You’ll avoid irritating anyone around you who isn’t participating in that call, as well as avoiding the terrible speaker feedback problem. Nothing is worse than that high-pitched scream as all that sound loops into your ears.
Lock your security
One of the biggest problems with increasing the number of video calls is that not all of these applications are completely secure. Waves “Zoom bombing” which happened earlier this year are a great example of how technology can go wrong. And with a lot of calls going on during the holidays, you can be sure that trolls will look for anything they can do to destroy things.
End-to-end encryption is enabled by default for most video chat applications, which greatly helps keep family conversations out of prying eyes. Of course, some don’t, so let you know how to turn end-to-end zoom encryption in settings.
And make sure you know how to knock out zoom bombers on the eve of a big call, so if they show up and try to ruin everyone’s nice weather, you can get rid of them quickly.
Limit the size of your calls
Video chat services have increased the number of people you can add to a call this year, and Zoom offers the most to a whopping 100 attendees. In other words, you could add each member of the average extended family, leaving you more room.
But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s an absolute nightmare trying to get to the word when everyone else is trying to talk at the same time.
You have the same problem with too many people huddled around a few devices, except this time they have to fight other people who share their physical space.
The easiest solution? Reduce the number of people on call to an absolute minimum. If that means making more calls so you can catch up with your eighth cousin and their children, so be it.
Remember your manners
It is easy for some people to dominate a conversation in the best of times, but in large enough physical groups it at least leaves room for other people to talk to each other.
Video calls don’t have that option, so make sure everyone has their turn to talk and don’t spend the entire call complaining about people wearing masks under their noses.
It’s not easy to tell when it’s the right time to talk, especially if there are bad connections that cause other calls to fall behind. So be kind and don’t try to talk to people because you accidentally left at the same time.
If you use Zoom or Google Meet, make sure people know about the “raise hands” feature. If everything else fails, have someone take on the role of moderator and direct people as needed.
Make sure you have the right device and equipment
Which device you use depends on you and the people talking to you. You need to understand what you are going to do during the call and whether it means sitting and talking to the screen or doing other things in the process.
After all, the holidays are all made up of food, and if you have a lot to prepare, you may want to multitask and receive an invitation while you cook.
Using a laptop is probably the best general purpose device, as it has a built-in camera and is designed to sit on any flat surface imaginable.
Similarly, a tablet would have a holster or stand. Tablets take up less space because they are smaller than laptops and may not have a keyboard that takes up valuable space.
Phones also work, but if you’re going to talk for a long time, you’ll need something to take the burden off your hands. One of ours the best tripods would do the trick unless you plan to hack something along with things around the house.
Remember you are still on camera
The thing about video calling is that everyone can see you and study whatever you do. What’s more: They actively look at the screen and at you, while in the physical group their attention may be elsewhere.
So don’t do anything you’d rather not see, whether it’s wearing a shirt, blowing your nose, rolling your eyes at racist relatives ’comments, or something completely different.
However, video is always optional and no one can force you to include it. If you want to keep your voice in the call and nothing else, be sure to turn off the camera.
Mix it with a festive background
Maybe your home is already festive enough and you want everyone to see it, but you can always mix things up with a different background. There are countless options to choose from, whether they’re included in your app or purchased from anywhere else, and that makes things more fun for everyone.
Be sure to check out our guide how to change zoom background, pass it on to everyone ahead of time and see what everyone else will come up with.