The majority of the world is working from home and meetings have become more essential for keeping businesses in lock-step. Video conferencing is a key ingredient in keeping employees informed, engaged, and productive. I’ve personally used video conferencing to bring my teams together. It is much more effective than a conference call. I prepare for my day better and my employees do too. It allows for the use of body language and improved tone. It strengthens employee culture, leads to better productivity, and it works.
We cannot get together like we once did. Video conferencing has helped solve that. It is the best way to see loved ones, close friends, and family. It is great to hear from my parents, but it is much better to see them face-to-face. We even screen share to play web-based interactive games like Fibbage.
If you’re like me, you have used a variety of video conference platforms. This week I’ve used Zoom, Teams, Skype, Discord, and Webex to join a wide range of meetings. These platforms are great, but Zoom evolved a decent product into something more.
You have probably identified a favorite platform by now, and you probably know about Zoom’s ability to use custom backgrounds. You may even use a green screen to avoid depth issues that occur when you are too far away from the camera. Zoom gave us the ability to make conference calls fun with this simple addition.
In April, Microsoft joined the fun by upgrading Skype and Teams (great for larger groups) to include custom backgrounds. Not all versions of Skype contain this option – yet. It is not available on the Microsoft Store version of the app (Skype for Windows 10). Why Microsoft didn’t upgrade Skype for Windows 10 is currently unknown. Perhaps we will see this added later to avoid confusion.
Head over to Skype.com to download the latest desktop version on your PC, Mac, or Linux device. Once installed go to your Audio and Video settings. You will now see the option available. Zoom made it easy to add custom backgrounds, and Skype does too. Both companies made this easy for the end-user and Microsoft didn’t hesitate to essentially copy the ease of use.
Custom backgrounds break up the monotony of working from home. I firmly believe we all need to show a little humor during quarantine. We need to laugh a little. Why not show off your creativity during family meetings by flying at “warp speed” or “piloting” a fighter jet? If you are brave enough, try it for a team meeting. I appreciate the backgrounds more when I see people kicking back in front of a fake beach wearing sunglasses and a full brim hat to keep the “sun” away. While this may not be wise to do for serious meetings, it could certainly allow for some good fun in daily huddles or other informal gatherings.
Skype still has one feature Zoom lacks – blurred backgrounds. I’ve enjoyed the confidentiality the blurred background option offers. It hides a messy room or important data on a whiteboard. It also narrows the focus for viewers to concentrate on the communicator. Microsoft copied Zoom, it is time for Zoom to return the favor and copy Microsoft by adding this feature.
Whether you prefer Skype or Zoom, both offer some great features at no cost for base users. Now, if you’ll please excuse me. I’m late for a conference call, and I need to Google some backgrounds. Happy video chatting everyone!