Every time I come back to Canada from China, one of the first things I notice is the blue sky and clean air. The second: Internet that just works. It’s great to have an Internet connection that is both highly-reliable, and so fast that it doesn’t impede thought or communication.
In China, Internet service is unreliable and slow. It’s especially unstable when connecting to the outside world. This makes video conferencing extremely annoying at times.
Running a digital marketing agency in China, we have clients all over the world. I, myself, am outside of the office in Nanjing much of the time, and other employees often work from home too.
One of the more practical issues we had to tackle last year was how to improve video conferencing to make it easier for us all to communicate.
In 2013 and 2014, we invested at least 100 hours testing, and have greatly improved our video and audio calls. Here’s how we did it:
It’s easy to move around and provides pretty good sound, without an echo.
You can now find several models on Jabra’s site. We paid about USD100, which was definitely worth the investment.
There are two main problems with laptop webcams. First, the picture quality is low. Second, the angle isn’t wide enough to get everyone in the picture.
We now use this wide angle camera to get everyone in view, and with a high-quality image.
Check out Logitech’s page for more info. We paid about USD130.
The software is one of the most important parts. We tested Skype, TeamViewer, GoToMeeting, ooVoo and QQ extensively. I mean, we spent many hours in meetings with all of these and recorded progress over time.
The result: GoToMeeting’s China edition (website in Chinese) is by far the best for screen sharing and video conferencing. A key advantage is that the frame-rate keeps up with the conversation. Plus, it allows people to call in by phone too.
Skype is great for textual chat, so we still use it. But video calls are constantly dropped and screen sharing rarely works at all.
ooVoo really isn’t bad. In fact, it has been more reliable than Skype, but not by much. Skype still has the advantage over ooVoo in my opinion because so many people use it.
As for TeamViewer and QQ, they froze or dropped so much that we didn’t continue using them.
Note that we were using the Chinese edition of GoToMeeting. The US-version shouldn’t provide as high-of-quality in China as we experienced.
I’m a big fan of Logitech by the way…
For meetings with individuals, nothing beats headsets. Personally, I use the Logitech H800, which is a bit pricier at about USDS120. Everybody in the company seems to have a different headset, and the difference in audio quality isn’t very great. The jump in quality from simply using a laptop’s default mic and speakers, to using a headset is very noticeable though.
For meetings with 10 people, it sucks to have to huddle around a laptop. We use a widescreen TV from TCL. I can’t recall the details, but it was about USD400. We decided not to go high-end on this for two reasons: First, most of the TV bell-and-whistles wouldn’t be used, because we’re only using it as a screen basically. We aren’t using it to actually watch HD 3D movies or run apps. Second, the quality of video available via the Internet connection is the bottleneck, not the TV video quality.
We installed a second Internet line, which we use mostly just for our video conferencing.
There may still be room for improvement here. As I’ve heard, if we get a dual-WAN router, we can plug two lines from two different serviced providers in and greatly improve reliability.
Even with all this cool gear, we found it’s important to set guidelines for conferencing behaviour and just practice.
Here are some guidelines for newbs:
There you have it. That’s how we improved our video conferencing. Have any questions? Have any tips of your own?