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Look and sound your best for an online Christmas

Looks like many people will be using Zoom, Facetime, Skype or Teams to meet up with family and friends over Christmas. Take a few moments to get ready, look and sound your best for family and friends.

All through 2020/2021, Office Watch expanded its coverage to include no-nonsense guides to using Zoom, Teams., Skype and other online services.

If you’re alone this Christmas, use online calls to keep in touch.  The calls don’t have to be specific conversations either.  More and more, folks leave a call going for hours and ‘just hang’ while they get on with other things.  An online version of nearby work desks or sharing a lounge room.

Here’s some tips and links to help you over the virtual Christmas.

Be prepared

Our refrain all year has been ‘be prepared’.  Install and setup all the major online video meeting services so you’re ready, just in case.

Too many times we’ve seen people rushing to install software with only minutes before a meeting or show is about to start.  Often those people then annoy and inconvenience others with hassles or tech questions while the meeting is happening.

Setup and be a little familiar with these services, so you’re ready.  They are all free and worth the time to get ready in your own time, not in a last minute rush.


is very reliable and stable. It’s only available on Apple devices, Mac, iPhone, iPad and iTouch. It’s usually preinstalled.  We prefer Facetime over other services if all involved have Apple devices.


The apps are better but there’s also an in-browser option



Both these Microsoft products have apps plus a browser based option.

WhatsApp or Signal

Both of the major messaging services have group calls.

Beating Bots, Spies and Cock-ups

Our security book Beating Bots, Spies and Cock-ups has expanded to include a chapter on online meetings.

  • Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype, Signal, Facetime, Viber
  • Useful extras, virtual backgrounds, blurring, cameras & smartphones as webcams, live video in a PowerPoint presentation.

Look and sound great

To hear the sales hype, all you have to do is start their software and it’ll all work.  Ha!  As if it’s that’s easy. On the other hand, you don’t need fancy backgrounds or effects either.

All you need to do is LOOK and LISTEN to your video and audio.  Check how other people will be seeing you and if they can hear you clearly.

It’s amazing to be on a group call to see video in darkness, partial heads, small heads far away from the camera or, our personal favorite, looking right up someone’s nose from a low-placed camera.


Use the video preview to see how you look during a call.  Is the lighting OK?  Nothing strange or distracting in the background?  Are you clearly visible in the camera.

Most online calls have a little box showing what the camera is sending out … keep an eye on it.

Often all it takes is making the device higher, about eye level.  A few books or DVD box sets like Peter has done for most of the year!

A cheap way to look better online, pile up some books or DVD box sets!

Virtual backgrounds are available in Teams and Zoom.  If you don’t want people to see your messy office, lounge or kitchen, use a virtual background.  The plain or default options are OK and quick to use. Blur and Virtual Background choices for any online meeting

Better to use one of your own photos.  For most of this year, Peter Deegan has appeared to be working from the Royal Albert Hall in London while a friend has been enjoying the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney! Or there’s many online images that can be used as a virtual background. London virtual backgrounds for all BBC TV backgrounds old and new for PowerPoint and backgrounds Use the Force with your PowerPoint & Zoom backgrounds

Look better in an online call – simple, easy and low-tech
You don’t need a tripod or camera stand – ask Prince Charles
Lighting, positioning and other tips for your online calls

Cheap external camera

If the in-built camera isn’t good enough there’s no need to buy a special webcam.  For a few bucks an old smartphone can become a very good and wireless too.  Cheap and quick, no waiting for shipping.

See Turn your smartphone into a webcam – iPhone, iPad or Android


Ruining a call for everyone is easy and happens too often.  Either leave the microphone on all the time, so everyone hears all the noises in your house (baby crying, side-comments, paper rustling etc).  Or leaving the microphone off and forgetting to turn if on when you do want to speak.

Push to Talk

Zoom has an excellent option we use all the time.  It lets you keep the microphone off unless you hold down the spacebar.  It’s a setting that has to be turned on see Be Polite and Professional in Zoom and Teams for details.

Other services haven’t copied that Zoom feature, yet.  Teams has a clumsy shortcut Ctrl + Shift + M

Here’s some of our suggestions.

Clever tricks with Zoom
Look better in an online call – simple, easy and low-tech
You don’t need a tripod or camera stand – ask Prince Charles
Lighting, positioning and other tips for your online calls

Microphone setup and settings for Dictate and Windows 10
Clever tricks with Zoom
Try Grandma’s Trivia Quiz by email and online
Look better in an online call – simple, easy and low-tech
You don’t need a tripod or camera stand – ask Prince Charles
Lighting, positioning and other tips for your online calls
Changing your display name in Zoom, Meet, Skype and Teams calls
Zoom problems you can easily fix
Two new video meeting options in Teams
Add your own background image to a Teams call

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