En español | Even though we're finally able to get out and socialize again, video chatting is still a great alternative way to talk to people far and near.
Whether we're checking in on remote relatives, catching up with a few friends over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, or staying in touch with office colleagues while working remotely, platforms such as Zoom remain popular. And they're not just for conversations. You can enjoy other activities from the comfort of home. AARP hosts free virtual events including cooking, debt management and fitness classes.
Zoom and other platforms such as Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Google Meet/Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype and WhatsApp Messenger are usually free for personal use. All support group chats, so it's possible to socialize virtually with many people at once.
We've covered basic Zoom tips for enhancing your screen time with others, and how to add different backgrounds to several video conferencing apps, tweak your lighting and improve your appearance, but here we share additional advice for several video chat platforms.
Things to remember first
Before we get to these tips, video calling can be somewhat bandwidth intensive, so make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi connection. If you need to, choose a spot close to the router for optimum performance. It will make a big difference.
Be sure to have good lighting in the room so others can see you clearly. If you're using a phone or tablet instead of a laptop, prop the device on a counter, desk or table, so you don't have to hold it. Placing some books under your laptop to elevate it can make you look better, too, because the camera isn't focused on your chin, neck and nostrils.
And don't forget the importance of good audio, not just clear video. Speak close to the microphone — which might be embedded in the laptop, phone or webcam itself — and try to minimize background noise, like a loud TV in an adjacent room, by closing the door before you start chatting. We also have a great trick for solving this, below.
Mute quickly and remove background noise
What if you feel a sneeze coming on? Or if a courier who rang the doorbell has sent your dog into a barking frenzy? You may need a moment or two to find the mute button.
Instead, learn an easy shortcut by holding down these keys simultaneously. And use the same shortcut to unmute yourself.
Mac: Command + D
Windows: Ctrl + D
Mac: Command + Shift + M
Windows: Ctrl + M
Mac: Command + Shift + M
Windows: Ctrl + Shift + M
Mac: Command + Shift + A
Windows: Alt + A
Pro tip: A free piece of software called Krisp mutes background audio, so people you're talking with will hear you and nothing else. It's free and works with all major video chatting platforms. You can hear before and after examples at the company's website. Krisp also removes the echo bouncing off walls, especially in an empty room.
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Share your screen easily
At times you may want to share your screen, such as while looking at photos from a recent vacation, presenting a slideshow to colleagues or watching a YouTube video together. When you click to share your screen, everyone on the video call will see what's on your computer as if they were right beside you, plus they'll see your face, too, via the camera, in the corner of the screen.
1. Click the up arrow icon at the bottom of the screen. It will say Present now.
2. Select how you want to share your screen: Entire screen; Tab, best for video and animation; or Window. You will see a smaller thumbnail image of what others will see, so click it and the word Share to confirm your selection. Others will now see what you want to share with them.
3. Click Stop sharing near the bottom when finished.
1. Click on the screen sharing button, which might be buried within the three dots (***) icon, depending on the device you're using.
2. Use the same process to stop sharing your screen.
1. Click the square icon in the toolbar and select the window you want to share. You can share your entire desktop if you like.
2. Choose Whiteboard, for a blank canvas on which to draw; a particular window or app; or PowerPoint for presentations.
3. See a red border surrounding what you're sharing after you select what you want to show.
4. Select Stop sharing to stop showing your screen when you're done.
1. Click Share Screen, located in your meeting controls, near the bottom of the screen during the Zoom call.
2. Select Screen to share the entire screen, Whiteboard for a blank canvas on which to draw, and options such as a specific app or browser window.
3. Click the tabs with audio or video if you're playing a recording.
4. Click the red tab that says Stop Share at the top of the screen when you're finished sharing.
Record your conversation
To record your video chat session to play back another time or maybe share with someone afterward, you'll need the consent of all the people you're chatting with, always as a courtesy but also for legal reasons in some states.
Recording isn't available for those who are using the free version of Google Meet but if you're using Meet as part of Google Workspace Essentials, your administrator may allow it.
1. Start Google Meet on your laptop or desktop.
2. Click the three dots arranged vertically then | Recording | Start recording | Start.
3. End the recording by clicking on the three dots | Recording | Stop recording. The recording also stops when everyone has left the meeting. When the file has processed, the meeting organizer can find it in My Drive in the Meet Recordings folder.
1. Make sure that you are logged in to your OneDrive account, or SharePoint if you're recording for work.
2. Start or join a meeting.
3. Go into Settings, the gear icon. Click the three dots (***) icon for more options.
4. Choose Start recording and transcription.
5. End the recording with Settings | three dots icon | Stop recording and transcription. Teams then processes the file and makes it available on your OneDrive or SharePoint.
The process is similar for users of Skype, which Microsoft also owns. When the recording is processed, it is posted to your chat and is available for 30 days. During that time you can download the recording to your Downloads folder or save it on another part of your computer. On a phone or tablet, tap and hold the recording in the chat, then tap Save and it will download to your device's Photos area.
1. Make sure that your account settings for an individual have enabled recording — only the person who starts the session can record — by clicking Settings | Recording. If you see a toggle switch that is in the off position, click to turn it on. By default, the box Record video during screen sharing is checked.
2. Start a Zoom meeting as host.
3. Click the Record button under the video display. If you have a free account, the meeting recording will save on your hard drive or phone or tablet memory and convert into an MP4 when you end the call.
Marc Saltzman is a contributing writer who covers personal technology. His work also appears in USA Today and other national publications. He hosts the podcast series Tech It Out and is the author of several books, including Apple Watch for Dummies and Siri for Dummies.