Like most of us, you've probably accumulated a number of devices and have experimented with multiple desktop setups to support your live online presentations. But are you using the best tool(s) for the job? What additional product(s) might save you time and trouble, and help you run your sessions more smoothly?
Note: The following recommendations all stem from my long experience and independent, personal preferences. I do not accept payments or other consideration in exchange for reviews of hardware.
Q1. What hardware is essential for running on online session?
You’ll need a computer with a strong and consistent connection to the internet, a headset with microphone, and, if desired, a camera. Please do not rely on the mics and speakers built in to most laptops; they are often poor quality and too sensitive for effective online sessions.
Q2. I need a new headset. What features are most important?
Ensure your headset has a mute button for the mic; some also have a volume control for the earpiece. Look for wired rather than wireless; wired generally provides clearer audio — for both mic and earpiece — and is less prone to outages. I prefer one that does not cup my ears; I’ve done well with the Logitech High-performance USB Headset H540 for Windows and Mac, Skype Certified
Q3. I find typing correctly and quickly on a screen or handheld device agonizing. Help!
Get a wireless keyboard that’s backlit and USB rechargeable. This one works well for me: Logitech K740 Illuminated Wired Keyboard, USB, Black — but it's not quiet, so be sure to mute your mic when not talking!
Q4. Is the webcam built into my laptop sufficient for online sessions?
I prefer an external webcam that I can position exactly where I want, to render my face optimally, and to make the best use of my lighting. Beware that the webcam on your laptop lid may capture you at an unflattering angle or in shadow — probably not the professional look you want to convey. (See my answer to Q5, below.)
Always test your webcam in advance to ensure the image quality is good and, if it’s external, to be sure it’s properly connected.
Note: For security, cover your webcam lenses — both built-in and external — with a sticker or sliding cover when you’re not using them.
Q5. On video sessions, I often appear either too dark, too bright, or a sickly color. How do I fix my lighting?
For maximum flexibility, I keep several lights and lamps handy, including:
~ This USB-charged light, my new favorite, which sits right on my desk and lights my face from below.
~ This selfie light — with adjustable light color and intensity — that clamps onto the desk, with flexible arms that hold everything in position. I thread my webcam through the center of the ring. If you’re running sessions with your phone, you’ll appreciate the second arm. Mine holds my headset!
~ These little clip-on lights can fill in anywhere you need brightness. They are USB-charged — and can double as a chip clip for your between-session snacks. :)
Q6. Do I really need to buy a quieter mouse?
Ah, thank you in advance from all of your listeners. Yes, clicking your mouse into an open mic is much more distracting than you realize. I like this quiet-click mouse: Jelly Comb 2.4G Slim Wireless Mouse with Nano Receiver, Less Noise, Portable Mobile Optical Mice.
Q7. I don’t have enough USB ports. What can I buy?
Go for a port replicator, such as this Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Data Hub. Note: If you need a port replicator for your phone, be sure that it supports charging. Many do not.
Q8. How can I make more room for the growing array of essential hardware on my desk?
This clamp-on tray and monitor mount allows you to suspend screens at eye level.
Q9. Is there hope for the tangle of cords on and under my workspace?
The pros use cord channels that mount to the underside to the desk, but you can manage cord chaos with binder clips, cable ties, and hook-and-loop strips. These support makeshift audio and lighting setups and backdrops.
Q10. I travel a lot, and I have yet to find a battery pack I can rely on. What do you recommend?
Consider a solar charger, something like this 26800mAh, ORYTO Qi Wireless Portable Solar Power Bank External Backup Battery.
Any clever gadgets or setups you'd like to share? I welcome your input! Contact me at 585.370.2341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.