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As 2020 forced the whole world to work from home, there aren’t many people who haven’t heard about Zoom by now. If that’s your main tool for video conferencing, here is the best Zoom setup for home office to look professional online without spending a small fortune!
From high quality technical equipment to the most important Zoom features, this guide covers all the important aspects of participating in online meetings. In the last part, I share one little improvement you can make in your workspace at home that can improve your online appearance a lot!
With that said, let’s dive right into the best setup for Zoom meetings in 2021!
1. Best technical Zoom setup for home office
If you can only buy one thing for your home office Zoom setup – make it a microphone.
Your look is important but the clear sound and what you are saying is so much more important! You can smile and dress like a professional, even stream from a fully equipped studio, but if your sound is awful, it’ll turn people off.
Have you ever watched a Youtube video with a low-quality sound? Isn’t it frustrating when you have to maximize your volume just for that video and jump when a sudden ad starts to scream? Don’t do this to people who are talking to you! Especially if those are clients who you expect to come back for more.
Also, the low-frequency background noise that is typical for built-in microphones can give headaches to sensitive people. Keep this in mind if you often have calls that are longer than a few minutes.
Best mic for home office
Very affordable solution for such a good all-in-one microphone kit. It quickly connects through USB and looks as professional as it can get.
It can be used for online meetings as well as for streaming your gameplay, podcasting, or recording Youtube videos. And audio quality is very impressive for the price!
Remember the times when even most Youtube bloggers used built-in web-cameras? Well, they are long gone now. You need to invest in a good camera to look professional on someone else’s screen – but it doesn’t have to be super expensive!
Of course, to look like some cool videographer you’ll need a professional DSLR or mirrorless camera like Canon EOS M50 with a specific lens to achieve that blurry background behind you. However, it’s such an overkill for Zoom calls! These days you can get away with simply a good webcam that’s 10 times cheaper! And nobody will tell the difference… besides maybe those videographers.
My point is, unless you teach videography you’ll be fine with a good mic and web-camera that only cost about 100 dollars together.
If you are worried about resolution, remember that Zoom only supports 1080p at most for business users and it’s 720p (HD) or even lower for free accounts. Forget about fancy 4k resolutions, okay?
Best Zoom camera for home office
This Full HD webcam has almost ten thousand positive reviews from happy users – so you can be sure it’s worth it for your Zoom meetings.
Besides the good autofocus and working out-of-the-box, it also has a privacy cover! It keeps the camera from getting dirty and secures you from turning your camera on accidentally when you aren’t ready for anyone to see you.
If you don’t have the budget for a new web-camera at the moment, try to use your phone camera. In many cases, it’s better than the built-in camera in your laptop. Test and compare to make the most of what you already have! The only negative side is that you won’t be able to use your phone during the call – but maybe it’s a good thing?
To be honest, headphones aren’t that necessary anymore.
If you use a good-quality mic, it probably has a built-in echo cancelation feature so you won’t get a hi-hi-hi-hi-echo-echo-echo-echo thing as we had it years back.
But still, many people prefer using headphones on Zoom calls for different reasons:
- avoid getting distracted by background sounds at home
- hear chat notifications and reminders during live calls
- save your housemates from hearing everyone on the call
- or just enjoy a better sound if built-in speakers aren’t that great
If you are considering a pair of headphones, I recommend using tiny earbuds instead of bulky over-ear headphones.
Because nobody wants to have a huge goofy-looking thing on the head that also hurts your ears and messes up your hair…
Best earbuds for home office
Let’s just say, I’ve never seen soooo many good reviews for something on Amazon before. If 150+ thousands of users love it, I can’t imagine one reason not to buy them.
They are waterproof and sit perfectly in your ear which makes them great for daily use. From going for a run to hosting a Zoom meeting, TOZO earbuds will be your favorite companions!
That was the bare minimum technology needed for Zoom calls at home! Of course, you may start with what you have and upgrade little by little when you feel financially ready. But just having these three things covered will create a great professional impression in your client’s eyes!
Now, let’s look into Zoom’s app native features you can use to improve the meetings experience even more!
2. Most important Zoom settings
Yes, it’s the simplest but the most overlooked thing!
Learn to MUTE YOURSELF, please!
And unmute when necessary…
It might not be as important in one-to-one calls but whenever you are part of a conversation that involves more than two people, it’s crucial to avoid the mess and keep things professional.
Also, if one person is presenting something to the rest, it’s generally a polite thing to do. Turn off your mic so your breath or background noises don’t interfere with the speaker.
Now, here is the setting you might find useful if you have lots of group meetings:
It’s located closer to the bottom of Audio tab in Zoom app preferences. This way your joining the meeting isn’t disruptive to the ongoing conversation.
As for the Mute/Unmute button during the call, it’s in the bottom left corner of your call’s window. A good idea is to memorize a simple Alt + A shortcut (Cmd + Shift + A on Mac) so you can quickly mute or unmute yourself without a mouse.
If you don’t need to talk a lot during the meeting, a general rule of thumb is keeping yourself on mute and long-pressing the Space key whenever you need to say something. It works similar to a walkie talkie, if you know what I’m talking about.
Lighting improvement & retouching
These are two settings from the Video tab in preferences that may improve your overall look a tiny little bit, especially in bad lighting conditions.
First is simple retouching: basically it just blurs your skin so all the skin flaws are less visible. Don’t overdo it though cause it will make you look weird and unnatural.
Second one is supposed to improve things in the dark room situation. Again, don’t overdo it as your face will get blown out. Better keep it on Auto if possible so it auto-adjusts when you move around with your laptop or turn on the other light source.
Remember that software settings can only do so much. If your home office really lacks light, consider investing in a small extra lighting kit that you can put on your desk or mount to a monitor.
This is a quick tool that will prevent you from forgetting about meetings or being late!
Zoom can remind you as close as 5 minutes before your call starts so you can prepare and enter on time without wasting everyone’s time on ‘technical difficulties’.
Don’t be that person who is always late and makes colleagues get involved in awkward small talk while waiting.
This is the feature everyone probably tried by now but in case you haven’t, it’s on Background and Filters tab. Most of people discover it during the call when they see someone else using it and it creates a distraction which wastes everyone’s precious time.
Play with it before the meeting and show up in a beautiful place next time! Although most of the filters are more suitable for a personal chat than for a serious business meeting so don’t forget to keep things professional!
In case you didn’t know, you can set your own image or video as your meeting background. Some people have a lot of fun with this feature!
Generally, using an artificial background is a life-saver for sudden calls when your surroundings are messy. It will hide everything from piles of underwear to children playing in the back. Of course, it’s better to keep your home office workplace clean and tidy at all times but it’s a good solution for emergencies.
As we are done with important settings, I want to show you a simple idea for a home office setup that can be a game changer and influence your whole professional image.
3. Pro-Tip for professional Zoom meetings
Use Krisp for noise canceling
This is so useful if you have kids, pets, loud family members, or neighbors!
Krisp is a cheap tool that does a great job in suppressing all the unnecessary background noises during your calls. You can even hide other participant’s noises, how cool is that?
Here are some typical noise sources that take place during online meetings:
- Pets life: dogs barking, cats playing with rustling things, roosters screaming
- Children playing and talking
- Family members watching TV or playing video games
- Never-ending renovation by your neighbors
- Noisy devices like a vacuum cleaner, an air conditioner, or a hairdryer
- Sudden phone ringing or door knocking
- Airplanes or thunder noise from outside
- Street noise from people and traffic if you hop on a call on the go
- Coffee shop noise
- …and more
Sure, this is life and everyone understands but you can avoid all those awkward situations by just turning the noise cancelation tool on!
Zoom has its own noise cancelation you may try but it can’t compete with the tool specifically created for that purpose.
Krisp is only $5 per month for unlimited usage but it’s so worth it if you need to sound professional! You can test it out and see if it improves your experience cause they give you 120 minutes per week for free.
Here is a great comparison video to show the difference between Zoom noise cancelation feature and Krisp abilities in real-life noise situations:
Isn’t it impressive? Sign up for your free 120 minutes here.
Final thoughts on best zoom setup for home office in 2021
These were all my recommendations for zoom meetings at home in 2021!
Implementing this minimal home office setup is more than enough for most cases. Whether you have client calls, regular team meetings, recording podcasts, or teaching online lessons, these tips will make you stand out and look professional, even though you are working at home.
If you wanna go a step further and look even more professional in your office, look into lighting kits like this one. It includes all the necessary equipment for a basic home studio setup on a relatively low budget. Depending on what you do, it may be either a great investment or a huge overkill. Choose wisely!
Do you use any of the mentioned equipment or Zoom features? Or have a different perspective on what’s important in zoom calls from home? Share with me in the comments!