Top 5 Hardware for Online Training and Webinars
Like it or not, online training and webinars are here to stay. But if your super-duper learning content isn't presented on decent hardware, it can ruin the effect on your learner. Whether you're recording a podcast, running a webinar, or teaching others the best way to use Pivot tables (those things are hard!), having the right equipment goes a long way toward looking and sounding like a pro. In this article, we've broken down what types of hardware you'll need to wow your learners.
Table of Contents:
"A picture is worth a thousand words." Your camera is the hardware you need to paint that picture.
We recommend that the camera supports high definition (HD), meaning that it can capture images at 720p or 1080p.
The camera should be easy to set up: if it requires an extra cable to be plugged into your laptop, that's probably not a good fit for online training. The same goes for cameras that have to be mounted on the wall. These are best left for professional recording studios where people are paid handsomely for their work.
The camera should offer some control over exposure settings. This will allow you to easily handle any lighting conditions with minimal fussing.
Finally, use what's available. If you have an old smartphone lying around, use it. Download the EpocCam app, plug it into your computer, and you're ready to rock your session. Of course, you can always buy an expensive DSLR or a mirrorless camera. But if you're going to use it as a webcam, is the investment really worth it?
A microphone is a must for video conferencing. If your video or slides don't work, you can still make the session happen. But without audio - there is no session.
And while you can rely on your built-in microphone, our recommendation is to get a simple plug-and-play mic instead. Most of these have a noise-canceling feature, and you can position them really close to your mouth.
There are some really cheap ones that you can buy. But you can also turn your old smartphone into a mic. Just download an app of your liking and go to town!
One final thing about mics - position it correctly. Aim it toward your mouth, so there's no echo when you speak. And make sure that there's nothing between you and the mic because that can cause a disturbance.
You'll also need a good pair of headphones for your online classes. If you already have a favorite pair, great! But if not, make sure they're comfortable to wear for long periods of time and that they don't leave any sort of permanent imprint on your earlobes.
Wired is better than wireless because the signal is stronger, and there won't be any delays in the audio. It also reduces the risk of accidentally dropping them—the last thing you want is to ruin a lecture over an expensive pair of headphones!
Using speakers instead of headphones isn't a good idea. Speakers can cause an echo effect.
Use a backdrop. Backgrounds in your videos can be a helpful tool for creating a more polished look and keeping the viewer's attention focused on you.
A green screen is one option for creating the look of being somewhere else, but there are several other options.
You can also consider using a virtual background instead of a physical one if you don't have access to anything suitable locally. But keep in mind that they only work if you have an excellent camera and computer. Otherwise, it can get choppy.
You should also remove items that distract from your video's message, such as laundry or even people who walk by behind you while filming (if that happens often).
Lights are the most important and crucial equipment you need to create a professional-looking video. The most basic light setup comprises a key light, a rim light, and practical lights.
Key Light: A key light is used to illuminate your face so that it can be seen by the camera while adding depth and dimension to it as well. This can be done with a softbox or an umbrella if you want something more diffused. Soft shadows are achieved when you place the key light at 45 degrees to your right or left.
Again, while there are some cheap options out there, you can use the lights you already have - like a window or a glass door. But avoid those sharp shadows by draping a translucent curtain over them and avoid standing directly in the sunlight.
Rim Light: A rim light is something you place behind you (usually diagonally from your key light) to separate you from the background and give you more contrast. The effect is that the side of your face that isn't lit as much by the key light gets a nice subtle glow.
Remember not to overpower them because they are meant only for separation from the background, so keep their power low.
Practical Lights: These kinds of lights can be used for creating ambiance. Use candles, soft lights, fairy lights, or RGB lights. Their purpose is to light up any dark spots in your background and make it more interesting.
A quick note about your lights - you can ignore the rim lights, and you definitely don't need to mess with practical lights. But if you want a professional look, do not skip the key light. It is what separates pros from amateurs.
If you have a decent camera, a good microphone with headphones, and a good light, you don't need much more. But if you want to take it to the next level, here are a few of our recommendations:
StreamDeck: this is an additional programmable keyboard that you can set up to do anything on your computer. We often use it to toggle our microphone, camera, participants, and chat windows on Zoom or Teams. And you can do all of these without switching back and forth between your apps or windows. But a really cool thing you can do is set up different messages you want to send via chat throughout the session. Then, when you need to sed them, you just click a button, and it sends the message automatically. How cool is that?!
Tablet or iPad: many conferencing applications allow you to use your tablet as a whiteboard. So you can draw live in front of your learners. Our favorite free app is Whiteboard by Microsoft.
Desk and chair: If someone had told us this would be on the list of the necessary hardware for online trainings a couple of years ago, we would have laughed. Since then (and a couple of visits to doctors later), we've realized how important it is to have a comfortable and ergonomic chair and a desk. While there is conflicting research on the topics, we still love our motorized standing desks. Anytime we feel discomfort, we can just stand up, get our blood circulating and think "on our feet" (we'll let ourselves out!).
Teaching or training online doesn't have to be rocket science. But you do need a couple of essentials.
Now you're all set to create great content and deliver online training sessions or webinars on Zoom (or any platform of your choosing!)