Remote conferencing

From Faster Than 20

Zoom is my software conferencing tool of choice. It's easy to use, it works well without killing your computer or bandwidth, it scales nicely to lots of users, it has breakout groups and screensharing, and you can also do webinars.


Most webcams tend to have a 24mm lenses, which gives you an 84 degree field of view. To really capture the whole room, especially at close distances, you'll ideally want a 120 degree field of view (12mm).

In a pinch, I've used a clip-on fisheye lens over the built-in Macbook Pro webcam to get a wider field of view. You could also do a similar trick with a mobile phone, and use a corresponding app to turn it into a webcam. For Android, you can use IP Webcam (there's a free, ad-supported version and a pro version), which you can then connect to using your web browser.


I find the Macbook Pro built-in webcam and audio work just fine for most needs. If I need privacy or are in a noisy area, I use a bluetooth noise canceling headset.


I rarely do hybrid virtual / face-to-face meetings. When I do that, I usually incorporate lots of breakout groups, so that people are essentially conferencing into a joint, virtual conference call rather than attempting to have a virtual participant in a face-to-face conversation.

In the rare times when I do support the latter, it's critical to have high-quality audio and (to a lesser extent) video. The best hacked together solution I've used is the Logitech HD Pro Webcam c920 (~$80) for wide-angle video and the Blue Yeti USB Microphone (~$120) for audio input. For speakers, I have an ancient bluetooth UE speaker, which they no longer make, but their other speakers, including the Roll 2 (~$100) are also good. Your favorite bluetooth speakers should be fine.

That said, hacked together solutions are not ideal for a lot of reasons. I've been exploring more specialized conferencing systems, but I haven't tried any of them. Here are some resources:

See also telepresence robot.

The other advantage of a more professional audio system is that you could potentially do a high-quality recording of a meeting, including breakout groups, without having to stick boom mics in people's faces.