Stay Connected At For The Holidays Using Video Chatting

This segment aired Dec 11, 2008 on Channel 10 News at 4 on WLCY in Tampa. A link to watch is at the bottom of this post.

Lots of us aren’t traveling for the holidays to see the people we love…but still want a way to stay connected. Video chatting Skype, Oovoo, and iChat video conferencing make that possible. Families can sit around their computers and have face to face conversations and open gifts together. You could even set the equipment up at the end of each of your dinner tables and actually have a family dinner together even though you’re miles apart.

Video Chat programs are free, easy to use and just need a couple of accessories to really make your “calls” go smoothly.

The Programs

Most programs are free. Just go to the website and follow instructions to download to your computers. Some of the many – Skype ( maybe you have seen it used on Oprah), ooVoo ( has really cool visual effects), iChat ( a fav of MAC users), etc. Some even allow you to include people from up to 6 locations for free.

Sounding Good

Most computers are equiped with a microphone and speakers, but these don’t work so well with video chatting programs because the person you’re talking to will here your voice and their voice at the same time. So, you need is a microphone that can’t “hear” your speakers.
A headset is a great inexpensive option and good for privae conversations (start at $10). The only draw backs: 1) you’re tied to your computer by the wires so you can’t step away for a minute, 2) only one person at each computer can be involved in the conversation, 3) it messes up your hair.

Another option is a non-interfearance speakerphone. My fav is the IPEVO version (TR-10i Speakerphone for iChat for MAC users, TR-10 Portable Conference Phone for PC users $79). I like it because it has echo cancellation (so you can have a natural conversation), you can move around freely (because you’re not attached to your computer), you can switch to handset mode for private conversations, you don’t have to wear it (so your hair stays perfect). This is especially great at the holidays when you’re including a whole group in the conversation, opening presents together, eating dinner together, etc.

Looking Good

Some computers come with built-in webcams. These can be weird to use because you never have an eye-to-eye conversation because it’s difficult to look into the camera and watch the other caller on your computer screen at the same time. It’s better to have a stand-alone camera that you can mount at eye-level next to your screen. With this configuration, you can naturally look back and forth between the camera and screen the way you would in natural conversation.

My fav is the IPEVO Pointer Cam because it’s independent, so you can mount it where you want. You can also pick it up to show the caller something in another direction, give a close up of details, or even play with unusual camera angles.

Watch the segment

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