I was going to write this post as a hidden page to help guests on our This Week in Organic show. However, why not share this information with the world! Hopefully other folk out there who are thinking of using Blab as one of their livestream platforms will be able to benefit from our experience.

(By the way, click here to follow us on Blab. That way you’ll be notified when we go live with an episode of our own show, This week in Organic.)

I’m going to break these tips down into 7 steps will help you get set up with the right equipment, make sure all your computer settings are right; and help you take part in a way that makes you look good!

 Here are the 7 steps to be a great guest on Blab…

    1. Microphone
    2. Webcam
    3. Lighting
    4. Before you join
    5. ‘Calling in’ & joining a Blab
    6. Taking part
    7. Fault finding

1) Microphone

It’s important that you should as good as possible. A microphone that’s integrated into a laptop can often pick up a lot of fan noise and a headset mic can sound a bit tinny, not giving a true representation of the qualities in your voice.

There are many different types of microphone that you could use, but they tend to split into 2 main categories – condenser and dynamic microphones.

The challenge with condenser microphones is that although they often produce a high quality, truer sound, they also tend to pick up a lot of background noise, so this isn’t ideal in most office environments.

Therefore, we’d recommend a decent quality dynamic microphone on a stand to ensure that it’s close enough to you (dynamic microphones tend to be less sensitive, so you need to be approximately 4 inches from the microphone to get the best sound quality) – and you should also add a windshield of some sort to help to deal with the plosives.

The great value for money ATR-2100
The great value for money ATR-2100

UK microphone set up recommendation

Microphone: Samson Q2U
Stand: Broadcast Suspension Stand
Windshield: SoundLAB G122CA

USA microphone set up recommendation

Microphone: ATR2100-USA
Stand: NEEWER Suspension Arm Stand
Windscreen: On Stage Foam Ball

Both the microphones above are both USB and XLR. This means that they can plug directly into your computer via USB, but if you want to upgrade your setup by adding a mixer in the future, you’ll be able to use the XLR output.

2) Webcam

Webcams that are integrated into laptops tend to be OK, but not the best quality. Add this to the fact that a laptop-integrated webcam tends to be positioned quite a bit lower than your face – and pointing up – therefore it isn’t the most flattering angle. It probably makes sense to invest in a better, external webcam.

N.B. Although your video won’t be displayed as HD in Blab, because you’re likely to wanting to use the camera elsewhere (e.g. YouTube) and because the display resolution of Blab video is only likely to get better in the future, we recommend that you purchase an HD webcam.

The Logitech C920
The Logitech C920

Webcam recommendations

UK webcam: Logitech C920

USA webcam: Logitech C920

Using a virtual webcam

For guests looking for that ‘pro’ look, you might want to consider using virtual webcam software like SparkoCam. What this does is take your actual webcam signal (you’ll still need a decent webcam like the Logitech C920 to power the video signal) and gives you the opportunity to add an extra front or back layer to the video. This is how we add our monitors in the background (via green screen) and add the presenter information and branding imagery to This Week In Organic.

If you’re using SparkoCam, all you have to do is add a ‘foreground image’ to add additional graphics to the screen. Just ensure that the main section of the image is transparent to display your video.

3) Lighting

Probably the biggest mistake with lighting is to have too much light behind you and not enough light in front of you. This will result in you looking more like a silhouette!

But ideally you will do better than just having a light in front of you. Try and make sure that your lighting isn’t too glaring (i.e. a single light, too close to you).

A better lighting setup would be to have a couple of lights to the front left and front right of you, and another light above you to give a feeling of depth.

The following lighting setup should work well:

USA lighting: Fancierstudio lighting

UK lighting: PhotoGeeks Continuous Lighting

4) Before you join

Internet connection

Try to ensure that your internet connection is as good as possible. Ideally this means fixed line internet and stopping anyone else using the same network from extensive internet usage at the same time.

Default browser microphone & webcam settings

You can select your default microphone in the control panel of your computer (Control panel > Hardware and sound > Sound > Recording), however, you may also have a different default microphone selected by default in your web browser, so beware!

Here’s where you can find your default microphone and webcam settings in Chrome:
Settings > Show advanced settings >  Content settings > Media

Make sure that your preferred microphone and webcam is selected in your browser, and close and reopen your browser to ensure that the settings take effect.

Default microphone volume

Sometimes your computer resents your microphone volume and you’ll have to adjust that to ensure that your levels are right.

Test your microphone levels and adjust so that the green level bar gets near to the top (without hitting the top) when you are speaking loudly here:
Control panel > Hardware and sound > Sound > Recording

Test webcam & sound using Skype

Sometimes you’re not sure about the name of the microphone that you should be using on your computer. If that’s the case, it’s likely that you’ve got Skype installed. Try placing a test call on Skype to see what settings you should be using.

You can also use Skype to test the positioning of your webcam and see whether or not your lighting is sufficient.

Make sure you’re wearing headphones

When you don’t wear headphones and rely on speakers to listen to what’s going on you’re probably going to introduce sound feedback for other people on the call. This will make it tougher for listeners to hear what’s going on, make it more difficult for other guests on the panel – and also reduce the quality of the podcast if the show’s being recorded. Please wear headphones!

5) ‘Calling in’ & joining a Blab

Make sure you are logged-in and subscribed to the Blab that you’re going to call-in to. To do that, simply sign-up up to Blab if you haven’t done so already by joining with your Twitter account, visit the actual Blab you’re going to join and click ‘subscribe’.  You’ll see a countdown clock. When the Blab starts you’ll see a ‘Call-in’ button.

But in the meantime, while you’re there you’ll see a comments section to the right hand side. Introduce yourself and say hi to the audience. By doing this, you’ll be notifying the host that you’re there and ready to join the call.

One you see the ‘Call-in’ button after the countdown clock finishes, if you’ve been invited to be a guest, click on the ‘Call-in’ button and when the host accepts you you’ll appear live on the screen.

Bear in mind when you join the call, you’re live to the general public straight away (although if the host is recording a show, he or she probably hasn’t started recording yet).

6) Taking part

You want to look and sound as good as possible while you’re on the show, and help others do the same too. Here’s a few tips to help you do that…

Webcam positioning

The most common mistake with webcam positioning is to place your head in the centre of the screen, leaving too much space above your head.

If you think about how a newsreader or sports presenter looks on television, they only have a small amount of space at the top of their heads, and that’s the look that you should try to emulate too – a little bit of space, but not too much above your head.

Also, apparently studies have been done to show that the viewer considers a presenter to be more authoritative if they only have a small gap above their heads, so it’s worthwhile taking the time to try and get right!

Microphone technique

If you’re using a dynamic microphone like one of the ones suggested above, then you should be aware that the placement of your microphone significantly impacts the quality and loudness of your sound.

What you should be aiming for is for your mouth to be about 4 inches away from the microphone, and at a slight angle away from it. Too close and the audience will hear your breathing. Too far away and your sound levels will quickly drop off.

(One of the benefits with using a dynamic microphone is that it’s very good at not sucking in background noise such as computer fans. But also be aware that if you get too far away from the microphone we’ll hardly be able to hear you either.)

Also, the reason why you want to have your microphone at a slight angle and also use a windscreen (again see section 1 above) is to minimise any microphone sounds picked up from you breathing. You will become a more natural performer over time!

Don’t be afraid to jump in!

A roundtable format generally means that the conversation is more interesting if you just jump in with your opinion – don’t be afraid to be asked to have your say – and it’s even better if you have a strong opinion and disagree with one or two people!

Tell a little bird

Towards the top left hand side of the Blab you will be able to see the ‘tell a little bird’ button. Click on this to share the Blab with your own followers (including handles of the participants in the tweet). ‘Telling a little bird’ and encouraging others to ‘tell a little bird’ is very much appreciated by your host as it helps to drive more live viewers and therefore more interaction.

Try to interact with the comments

To the right hand side of the Blab you’ll see a comments section – even though you’re on the screen, introduce yourself there & say hi. This way the audience will feel more involved.

Also, once you’re comfortable participating on Blab, try to add value in the chat by doing things like sharing relevant links, answering questions or reading out the questions of those watching.

Self-muting if background noise

Hopefully if you have a nice microphone and a reasonable working environment then you won’t have to be too concerned about your own background noise disrupting the quality of the Blab for those watching. But bear in mind that if your background noise level isn’t ideal then you should try to mute yourself when you aren’t speaking. It’s good webinar etiquette! 🙂

7) Fault finding

Echo

If you hear an echo, the most common reason for that happening is having more than one browser window open on your computer with the same Blab playing in the different window. Check your open browser tabs to make sure.

No video or poor audio quality

If you’re having issues with your video displaying – or you’re not seeing the video of others – or the audio quality that you’re receiving is poor, try refreshing your browser page. You’ll leave the show as a participant, but just click the ‘Call in’ button again to re-join and the host will let you in again.

Final thoughts

That completes my slightly-longer-than-originally-intended “7 Steps to be a Great Guest on Blab LiveStream” blog post. Of course many of the above tips could also be applies to taking part in a webinar or being interviewed on a podcast. I do hope that it in encourages you to give Blab a go, if you haven’t done so already. Happy Blabbing!