Tech tools

A look at applications, gadgets, and other technology that can improve a CPA’s job and life.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

3 WAYS TO PROFESSIONALIZE YOUR ZOOM PRESENCE

I'm a remote worker (work is something you do, not somewhere you go!), so I've been a Zoom proponent for years. Little did I know when I introduced you to Zoom in July 2018 that a pandemic less than two years later would turn us all into daily Zoom users.

I spend multiple hours daily in Zoom meetings, and I'm sure you do, too. But have you given any thought to "professionalizing" the way that you use Zoom? Given the frequency and duration of Zoom meetings in today's "new normal," I submit that the platform is just as important as your main website or your physical office.

You can find roughly 5 million articles (I said roughly) that cover the easy basics of Zoom, but easy is no longer enough.

You need professional-grade equipment to mirror your overall professional appearance. Here are three ways to up your Zoom game.

Sound: If you want to sound professional, you need to get the sound right. Start by minimizing background distractions, keeping yourself muted when not speaking (the space bar is your friend!), and positioning yourself properly respective to your microphone.

Ah, yes, the microphone. If you're using a built-in microphone ... stop and do the following! First, spend a few bucks for an adjustable suspension boom (sometimes called a scissor-arm stand). This will cost you perhaps $25. Second, add a professional-grade USB microphone. The selections here are myriad and range from $25 to, well, a lot! Consider the Blackweb BWA19HO011 at the lower end of that range or the pricier, but definitely worth it, Blue Yeti at about $130. I use the Blue Yeti every day.

Camera: You might already know all the rules about background, positioning, angles, etc., but if you're using a bottom-of-the-line webcam or (horrors) your laptop's built-in camera, stop and invest in an upscale, professional-grade webcam. Things like resolution, frame rate, high definition or ultra-high definition, auto focus, lens type (get glass, not plastic), and pan and zoom capabilities are all important. My hands-down favorite here is the Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Webcam (about $200).

Lighting: Lighting is arguably one of the most important components of a professional appearance. To avoid the dreaded shady face, invest a few dollars in a lighting tool designed specifically for web meetings. Good professional lighting is relatively cheap, so consider adding either a cube, a ring light, or a softbox. I use a Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting Kit ($70). I also like the Neewer 18-inch Dimmable LED Ring Light (about $70) and the LimoStudio LMS103 Soft Lighting Kit (about $50). Each of these units will solve your shady face problems and, when used with your new professional-grade webcam and microphone, will help you look and sound just as smart and professional as you really are.

Recap: Costs: Boom arm, $25; microphone, $130; camera, $200; lighting, $70. Grand total, $425. Benefit: Priceless.

FUN FARM

A few weeks ago, we hosted a Zoom birthday party for my 6-year-old grandson, and we invited some very special guests including lambs, donkeys, pigs, chickens, and even an alpaca! All courtesy of GleanScreen from GleanforGood.net, a South Dakota-based not-for-profit feeding ministry. We "invited" them to the party, and let's just say they were a HUGE hit! Booking is done online, and once you've sent them the login information, they handle the rest. Fees start at about $100.

Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4056.

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