You’re recording a podcast on Zoom when suddenly your guest’s video and audio freezes. What do you do?
On Zoom, when a person’s feed lags or freezes, but your video and audio continue uninterrupted, this indicates that the other person is having an issue with their Internet connection.
Audio problems, glitches, and latency happen to all podcasters and video content creators. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way!
Here are 10 troubleshooting tips your guest or you can take to get a smooth connection for your next show (or, perhaps, your next re-recording).
Ideally, go wired with a USB-C to Ethernet adapter.
A wired connection is always going to give you the strongest connection possible.
If you’re using a device that accepts an Ethernet cable, plug in that cable! Just connect your Ethernet cable from your router directly to your device.
If you have a MacBook, iPad, iPhone, or any other device made in the last decade with a USB-C input (but no Ethernet), you can get a Belkin USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter for $30.
This is the easiest proactive way to ensure that if you’re on a call where your internet is at fault, you can quickly connect to a wired network. Better yet, you can plug in your device to Ethernet before you record any episode to ensure the best possible connection every time.
(If you’re using a device with a Lightning input, and not a USB-C input, you can get a Belkin Ethernet + Power Adapter with Lightning Connector. This one costs a lot more, and Lightning is in the process of being phased out. So I’d suggest getting the other adapter and recording with a USB-C device.)
Switch to your 5 GHz Internet.
If your Internet drops out, move close to your local router, then connect to your 5 GHz Internet. Your 2.4 GHz connection gets Internet to a wider area at the expense of speed, while your 5 GHz connection is all about speed at the expense of range. (This is why it’s important to physically move closer to your router.)
If your internet often bugs out, make sure to get close to your router before you start a call.
I’ve seen this happen and it’s not a great use of anyone’s time: First, you get through several minutes of a call or interview while your Internet is failing. By the time the person you’re speaking to is privately exhausted, you try moving somewhere else in your workspace. After wasting 3 minutes moving to a new location and switching your Internet connection, the Internet is only slightly better, or not an improvement at all.
A Zoom call is an opportunity to present your best self and connect with the person you’re talking to. Waiting for your 2.4 GHz connection to become unbearable is counterproductive to both of these goals. This is why I suggest starting every call either wired in or on a 5GHz signal.
Get a WiFi range extender.
If your office is far from your router, you can still potentially use 5 GHz internet with a range extender. For less than $100, this device will amplify your WiFi signal and rebroadcast the boosted signal.
Get a better router.
Zoom states that you should have a download speed of 3 Mbps and an upload speed of 3.8 Mbps.
You can verify your Internet speed using Google’s speed test or Ookla’s Speedtest website.
If you’re not getting adequate speed, check to see what model router you’re using and the specs on that model. Then check with your Internet provider to see what premium routers they currently recommend.
Many of the best routers cost $100-200. If you’d like to try a new router, PC Magazine has a shortlist of the latest and greatest routers.
On the other hand, if the router doesn’t seem to be the issue, you can do further troubleshooting on your network.
Adjust your Zoom settings.
Insize Zoom preferences, uncheck the “HD” and “Touch up my appearance” options. These will decrease the bandwidth required for your video connection.
To access these options, click “zoom.us” next to your computer’s start menu, then select “Preferences”. Inside the popup, click the “Video” options menu.
Try recording somewhere else.
If Wifi is constantly a problem in a particular location, you can try recording somewhere else.
If the alternative recording location might have outside noise, pick up a pair of gaming headphones with a built-in cardioid microphone. These headphones will block outside noise so you can hear your conversation partner. The built-in cardioid microphone will only pick up sound in the direction of your mouth, blocking most peripheral noise from your environment.
If you prefer, you can turn your favorite pair of noise-canceling headphones into a headset by attaching a boom microphone. I personally use Bose QC-35s with an Audio-Technica ATGM2 boom mic.
If all else fails, use a phone.
I did this once, and it saved an interview.
To use a phone line, ask the podcast host if they would be ok with you calling them, putting their smartphone on speakerphone, and recording the audio from their end. (You might want to add, “We can also reschedule if that works better for you.”)
Here’s how this works:
- First ask for the podcast host’s phone number.
- Call the podcast host using your phone’s built-in phone app.
- The host should put the call on speakerphone and then move their phone near their microphone.
- Both the host and the guest should mute the output sound on their computers to prevent audio feedback.
- As the podcast guest, you should put your Zoom microphone on mute. This way, the Zoom call will only have audio coming from the host’s microphone.
- The podcast host should record the Zoom conversation as usual.
With this approach, the podcast host’s voice will have the same audio quality as usual. The guest’s audio will be suboptimal since it will be filtered through a phone line and the speakers of the host’s phone. However, you’ll at least be able to have a conversation without dropouts.
If you’re a host, you can try a service that records locally.
Most podcast hosts use Zoom, StreamYard, or Webex because these platforms make it easy for guests to join a call. However, one downside to these services is that they premix audio from all speakers down to one audio track.
Zencastr and SquadCast cost about $20/month. These services save audio locally on each participants’ device during a recording. This virtually eliminates dropouts since the podcast host can patch in audio from each participant wherever a gap occurred.
There’s a catch: The extra step to sync audio takes time, and many podcasters just don’t find the benefits worth the extra time. Podcast host Shannon Hernandez, for example, said he would only use a podcast recording service with separate audio tracks if he had a co-host and he was trying to simulate being in the same studio.
If you’re a host, ask your guest to repeat sentences.
If you hear an occasional dropout during a recording, you can let your guest know and then ask, “Can you repeat the sentence where you said…?”
I would do this even if I were broadcasting live. While it’s not convenient, it’s important for listeners to hear what a guest is saying.
If you’re not broadcasting live, then you have an easy opportunity to swap in your retakes while editing.
You can always reschedule.
If dropouts occur repeatedly, I’d suggest asking your guest if they can switch to a 5GHz connection or wired connection.
If this doesn’t work, you can discuss an alternative location for the guest to record and then schedule a new recording time.
Podcast listeners don’t expect every guest to have perfect audio. However, you don’t want your listeners to have to constantly guess what a guest is saying.
Rather than provide a poor listening experience, it’s best to re-record.