‘Your internet connection is unstable’—dealing with virtual meeting snafus

‘Your internet connection is unstable’—dealing with virtual meeting snafus

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It's a reality of WFH life: sometimes the internet connection just sucks. Sometimes your whole family's on their own video calls, or all your roommates are streaming movies, or the entire neighborhood is spreading misinformation on Facebook. Whatever the case, it's frustrating and not always easily fixable.

But when the video freezes and the audio drops there are a few things to try before you get on your next Zoom / Webex / Teams / Slack / etc. call. It's worth doing them in the order below—each of these 15 steps potentially is a solution, but they get progressively more involved, disruptive, and expensive as you go through them.

5 simple solutions

  1. Mute yourself. When your microphone is on, Zoom devotes part of your Internet connection to it (even if you're not talking).
  2. Disable HD video in the meeting app's settings, or turn off your video entirely. Upload speeds typically are slower than download speeds.
  3. Sit closer to your wireless access point or router to get a better WiFi signal. Then when you can, check your connection speed and if it's slower than your ISP says it should be, contact them.
  4. If you're using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and can turn it off, do so. Going through a VPN can slow your connection speed.
  5. Quit other apps and stop all other connections. For example, cloud backups and syncing using Dropbox or OneDrive can take up a lot of bandwidth. 

5 tedious solutions

  1. Connect directly to your router with an Ethernet cable (you may need to buy an Ethernet to USB adapter). If you do this, be sure to prioritize wired connections over wifi connections in your network settings (Mac & PC).
  2. "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Reboot the router (this can sometimes take up to 10 minutes to complete). Restart the laptop, too, while you're at it.
  3. For an in-progress meeting emergency, just dial in as a voice call on your phone. Or, depending on your cellular contract, you could tether your laptop to your mobile device and connect over the phone network (be careful if you have data limits). Your WiFi should usually be faster, though.
  4. If your WiFi lets you connect at either 5GHz or 2.4 GHz, switch to the 5GHz band. It has a smaller range but tends to be less crowded. Also, check if your WiFi router has any available firmware upgrades.
  5. Ask everyone in the home to stay offline until you're done with your important meeting. Also, assess just how many things are always connected to your network. These days many of us have multiple personal devices, smart TVs and appliances, cameras, virtual assistants, etc.

5 heavy lift solutions

  1. If none of those self-help solutions do the trick, contact your company's IT expert or department (they'll probably ask about all the stuff above anyway).
  2. If you're renting a modem or router and haven't replaced it in the last 3-5 years, check with your ISP to find out if you can get a newer one installed.
  3. Purchasing a WiFi extender may help increase the reach and strength of the signal.
  4. Pay your internet service provider for a higher bandwidth connection.
  5. If it's more than few years old, upgrade your computer.

Constant virtual meetings are frustrating enough without having connection problems piling on and kicking you out.

Good luck!


Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash.