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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Be the hero under the tree: Here's the secret on saving 30-50% off name-brand, high-tech Christmas presents.

Christmas sure has changed since I was a kid.

When I was eight, as my youngest is now, I looked forward to GI Joe action figures, a new football or even my dream present: a 5.5 HP cherry-red go-kart with a genuine vinyl driver's seat. The Sears catalog was my obsession and the closet thing to electronics I experienced was my sister's EZ Bake Oven.

Now, unless the present goes beep or has rechargeable batteries, my kids are just not interested. Subjectively, this isn't an issue until it comes time to pull out my wallet and pay for these miracles of technology. As soon as my AmEx card starts to cry from all of the overuse, I start looking for alternatives that deliver the same quality, but is easier on my bank account.

Then, I found out about certified, reconditioned products. These are often lightly used or completely untouched items returned to the manufacturer by the original purchasers. By law, they cannot be resold as new, so the manufacturer sells them at a discount- sometimes a big discount- to smart consumers looking for a great deal. The reasons for return are many: the buyer may have changed their minds, the product is the wrong color, there was a minor repair needed or simply there was no one to sign for the delivery.
Is this Kindle 8.9 HD new or used?
If you can't tell, why not save some money?
The manufacturer takes the returns, repairs them if necessary and thoroughly tests them to confirm they're operating properly. Then, they're resold with the manufacturer's full warranty.

The pros of this kind of purchase are obvious. The price is lower- sometimes 30-50% lower than the identical brand-new product. The testing procedure after repair is often more rigorous than at the factory of origin and can spot and correct problems before the product heads out of the door.

Cons? Sometimes, selection is severely limited to stock on hand and your choices of colors, sizes, memory capacity, etc. may change every week. Older models may be your only choice or the reconditioned products may be completely sold out, forcing you to spend more to buy new.

Here are three of the most popular companies that recondition and sell their products:


The secret to buying reconditioned at Apple is checking back daily and buying as early as possible as these bargains go fast. Everything from iMacs, iPods and iPads are available as well as closeouts and clearance products.  Everything is guaranteed and the prices are pretty good too, And,'s Apple!

Go to this URL to shop:


Not long ago, I bought a certified, factory reconditioned 8.9" Kindle HD tablet for around $125 less than new. It works perfectly and with the savings, I was able to upgrade from 32 gigs of memory to 64 gigs and I also bought a case and extra charger and still saved around $85 from the identical new product. If anything does go wrong, the excellent Amazon customer service will take care of business and repair or replace my tablet with no trouble. But, so far, my tablet is humming along nicely. Remember to ensure that the tablet is reconditioned and certified by Amazon itself and no other 3rd party.

Go here to see more reconditioned Amazon products: Certified Reconditioned Kindles


As one of the largest manufacturers of all things computer, Dell has a thriving refurbishment and clearance business not only for home or casual use, but also business and corporate products for the big boys. Selection may be small, but with persistence and a bit of luck, you just might run across a terrific deal for yourself.

Go here to spend your money: Dell Outlet

If you can't find your ideal gift on these sites, simply Google "reconditioned ---------" along with the item of your choice. For the most peace of mind, ensure the product is reconditioned and guaranteed by the original manufacturer and you'll have the happiest 8 year-old in the neighborhood.

Now, let's see if anyone reconditions 5.5 HP cherry-red go-karts with a genuine vinyl driver's seat...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Video Streaming sticks compared: How does the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Roku Streaming Stick and the Google Chromecast help you cut the cable TV habit?

We have a Smart TV in the living room. All by itself, the TV is able to connect to the internet using its built-in WiFi connection to access video services like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and others. It's a great way to connect these services without running extra wires and occupying another electrical outlet.

The other two TVs are in the master bedroom and den. These are not Smart TVs but still have a way to get the subscriber services because they're both hooked up to individual XBoxes. It's not such a big deal in the den, where my kids play video games, but the one in the master is used solely to access Netflix so my wife can watch "Orange is the New Black" in peace. Without much room on the dresser for both the TV and the console, the whole arrangement looks messy and its a pain to turn on the box, sign in to XBox live, find Netflix, sign into that, enter your specific saved search and on and on...

She's been getting tired of this unsightly, tedious arrangement and so have I. Luckily, the tech industry has spotted an opportunity and has filled it with some interesting solutions.

The first few products consist of a small box the size of a paperback book. Several companies produce this kind of product including Roku, Sony, Amazon Fire TV and others. They are simple plug n' play devices that deliver all of the content anyone could possibly want.
No bigger than the palm of your hand.
(courtesy: The Verge)
The problem is that each of these products are still a box that needs to be stored somewhere and yet another electrical plug that needs a spot on the power strip. If this is not an issue for you, by all means go ahead and acquire one or more of these for your entertainment setup. But, there is another option.

If size matters to you (insert inappropriate joke here) there are some great video-streaming  products out there that not only deliver the same content as the set-top boxes, but do it in a small package no larger than a pack of gum.

The main players in this game are the Google Chromecast, Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV stick. Size wise, they're all about the same and the prices range from $35 for the Chromecast, $39 for the Amazon and $49 for the Roku.

Invisibly turn your dumb TV into a smart one in seconds
(courtesy: techradar)
All of them use your television's HDMI port to get power (no AC plug!) and deliver the HD content to the TV. And, because of it's small size, it vanishes behind the TV. Two out of three come with a remote (Chromecast uses an app you download to your smartphone) and that's it.
 My family cancelled our cable and we pay a combined $15/mo for unlimited streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies. We call it "semi-cable" and don't miss Ch**ter cable at all. compared the three big players discussed above and produced a handy chart to compare and contrast them for your review. Go to the article here.

Techradar did the same. Go here for another opinion.

And, here's yet another comparison from

Amazon's page for the TV Streaming Stick is here. Although they are so back ordered that you can expect delivery after the New Year.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The iPhone 6 and 6+ Review: Are these bigger phones worth the (much) bigger price tag?

The iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6+ have been in user's hands for about 10 days now and the user reviews are starting to come in.

In user's hands: iPhone 6 (L) and iPhone6+ (R)
To review, the new iPhones are larger (6= 4.7", 6+= 5.5") than the current iPhone 5s and are more in line with Android phone manufacturers who have been offering much more screen real estate for years now. Additionally, the new iPhones arrive with iOS8, a new camera and the ability to pay for your stuff using Near Field Communications technology and a great deal more.

Apple also claims the iPhones are the thinnest Apple phones ever, although I have always been puzzled as to why this claim is so important to their market. If it takes an extra millimeter to add a huge battery for a long life, I don't care- just get it done. But Apple has an obsession with thin, thin, thin and thinks everyone else does too. I don't think it's all that important, but apparently others do.

TechRadar extensively reviewed the phone recently and found it to be a better product all around, although they did criticize it for it's high price and average screen resolution. You can find the review here. Be warned- the review runs for twelve pages and is best viewed on a desktop or tablet as loading a new page every 45 seconds can get tedious.

Stephen Fry with his iPhone 6+ (I told you it was large!)
(courtesy: Gizmodo)
In more humorous vein, British funnyman Stephen Fry- long time and proud tech geek, Apple fan and commentator-  has written his take on the iPhone 6. It is very British with it's terms and lingo and slang, but his message is clear and delightful to read. Click here to go to it.

Will I get one of the bigger iPhone 6 siblings when the time comes to make that decision (March of next year)? I'm not sure...

I mean, my iPhone5 has been trouble-free and reliable for the past 18 months, but the way I use my smartphone doesn't necessarily mean I need a million apps, or one of the gazillion accessories available for the iPhone family. And the cost! Wow...

There's a lot of competition out there from Android and Windows phones and they're just going to get better every few months. So, when March arrives, I'm going to have to think a great deal about my next smartphone choice.

I can't wait.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Buy a Motorcycle that ISN'T a Harley Davidson- the 2015 Indian Motorcycle is a Classic Alternative!

Being popular doesn't mean that everyone wants you.

There are people in the world looking to separate themselves from the crowd. They seek out the different, the unusual and the unknown. Motorcycle enthusiasts know this well and look for choices that speak to their personality- that's the reason they buy motorcycles and not a station wagon.

Harley Davidson motorcycles are fantastic bikes, but every dentist, accountant and insurance agent with a mid-life crisis has one. And usually in black. What if I'm one of the folks out there shopping for a different kind of bike? A choice that isn't necessarily the popular or expected one? There's even a Facebook page dissing the ride from Milwaukee.

That's why the free market exists, my friends. There is apparently enough demand for a classically styled  motorcycle that isn't a Harley to support competition for that 53 year-old salesman's hard earned money.

Put this in a group of typical black Harleys and see who gets noticed.
Indian Motorcycle is a name nearly as legendary as Harley Davidson. Born at the turn of the last century, Indian disappeared from the scene in the 50's but was resurrected in the early 2000's as an entry into the growing market for classic motorcycles.

NOT a Harley.
Ever since its Phoenix-like rise, Indian has built a near cult following with it's brawny appearance and relative rarity. This doesn't mean the Indian is primitive, however. It's packed with state of the art electronics and options that allow it to keep up with the Harleys of the world.

But, who are we kidding? In this market, style is king and the Indian is sculpted with classic shapes, covered in dramatic color choices and dressed in stylish accessories designed to tell the world that what you're riding isn't a Harley.

It's an Indian

And that's all any High School principal could ask.

To see the 2015 Indian lineup, go to the website here.

Plus, there's a review of the 2015 Indian Roadmaster on 

The Thor Vegas RUV. A new kind of Class-A RV- small on size, small on price and BIG on value!

My parents owned their own business for 40 years. My dad, in particular, worked extremely hard to make the business a success. 16 hour days, seven days a week were the norm. He landed clients, serviced accounts and built his reputation until he was the go-to guy in his industry for advice, questions and quality results. Not bad for someone who had to quit high school to help support his family.

Now, 40 years later, my parents are enjoying the fruits of their long days of toil by travelling the USA in an RV. Not just any RV, mind you, but a true land yacht that's 36 feet long, swathed in leather and granite and cost more than my first house (and nearly as much as my 2nd!). Don't ask me about the fuel bill...

That's OK with me because they earned it. But, I've been watching the fun and memories they've been having and it got me and the wife to thinking about making some RV memories of our own. But, with two little ones still in school and their big sister in college, I doubt we'll be procuring the rolling mansion my parents have now. So, I started looking around the internet for something a bit more practical for a middle-class family budget and needs.

We thought about a trailer, but then decided against it because of backing up issues and they seem so, well...flimsy, I guess. Then we looked at Class-C models (the kind with an obvious truck cab up front), but found nothing that seemed to catch our eye.

Finally, we started searching available Class-A models. These are the traditional all-in-one models with the steering and seats as a part of the interior. Nothing seemed right until we stumbled across the Vegas RUV.
Vegas baby!

Built by Thor Motor Coach, the Vegas and it's sister model, the Axis are far smaller than traditional Class-A motorcoaches. In fact, Thor claims the Vegas is only 5 feet longer than a Chevy Suburban, yet still sleeps 5 in complete comfort. It's because of this size distinction that Thor adds the "RUV" suffix for "Recreational Utility Vehicle".

Regardless of the reason for the marketing department inspired name, the Vegas certainly has a distinctive appearance. It's curved windshield and stacked headlamps separate it from the other rolling boxes on the Class-A scene.

Yet it still comes with equipped with all the comforts of home: flat screen TV, Queen sized bed, shower, solid surface counters and more.
This kitchen is fancier than the one in my house

And the best part is the price. in the world of RV sales, a new Class-A can easily cost in excess of $175,000 and go far, far higher. The Vegas, on the other hand, can be had for less than $75,000. Don't believe me? Check out this link for proof.

As for our family's RV purchase plans? Spring is looking more likely for our purchase date and the Vegas is #1 on our list.

I'll call my mom and see what she says.

To see the Vegas on the Thor Motor Coach website, click here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The iPhone 6, the iPhone 6+ and the Apple Watch are introduced- The Big News Gets Even Bigger from Apple!

After months of rumors, blurry photo leaks, vague predictions and geeks around the world treating today like Christmas, the announcement of the year finally took place in Cupertino, California this morning: Apple announced all-new iPhones and introduced a whole new product, the Apple Watch...nope, no "i" prefix at all.

The new iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6+ are larger in nearly every way but thickness. The iPhone 6 has a larger 4.7 inch screen, a little bigger in square footage when compared to the "old" iPhone 5S and its now-tiny 4" screen. The iPhone 6+, on the other hand, is positively huge in comparison to the 5S and has entered into the "Phablet" space with a 5.5" screen.
Small, medium and large- From left, the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 with a 4.7" screen
 and the huge iPhone 6+ with a 5.5" screen.
(courtesy: Business Insider)

"So what?" I hear you asking. "It's bigger. How is that a huge deal?"

Well, gentle reader, it's something to notice because Apple literally invented the smartphone and ever since its 2007 introduction has stuck with the 4" screen year after year while competitors from Android and Windows Phone have built far larger products with screens nearly 7" across. It seems that Apple's stubbornness finally gave way to consumer demand for more screen acreage. Current Apple iPhone apps will work just fine on the new models, but as developers produce apps that take advantage of the larger surface, Apple users will experience more content in a larger format.

But, that doesn't mean the iPhone5S or the iPhone5C are history. Per his keynote address, Apple CEO Tim Cooke said both of the smaller phones will continue as part of the Apple iPhone family, but at a much lower price point. In fact, the 8G iPhone 5C is now free with a two-year contract with your favorite carrier.

The cost for the iPhone 6 starts at $199 for the 32 Gig model and increases to $299 for 64G model with the top iPhone 6 at a strong 128G of memory for apps, games music and other content.

The price of admission for the iPhone 6+ begins at $299 for 16G (not nearly enough memory, in my view), $399 for 32 G and a painful $499 for the 128G top o' the line version. $500 for a phone, even one that's under contract with a carrier? With equally sized Android and Windows phones with similar features going for less than two hundred dollars, I'm not sure I'll be able to make that kind of financial leap and to convince my wife that it's worth it too.

Apple also introduced a new service called "Apple Pay" that will be available for the iPhone 6 twins exclusively. With Apple Pay, credit cards are unnecessary. The phones use your credit information and allow you to make purchases at every retail or eating outlet with a common NFC (Near Field Communications) receiver. Apple claims there are 220,000 receiving units in stores now with more being added daily. They also boast of extremely high level security to protect your financial information from unwanted attention. When you're ready to buy, you open the Apple Pay app, place your new iPhone near the receiver and scan your finger across the sensor at the bottom of the phone. That's it. No card, no wallet and no hassle.

Apple's final announcement was made with their traditional "...just one more thing" as the keynote appeared to be drawing to a close. The hand-picked audience ooohed and ahhhed as Tim Cooke introduced the long-rumored "Apple Watch".
Apple thought the "time" was right for a smart-watch. The Apple Watch.
(courtesy: ABCgo)

The Apple Watch is, in many ways, a tiny extension of the iPhone. Coming in two sizes, the Apple Watch is still a thick chunk of metal. Square and shiny, the face can accept dozens of stylish, replaceable watch bands. Besides keeping time to within 50 milliseconds a day, the Apple Watch can send messages, play music, read your heartbeat and act as a remote monitor for your iPhone's camera. The apps are mostly accessed using touch and the stem of the watch as a sort-of mouse controller. The watch requires a connection with your nearby iPhone to employ most of its features beyond telling the time, however.

Apple's video can show it better than I can explain it, so you can go to Apple's homepage to see the video here. 

The new phones will hit the streets in less than two weeks and the watches are due- vaguely- sometime early next year.

Can you wait? Frankly, although the technology is impressive and the live demonstrations looked nice, I still want to see what Samsung, Motorola, Nokia and the other phone manufacturers will do before I go spending up to $500 for what amounts to a slightly larger iPhone 5.

You can also go to the Apple home page to see all the new products, too. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Free Google Chrome Apps- How to Select the Best from Thousands of Choices for Games, Business and Home

Surfing the web (do we still say that?) is fun and easy.

But, there's more to the internet than traveling from website to website. Chances are, you got to this blog by using the Google Chrome browser. Other browsers like Safari (Apple) and Explorer (Microsoft) work just fine, but for sheer popularity around the world, Google Chrome comes out on top.

However, it's time to stop thinking of Chrome as just a way to get from here to there on the interwebs. For some time now, Chrome has offered apps for their browser, just like a smartphone has apps to improve your phone experience.

You can find the Chrome Web Store here. Once you arrive, you'll discover thousands of applications optimized to work within the Chrome browser. Just like a smartphone, you'll find apps for games, education, productivity and the like. Because most people use the Chrome browser on a larger device like a laptop or desktop computer, the apps tend to be specialized for use on a larger screen. You'll see apps for video editing, business presentations, product design, TV watching and much more.
Keep this app away from my wife

This can be especially helpful if you're seeking some assistance with home remodeling, for example. There are several apps that allow you to create a 3D view of your home. This way, you'll be better able to envision your changes by removing a wall, replacing carpet with hardwood, painting the dining room green, etc. and do it all within the app before you ever pick up a hammer. Roomstyler 3D is one typical app for this kind of project in the Chrome Web Store.

Like I said before though, you can also find popular games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and others. They play just like the phone or tablet versions, but are modified to use your keyboard for control.

The good news is most of the apps are free. However, "free" can be a vague and loose term, with different definitions from developer to developer. Some may give you the whole program for no money at all. Others may provide part of the program, but want you to pay for the rest (for example, an app may allow you to design a business card, but charge you to print it). And still others allow you to download the app for free only, but to use any of it at all, you must pay up first.

So how do you find a great app for you when there are many to choose from? Read and pay attention to the reviews that come with every app. Chrome ranks apps on a five-star system and if you find an app with 173 reviews and an average four-star ranking, that usually means the app is a good one. However, is you see an app with 173 reviews and 1 1/2 stars, you'll probably want to move on to the next selection. Also, be sure to read the reviews, both good and bad, to get an overall feel for the product and it's suitability for you and your needs.

Lastly, in the name of fairness, both Explorer and Safari do have quality app stores that provide the same services as Chrome, so check them out too. If you do, I think you'll enrich your internet experience, discover some new ideas and maybe even play a game or two.

After all, isn't that why we all use the internet super highway (do we still use that term?)?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Four Easy Steps to Look Your Best in a Video Conference

My job often requires me to speak to clients, vendors and others via the internet, using online video services like Skype, Go To Meeting and others that make use of a camera and microphone plugged into the computer so the people on the other side of the meeting can see and hear me clearly. That part is easy. I can just use the built-in camera and mic provided by Apple for my iMac and be done with it.

But my 22+ years in video production simply won't allow it. Oh, it hurts me when I hear a voice echoing like they're standing in an empty bathroom or see the face of a client silhouetted like a mob boss in the witness protection program. Why is this a problem? For some, it isn't. But we use our visual senses to form our perceptions of each other and a a dark, shadowy figure who's hard to hear won't build trust as easily as a sharply focused, well-lit person with the voice clarity of a network announcer.

The good news is, the fix is an easy one, and it doesn't cost a lot of money to fix although you certainly can invest (and I chose that verb on purpose) in equipment to change your first impression from murky to marvelous. Here are a few ideas covering the basics of video conferencing so you can look and sound better every time. Let's cover the low end choices and conclude with higher end selections. Mix and match them to achieve the best effect for you.


The whole point of videoconferencing is to see each other, after all. The camera that came with your laptop or camera works, but just barely. If you're going to invest in anything, a better camera would be the best choice. Third party cameras have better resolution, sensitivity to light, placement options and can be taken from computer to computer for a consistent picture. 

Almost anything is better than the
factory camera for better video.

Choices are almost endless and not too bad on the wallet. So, this is a category where quality trumps price when selecting your camera. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is my webcam of choice. For about $68, everything will suddenly be brighter, colors bolder, focus crisper and the overall quality stunning. 

If you buy one thing to improve your video image, make it an external camera. 


Good lighting choices can often make the difference between being seen and not seen. Often, all it takes is turning off a switch in one place and turning on a different switch somewhere else.
Who would YOU rather see?

The quickest and easiest thing you can do is place a light source somewhere in front of your face. A desk lamp, open window, under-shelf fluorescent or other light source turned on can flood your face with the light required to permit the camera to have as much light as it requires for the best possible image.

Help out the lights in front of you by turning off some or all of the lights above and behind you. The idea is to make the image of you brighter than the background. Experiment with different combinations until you see a look you like. Make a note of what was on and off so you can replicate it when needed.

To better control the light, invest in light specially designed and constructed just for video conferencing:

On the definite high-end, the Videssence Viewme  is especially designed to mount on a computer monitor (or on either side of it with two stands) and provide two-point lighting for the best result possible. At nearly $200, it might be difficult to justify on your expense account, but the excellent results are undeniable.
When appearance matters
more than price.

Priced in the mid-range, the Webstar II is a circle of LED lights surrounding your external webcam that you mount within the ring. The light also comes with a dimmer to adjust the amount of light required. It uses a USB plug to provide power so it's portable too. It retails for $50.
Simple, easy and not too pricey. Nice.
(Stellar Lighting)

On the lower end, it becomes time to adapt lights that may have been created for a somewhat different purpose, but achieve a good result nonetheless. Here are two choices to consider:

- The Goal Zero Luna LED light mounts into a USB port and illuminates 10 lights across a long, thin bar. It's position is adjustable via an extended snake-like arm that can wrap around objects to keep it secure. You don't have to plug it directly into the computer. You can use a USB extension cord or a battery with a USB port (like the kind that charge cell phones). Not bad for less than $10. 

Look how well lit his face is and it's not
even angled toward his face.
(Goal Zero)
- The Mitaki-Japan 30 LED light doesn't need a USB port at all. It uses 3 D-cell batteries, but will last a very long time as LED lights use battery juice at a miserly level. It's advantage is that each side of the lamp "splits" into two wing-like halves, simulating the two-point lighting of the pricey Videssence. Downsides? It's somewhat tall at 9 1/2 inches and needs a level surface like a shelf or stack of books. It's around $14 at Amazon.

Just level out the "wings" and you're
ready to light 'em up!

Nothing is worse to me than hearing that dreaded echo of a poor microphone that came with the camera. Barely audible, it seems the mic was purchased more for its low price than it's quality. Not to worry, because this is an issue that can be solved in seconds. Here are two types of microphone for better sound: 

Fee standing- 

Lots to pick from in this category. One great choice that occupies the higher spectrum is the Blue Yeti. It appears like a classic, old-timey mic you might have seen on Johnny's desk, but the insides are all new-tech. It plugs directly into a USB port and is specially designed to pick up the spoken voice. No more echoes and it's adjustable so you get a "say" into how your voice sounds. For $106, you'll have to spend thousands more to beat the results. 
1950's look, 2015 technology in the Blue Yeti
(Yeti not included)
(Blue Audio)

You can do nearly as well for $36 with the Sampson Go Mic. The quality is unquestioned and it's portable too. With a few less adjustments and smaller size, it is still a huge improvement over the factory supplied mic. 
Sampson Go Mic

Headphone Mic

This type looks like a receptionist headphone set. Basically, it's a set of headphones with a long plastic arm attached to one side and the mic rests in front of the speaker's mouth. The good news is that the sound is great and you can hear everything just fine. 
A classic never goes out of style.
The bad news is that you may appear awkward and unnatural. But, if it solves your poor sound quality issue, then it might be the solution you need. The classic product solution is the Logitech ClearChat Comfort. For less than $20, it boasts an in-line mute button and a good reputation for solid performance. 

Tips for a better video/audio result

- Is your LED light too bright and not adjustable? Just get to the grocery store and buy a roll of Glad Cling Wrap. Pull down a few inches worth and press it (stick side down) against the lights. The "foggy" finish of the plastic will reduce and diffuse the light for a softer effect. Don't worry, it won't melt. LED lights produce no heat. If possible, you can also move the light away from you (make sure you still get a good result!).

- Experiment and preview your look. "Skype" yourself with a separate computer. Looking at your image, adjust lighting, camera angles, background clutter, etc. until you see a result you like. 

- Once you've determined light settings, background clutter, audio placement and so on, make a detailed diagram with all the extra notes you need to replicate this look when needed. This will eliminate guesswork and save precious time. 

- Place the camera at eye level or slightly higher (no more than two inches either way). This is normally the most flattering angle and keeps the camera from looking up your nostrils. 

- If possible, keep the microphone out of sight. Although it shouldn't matter, we are all children of television and a visible mic can be a distraction. 

- If practical, rehearse your presentation. Tape meeting notes on either side of of the camera, out of sight of your audience. Keeps notes just that- notes. A word-for-word script might cause you to read it like one and could sound odd or disingenuous.

It seems like a lot to do for a powerful, positive effect, but it really isn't. If you take some simple steps to improve three areas: camera, lighting and audio, you'll be far ahead of 99% of your competition.

And that's not a bad way to look at it.