Often, when people think of sound in meetings, they think of crinkling candy wrappers and tapping fingers. Distractions. Audio technology, however, is the most important element of a conference call. When used properly, it ensures that the right sounds are the focus of the call, not the distractions.
On conference calls, people waste a lot of time repeating themselves for participants who can’t hear them well enough. Muffled speech and background noise are the bane of productive conference calls. By improving audio quality, companies can make sure that every person on a conference call is heard clearly. This increases both efficiency and productivity.
Both internal and client-facing meetings can benefit from improved conference call sound quality. While you may prefer to meet with clients face to face, that isn’t always possible for global businesses. Frequently, a new client’s first impression of your business is your presence on a conference call.
A seamless, professional-sounding conference call helps you present your company the way you want it to be perceived. First impressions can determine how much business a client or inventor wants to do with you. Having high-quality sound for conference calls isn’t just a matter of convenience. It’s good business.
Here are five tips for improving the audio quality of your conference calls.
1. Know the technology you’re using before you start the conference
There is nothing more embarrassing than starting a conference call only to realize you don’t know how to use your audio equipment. This can mean long delays, wasted time, dropped calls, or a conference call where no one can hear anyone else.
Since conference calls are often chances to make good first impressions, it’s important that you can demonstrate competence and efficiency with your audio technology. Before you use your conference room audio equipment for the first time, do a test run of all functions with a colleague. Make sure you know how to use every aspect of your audio technology correctly before the real call.
2. Keep the ambient noise level low
For conference calls, pick a room with solid walls where you can’t hear what’s happening next door. Avoid rooms with noisy HVAC systems or open windows. Don’t flip through pages on the table. Silence all cell phones. If your phone is on vibrate, keep it in your pocket, not on a hard surface where it will make noise. All of these common background sounds make it harder for participants to hear the speaker.
Reducing ambient noise is particularly important for audio-only conferencing. Since remote participants can’t see you, they easily can be distracted by background noise with no visual context. This takes their attention away from the speaker. A truly professional-sounding conference call has minimal ambient noise so that participants can stay focused on the speaker.
3. Make sure you have enough mics for everyone
Sharing microphones seems like an easy cost saver, but it decreases sound quality for everyone. If you place one microphone between two participants, they often end up speaking into the sides. Conferencing microphones usually are not designed to pick up sound sources from the sides.
Passing microphones back and forth wastes time. Plus, while they’re being passed, they’re picking up both handling noise and all the ambient noises in their path. Furthermore, if you have a video component to your conference call, sharing and passing microphones does not look professional.
4. Speak directly into the microphone
People tend to assume that if there’s a microphone anywhere in the room, it will pick up their voices clearly. Microphones designed to pick up speech are directional, however. That means that they pick up sound best from one direction: the front.
If you speak into the side of the microphone, near the microphone, or next to your neighbor’s microphone, your voice will be hard to hear. Position the microphone directly in front of you, face it toward you, and then speak directly into the front. This will give you crisp, clear sound.
5. Don’t focus so much on video that you forget about audio
When it comes to A/V technology, it’s easy to focus on the “video” part and forget about audio. Sound has always been a part of conference calls, while video, for many, is still an exciting new trend. People frequently put all of their budget into video technology and don’t leave enough for high-quality audio.
Here’s the biggest problem with that approach: while you can have a conference call without video, as soon as the sound goes out—unless everyone involved speaks sign language—the conference call is over. If you need to ensure one element of your A/V conference call technology will work reliably, choose the more essential part: the audio.