It goes without saying that these are unprecedented times. As social distancing and home working is changing the way the nation communicates, hundreds of thousands of people and business have become reliant on video conferencing software to virtually attend meetings.
When used correctly, video and indeed tele-conferences can offer a very convenient and risk-free form of communication – meaning business as usual! But we’ve certainly all experienced the frustrations of poor audio quality which can very quickly tip the scales in the opposite direction and often cause people to resort back to using comparatively unengaging emails.
Fear not! More often than not this breakdown in communication is avoidable! Our Acoustics team are here to help and have these expert tips to help you get the best out of your virtual meetings at home.
1. When you can, be seen but not heard.
A nice simple point to kick things off – muting your microphone when you don’t need to speak will improve things for the other participants. Just remember to unmute yourself again when you have something to say!
And remember you can be seen when not heard – even if you can’t see yourself on the video, the others in the meeting probably can!
2. Soft surfaces will help.
Try to take your meetings to a room with plenty of soft furniture and avoid hard floors if you can. Rooms with lots of hard surfaces are full of reflected sound – this can quickly build to a noisy mess that will blur out your voice. Likewise speech coming through your speakers will soon become hard to understand. Just remember – the softer the better.
3. Avoid Flutter Echoes
Flutter echoes occur between two parallel hard surfaces. These somewhat strange sounding echoes can play havoc with speech clarity and should ideally be avoided. There’s a very simple experiment you can use to check for strong flutter echoes in your home – simply clap your hands and listen for a distinct metallic ‘ring’. If you hear it, try to change your position in the room until it becomes less noticeable. Fairly empty square or rectangular rooms are generally the most common offenders for flutter echoes. So keep this in mind when selecting the location for your meetings.
4. Reduce unwanted background noise.
Whether it be passing traffic outside your window or the sound of your children learning their times tables, elevated background noise levels should not be invited to the meeting. It’s easy to become desensitised to typical noises in your home, but that is unlikely to be true of your listeners. Here are some very simple rules of thumb to help shut out unwanted noises:
- Close windows and doors to keep outside noise outside during your meeting. And consider what’s behind you as that will be visible too if you’re video conferencing, unless it’s a window, in which case you might just appear as a dark silhouette!
- If possible, choose a room away from noisy roads, highstreets or train lines.
- Make sure you are away from washing machines and other noisy household appliances.
- Self-isolate – shut yourself away from others so their voices aren’t heard too.
5. Last, but certainly not least – choose the right equipment!
If available, using headphones with a dedicated external microphone can resolve most audio quality issues. Moving the microphone closer to your mouth and directing the other participants’ voice into your ears will make a big difference. Take the time to experiment with different equipment combinations with a colleague until you find the one that works best. And try to avoid using the laptop microphone and speaker as that can lead to nasty feedback loops.