Our customers are part of the trend where high definition video, voice and content-sharing is an assumed part of business communications. Flexible deployment options and a decreased overall price point has made it even easier to extend connections to partners, Customers, employees and vendors across the globe. Because users are now accessing video over multiple devices and in different environments, it is ever more important to get the audio issues right from the very beginning of a video conferencing deployment. We have seen two categories of issues- those impacting the mobile user and those impacting the conference room.
The purpose of this post is to provide some guidance in both of these areas and help you support great audio in your video conferencing ecosystem.
First, let’s address the end users. Here are 10 basic do’s and don’ts that help standardize and elevate the overall meeting and video conferencing experience, especially audio quality.
Do: Remember manners matters. Mute your microphone whenever you’re not speaking -- even if you’re alone in the room. Background noise can be an annoying distraction and stifle any meeting’s flow.
Do: Be aware of your video’s settings. Check if your microphone is muted before delivering a two-minute monologue that no one will hear.
Don’t: Position your camera too low, too high or hooked onto a different monitor. Weird camera angles can be very distracting -- and unflattering -- during video conference calls. Make sure your camera is eye level and on the monitor you plan to use for the conference. If you are using a camera with a microphone, be sure to plug in a headset to mitigate any potential audio loop.
Do: Consider what happens to sound in the space you are meeting. Do you hear any echo or are there back-ground noise issues? Consider a headset if these come up for you. .
Do: Speak up if you hear echo. The general rule of echo is that the person who does NOT hear the echo is likely the cause.
Don’t: Run multiple video applications at the same time, assuming that your computer can toggle between cameras, headsets and programs without needing a reboot. Run one application for video and reboot if you are not getting the experience you expect. When you reboot, have your USB headset and camera plugged in during that power cycle.
Do: Test your microphone before you video call, especially if it's an important meeting. Test it by video conferencing your colleague before the meeting. Nothing is worse than trying to share something critical and not being able to communicate clearly because your audio clarity and volume is poor.
Do and Don’t: Take the meeting from a coffee shop. If you do, know that the network may be slow. Best results are always doing video with fewer applications running, tethered to an Ethernet drop and using a USB camera and headset. If you go wireless and are in a neighborhood coffee shop, consider muting your camera after you have said hello, always mute your voice line and consider dialing in with a cell phone if you have better audio on that rather than using the VoIP option on the video call.
Do: If you're in a group call without video, introduce yourself before you talk. Consider something like "Hi it’s Jim, I have a question.” While several programs will notify you as to who is talking, conference line numbers will not. Therefore, be polite and introduce yourself.
Do: When you're talking, look into the camera instead of looking at yourself talking on the computer screen. It will help others on the call feel like you're 100 percent engaged and present. If you are using the camera's microphone, this will also help it pickup your voice more accurately. Be sure you’ve turned off any annoying pop-up notifications or e-mail alerts. Nothing helps send a message that you are distracted more than you actually BEING distracted.
It’s important to remember that video conferences are essentially in-person interactions that allow businesses to communicate more effectively.
We have found that reminding the end user that just because they CAN do a mobile video call from an airport, on a speakerphone, while walking, without a headset- doesn’t mean that they SHOULD.OK, it is important now to point out some of the key issues we face when looking at video conferencing audio issues on your conference room. For the purpose of this article I will focus generally on rooms that may or may not need a sound engineer and equipment that accomplishes some digital sound processing. A video call with bad audio will create much dissatisfaction with even the best video conferencing solutions and undermine the entire deployment. With this in mind, here are 10 key Dos and Don’ts to consider when looking at your conference rooms and the equipment choices you make.
DO: Make a clear decision about your budget and the expected results. Specifically, do you want a voice phone and a phone or set of mic pods for video conferencing or one solution that supports both? We often see poor audio experience in a room where great equipment is deployed in a situation that is outside of the stated specifications for that equipment.
DON’T: Deploy a mixer and digital sound processor without the help of a partner or a manufacturer’s rep that knows the limits of the audio settings. We often trouble shoot rooms that fail because the pickup levels or gating levels are set incorrectly.
DO: Test the room after install with a variety of use cased, with a single person on the room and with a crowded room. Most of the equipment is tested in a variety of settings but if not deployed in your rooms with testing under real-world settings, you can get undesirable experiences.
DO: Remember that (as mentioned above) often the cause of the echo is the party that doesn’t hear the echo. Be sure to test ahead of your big meeting, have a service contract with your VAR and know how to mute the system.
DON’T: Poke around too without support or reading the manual. Leave the audio settings alone unless you’ve talked to a support rep, have the expertise or have done a backup of the system settings and can reset them. We often go into Customer locations having to first untangle a mess they created and then reset the system to normal levels. This can create annoying service invoices or change orders. If you have chosen and tested the system properly during deployment, it likely never needs adjusting.
DO: Build the rooms with the right equipment and build within the limits of the equipment. We have round a number of great USB and wired SIP phones that have great integration with video conferencing. On average these phones have a hearing radius of 25-35 feet. Use these products within the limits stated by the manufacturer.
DON’T: If you ignore the environmental factors that impact sound, don’t be surprised when the system fails. Do you have hard glass walls, a solid table top, no wall art, HVAC vents that are loud, open windows with street noise? Any of these can torpedo even the best microphones or audio settings.
DO: Test the system with a variety of users with different speaking styles. It is important to involve a varied set of stakeholders, staff of different genders and roles. Often the physics of sound intersect with the reality of a diverse user population and the more you test across users, the better results.
DON’T: Everyone has opinion, but that does not mean you have to listen to it. Subjective opinions about sound often create the most frustration for IT. If you know the equipment and it’s abilities, you can set the right expectations. Test with a known set of variables, limiting the external factors that could be contributing to bad audio. For example, we’ve had video customers dialing from the video system into another voice bridge and on that voice bridge a number of cell phone users had called in. It was those users that had issues with the audio. Was it their cell phone, their headset, the other bridge or the video settings? Test to a known set of variable and baseline for success.
DO: Remember, this doesn’t need to be complicated. Most of the video systems have DSPs (digital sound processors) and echo cancellation built into the software. With this in mind, you can expect that audio quality is awesome. In more complicated rooms you can extend the range of mics and speaker zone with digital sound processors that have baseline settings out of the box. Expect that audio is part of the immersive experience and choose a team with experience addressing common audio issues so you get the results desired.
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About Perfect Video Conferencing:
Founded in 2009 by Randy N. Marcotte and John Killcommons, Perfect Video Conferencing was born of a commitment to integrity and partnership and the desire to create a boutique brand based on white-glove service to its customers.
What started as a simple conversation about shared values evolved into Perfect Video Conferencing. Those seeds of dedication to innovation and customer satisfaction has moved PVC from a shining star in a clouded sky of VARs to our own constellation of VAP – Value-Added Partner.
As our industry evolves, we continue to innovate and forge relationships in order to provide our customers with the most up-to-date unified communications solutions backed by the most customer-focused support, remaining true to those inspirations that are at our foundation.