Reducing Audio Feedback Across the Global Pond
As many global teams know all too well, staying on the same wavelength in video conferencing—despite all of our modern technologies—can remain a herculean effort. In a world getting increasingly smaller, a bad virtual connection reminds us of the distance that still remains between us. For teams working against great cultural and geographical distances a good audio connection can make the difference between teams working effectively together or simply wasting each others’ time.
In a recent Bridging Distance consultation with a globally distributed team we encountered typical feedback troubles.
Our first transatlantic meeting with this organization consisted of virtual attendees in Cambridge, Massachusetts; northern Massachusetts; New Jersey; and Paris, France. As the meeting opened in Cambridge, the attendees a mere hour away were greeted with static, feedback, and white noise, though the attendees in Paris heard them with crystal clarity. Although Cambridge, Massachusetts, considers itself to have a real European flair, this did nothing to facilitate communication with the actual Europeans. What happened? More importantly, what steps need to be taken so that everyone can participate fully?
The following are three tips to ensure communication clarity across distance
1. The Mute Button is Your Friend.
Use it. When not speaking, mute your computer (especially if you are taking notes, as the even quiet clicking of a keyboard is amplified and broadcast to everyone). Muting is often overlooked as “too basic” to make a difference, but even if you think you are in a quiet location, ambient noise can be the death knell to a productive virtual meeting. Just be sure to unmute your microphone before speaking.
2. Wear Headphones (Not Just Earbuds!)
Headphones with microphones will reduce feedback, such as a Bluetooth or even the headphones that are included with the iPhone.
Echoes are deadly.
With headphones, not only will you be able to hear your co-participants but they will be able to hear you!
If there is more than one person physically with you during the conference you may want to invest in a Polycom Calling Kit, or similar device.
The Polycom computer calling kit enables the phone to work with the Polycom PVX desktop video conferencing application, serving as the microphone and speaker for desktop video calls. Polycom Calling Kits will heighten the level of professionalism and take your business to the next level.
Polycom also makes a more cost-effective speaker and microphone device to plug into your computer. They are each optimized for different software and computer configurations, so be careful to purchase the correct one for your needs.
While Polycom may be the gold standard, the Yamaha PJP-20UR Web Conference Microphone Speaker is an example of a plug and play echo-cancelling device that seems simpler to use than the PolyCom devices.
3. Limit Computers / Audio Sources to One Per Room.
Though it may be tempting to crowd around one screen when you have multiple people at one location, having more than one computer in a room increases feedback as the microphones pick up what other team members are saying. This is especially important if you do not have headphones and do not mute your computer, thus disregarding our previous expert advice.
While the difficulties may seem daunting and at times frustrating, audio and video conferencing is worth the effort. Being able to see and hear each other clearly across great distances will lead to a greater sense of community and better collaboration across the board and across the world.