An audio conferencing system has immense potential in improving communication between teams and with meeting productivity. Audio conferencing technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, and modern versions offer excellent voice quality, ease of configuration and plenty of features. With any technology, though, it’s fair to ask if it’s worth investing in. As thousands of businesses have already discovered, audio conferencing is an extremely worthwhile investment.
How audio conferencing can strengthen productivity
An audio conferencing system is an effective communication tool, and businesses often succeed or fail on their ability to communicate effectively. Even so, many companies still neglect their internal communications. That has a direct, problematic impact on productivity, as teams and managers are forced to connect and collaborate through less effective means.
Audio conferencing solutions are designed to correct these issues. This is how:
1. Reduced need for travel – Audio conferencing solutions allow businesses to scale down their investment in travel, which offers an immediate cost benefit.
Businesses that operate out of multiple locations need to keep their people connected and on the same page. To do this, some companies rely heavily on travel, and may require their teams to meet in person frequently. The same is true when meeting potential clients and partners, as the company’s decision makers may feel that an in-person meeting is the only way to forge a relationship.
Audio conferencing systems have been perfected to the point where voice quality is rarely a concern, so even the most complex conversations can be handled with conferencing equipment.
According to a study put together by the business travel industry, companies spend close to $1,000 per person, per domestic trip. The cost of an international trip is nearly three times as much. Worse, according to a Global Travel Forecast report released in July 2018, hotel and travel costs are expected to rise in 2019.
Traveling costs add up quickly, but audio conferencing solutions eliminate the need for much of it. If your company spends freely on travel, an audio conferencing solution might recoup its cost right away.
2. More time spent on productive meetings – Audio conferencing technology allows teams to quickly get a meeting going. There’s little standing in the way when organizing an audio conference call. Anyone not on site can participate from their desk or their phone, so even if there are lot of moving parts to get a call going, it can be done much faster than relying on in-person meetings.
In addition to the financial cost of travel, professionals lose a lot of time while on the road or in the air. It can take days to get everyone to an in-person meeting, and that’s time that could be spent on other projects. Audio conferencing can be trusted for high profile meetings, and precludes the need for all this wasted time.
3. Advanced features – Audio conferencing systems are laden with features that enhance call quality or make it easier to manage the meeting. For example, some high end conference phones are built with a touch screen interface that’s easy to read and operate. Most come with high quality microphones that can pick up audio in 360 degrees and from several feet away. The most experienced manufacturers in the industry also know that getting into a meeting is frequently the biggest obstacle, so they include one-step-to-join functionality.
Audio quality remains a concern for many companies on the fence regarding the technology. Fortunately, some phones come with noise blocking features that automatically detect background noise and reduce its volume. This is particularly helpful when someone is rustling papers or tapping fingers.
Audio conferencing systems easily fit into most companies’ communication methods, and some businesses can get by with just a conference phone. However, comprehensive conferencing solutions can greatly improve how teams collaborate.
Putting an audio conferencing system together
No matter what solution your business eventually chooses, there are several components to an audio conferencing system. They include:
1. The conference phone – It wouldn’t be audio conferencing without the phone, and there are plenty to choose from. Reputable manufacturers like Polycom have phones for nearly any room size and layout, but it is important that the phone is matched to the size of the room. If the phone’s onboard microphone is going to be the primary audio input, it should be able to pick up people speaking anywhere in the room.
2. Microphones – After the phone, it’s the microphone that will have the biggest impact on call quality. The phone’s onboard microphone may be plenty for some rooms, but in larger spaces, it’s usually a good idea to invest in additional audio inputs.
Gooseneck, ceiling and button microphones are the three primary options for conferencing audio. Gooseneck microphones usually offer the best voice quality, as the distance between the microphone and the person speaking is kept to a minimum. They are also effective at reducing background noise. Ceiling microphones keep clutter off of the table and can pick up people speaking, no matter where they are in the room. Button microphones are inexpensive and can be seamlessly mounted into the table.
All three have their place. The right decision is mostly one of personal preference.
3. Additional conferencing equipment – Once you bring displays and cameras into the picture, it’s no longer just an audio conferencing system. Still, many companies, after investing in audio conferencing, find that the jump to video conferencing is an attractive one.
Video conferencing equipment works with existing microphones and speakers to make for a more complete meeting experience. A video conferencing system will include one or more cameras and displays and control systems for managing the equipment.
Some companies invest in their communications further, opting for a total immersive system that blends in with the room and delivers the best audio and video quality. Immersive telepresence systems make it easy for entire rooms of people to collaborate with each other effectively. These systems combine the best audio and video conferencing equipment with control interfaces that may be accessible at every seat. It’s the ultimate in collaboration.
Although audio conferencing technology is easier than ever to handle, audio conferencing solutions should be headed by an experienced AV firm. AV experts know what challenges usually come up when integrating audio conferencing into a boardroom or collaborative space, and they have the ability to meet those challenges head on. Further, an AV expert can scale a conferencing solution up or down, bringing in additional technologies to enhance communication further, or keeping the system modest to control costs.
Businesses of any size and in any industry can realize cost savings and better team collaboration with audio conferencing. As long as you have an AV integrator on your side, the perfect audio conferencing solution is attainable.