Remember when you used to have to call an operator to make an international call? Ever been in the back of a conference room, and you can’t hear the presenter? Ever been on stage presenting and your microphone suddenly does not work? Nothing is worse than not being able to hear a presenter, whether on a stage or over a telephone.
This article will address three ‘big bucket’ areas related to conference room/meeting room sound issues.
- Sound issues that apply to any size conference room.
- Corporate conference rooms with table style seating.
- Meeting rooms with stadium-style seating (chairs in rows).
- These tend to be much larger venues than a table style conference room, ranging from 40 seats (small hotel) up to 1,000 seats and beyond (large hotel).
Common Sound Issues That Apply to any Size Conference Room
- Low Volume
Imagine you are in a conference room of any size, and at the end of the presentation, people come up to you and ask you what you said. It’s frustrating, if not embarrassing. You have spent all this time in preparing your presentation or speech, and it turns out, no one could hear you. This is not as uncommon as you might think. You finally get into the flow of your presentation only to learn that no one heard a word you said. Volume issues are a problem across conference rooms and one that can be easily resolved by an A/V integrator.
This is a common issue that can be the result of the microphone not picking up a voice or the speakers not communicating that voice. When setting up for a conference or conference call, thoroughly test all microphones in the room and set volumes to the appropriate levels. If it’s a conference call, do a volume check by simply having someone in the office call on the conference line. If you can hear them clearly and they can hear you clearly, chances are you are in good shape. If not, make adjustments accordingly. This might result in a simple cleaning or a sound and volume adjustment.
Delays come in two forms–unintended and intended. An unintended delay can be detrimental to the audience because it can come across as a poor presenter who might lack experience, not only presenting, but in their field of expertise. However, some audio systems actually build a very slight delay into the delivery to eliminate the risk of feedback and other audio related problems. If a delay is too long, it can actually be distracting to the presenter and the audience. However, a very slight delay can minimize other audio related problems. So, if you are going to incorporate a delay, make it as brief as possible.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth systems can experience delays because these are not fixed-wire systems. Communication between devices is happening wirelessly. If the two pieces of equipment are not communicating properly, for instance, the transmitting device is not being picked up by the receiver properly, then sound can become delayed, garbled or even result in no sound at all.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Ever talk to a call center in India or The Philippines? That is VoIP. Your entire conversation is happening over the internet. It’s very efficient from a cost perspective, but you are limited to the bandwidth of the incoming and outgoing internet signal. The worse the signal and you could easily have delays in communication.
It is important to know how your equipment is configured. Are you communicating via a fixed line, wirelessly, over the internet, or a combination of the above? An A/V integrator can establish these settings on the front end of installation by checking sound equipment beforehand and making sure everything works together flawlessly.
If you are experiencing clicking or crackling sounds, this can be distracting for both the speaker and the listeners (participants). Additionally, it can cast a negative impression upon your brand. Feedback can happen when two microphones are placed too close to each other. However, the most common occurrence is when a microphone is placed too close to a speaker. It generates a loop of loud, annoying sound resulting in most people on the call or in the room covering their ears.
If you are using a microphone, ensure you are a suitable distance from a speaker. And, if you are using a microphone and experience feedback, make sure other microphones are turned off while you are speaking or at least make sure you are a suitable distance away from other microphones. If you hear feedback, the quickest solution is to wrap your hand around your microphone or place your finger on top of the microphone. An A/V integrator will know and understand the maximum amount of microphones a system can handle and place them at the appropriate distance and volume settings to control for feedback and white noise.
Hello … Hello … Hello … Hello
If you’re on a family vacation at the Grand Canyon, it’s pretty cool … the way your voice bounces off canyons and hard surfaces and reverberates back to you multiple times. If you’re on a speaker phone or on stage, it is not what you want to hear. Commonly called an echo, the presenter becomes difficult to hear and seems and sounds far away. Echoes are distracting to both the listener and the speaker. If you are the one talking, it can be difficult to continue speaking when you hear yourself reverberating back to you while you are still talking. This issue can be especially catastrophic for webinars or sales calls, as seamless delivery of communication is critical to convert future or existing customers into new or continued sales. You can’t afford for important information to be misconstrued or missed altogether.
An A/V integrator can thoroughly sound test all microphones in the room before the conference. If the problem begins during a meeting, he or she should have the ability to mute all other microphones when individual people are speaking to avoid feedback or crossed feeds.
Corporate Conference Rooms with Table Style Seating
- Getting the phone on the table.
- How big is the conference room table?
- Extra microphones and speakers.
- Dirty microphones.
How about just getting a phone on the table?
Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But, imagine walking into a conference room and someone has cables strung across the floor and the conference room table just to connect to the phone. Now, imagine you bring an important client into your office and they see this. Wow! They ask themselves, “Is this someone I want to do business with?”
A/V integrators can seamlessly integrate sound equipment into existing conference room tables and run lines to connections already in the floor. Or, they can integrate and hide cables to run across the floor to the appropriate inputs with little to no disruption to aesthetics, adding to your company’s overall professionalism and image.
How big is the conference room table?
Conference room tables can range in size from a 4-seater for a small conference room up to 20+ seats for a large conference room or boardroom. Imagine trying to talk to someone or hear someone when you are at the far end of the table and the phone is in the middle of the table. You could easily be 15 feet away from the phone.
Extra Microphones and Speakers
A/V integrators can match sound equipment to the dynamics of the room. This might include the ability to integrate additional microphones and auxiliary speakers to the far ends of the table so participants can both hear and be heard. For the highest end, you might even consider putting microphone at every one’s seat. This will depend on the venue and the participants on the call and the importance of the call so everyone has a voice at the table.
Again, an A/V integrator can help figure out the right equipment and set it up properly.
Remember that cleaning crew that comes into your office after hours? Well, they are not only emptying the trash, they are also tidying and dusting the conference rooms. Night after night, someone is wiping furniture polish across your conference room table and your telephones. Over time, this build-up can clog microphones as well as the speakers.
It is important to have your equipment serviced periodically to keep it in the best working condition. A/V integrators can help service this equipment and maintain it to its optimal performance level.
Meeting Rooms with Stadium Style Seating
- Sound boards
These tend to be much larger venues than a table-style conference room, ranging from 40 seats up to 1,000 seats and beyond. In either case, you typically have a presenter at the front of the room at a podium or on a stage, and you have an audience. These are some important things to consider when communicating in a larger venue.
Depending on the size of the room or venue, you can have speakers that project from the front of the room to the back of the room. However, the larger the venue, the more important it is to have speakers strategically located around the room. Many of these are installed in ceilings so everyone can hear regardless of where you are in the room.
The size of the room and the type of speakers being used are critical because acoustics can be greatly affected by both the size and space. A/V integrators will know what types of speakers work best in environments like this, and they will know where and how far apart to place them, how many to use, as well as be able to test the sound as they go along.
Is your presenter going to remain stationary at a podium talking into a microphone, or is he or she going to go out into the audience and interact with the crowd? Or will they simply walk across the stage from side to side while he or she presents? These all have ramifications for microphones and an A/V integrator can help.
If you are stationary at a podium, it’s pretty easy and simple to use a fixed-wire microphone. However, if you are wandering across stage or out interacting with a crowd, a fixed-line becomes cumbersome. In these cases, a wireless microphone using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are ideal for the occasion. These come in all shapes and sizes, from those that are handheld to very lightweight options that you can simply place over your ear. The latter is typically connected to a receiver of transponder that connects somewhere on your backside. Depending on the occasion and venue, an A/V integrator can provide options and help you find the right equipment to satisfy your needs.
This is where an A/V integrator is critical. Imagine your annual, corporate conference. You have over 1,000 franchisees in attendance and they are all here to hear what you achieved over the last year and what you are planning to achieve in the coming year. There will be multiple presenters. There may also be multiple panel sessions. Inside your presentation will be mixed with multi-media presentations, including PowerPoint, YouTube, MP-4 files, Audio Files, Rich Media, and more.
Your professionalism is on the line in front of your front-line business partners. You will likely need a sound board at the back of the room staffed with sound and video engineers to control the presentation and ensure that everything is clear to the audience. Again, having an A/V integrator in a situation like this is not only critical, it will enhance your company’s credibility, reputation and professionalism.
The Bottom Line
When a company’s audio conference equipment does not function properly, whether from improper settings to delays to background noise or crackling noises, it reflects poorly on your company. And the consequences, whether direct or indirect, for businesses can result in a loss of sales or even worse, the loss of a customer. You might be able to make an excuse for one circumstance, however, multiple repeats are difficult to be written off as a one-time technical glitch. It is now a reflection of the company and its leadership.
The primary goal of audio equipment is to ensure that listeners can understand the person speaking, whether from a microphone and speakers or a telephone. If participants can’t understand the conversation, then the opportunity for communication is lost. This can and does lead to problems that indicate a lack of professionalism, something businesses cannot afford, whether they are talking to current customers, potential customers, investors, employees or managers.