Sound quality in virtual meetings can be all over the place because some people use good headsets, some people use the microphone on their computers, and some people use speaker phones (No!).
The thing is, people sound fine to themselves on these calls: even the worst offenders have no idea how bad they sound.
Assessing voice quality
Here’s the tip: Hold a few test meetings *which you record* (be sure to remind people to keep it clean and IP-free!). Invite all the people who normally give presentations in meetings. Each person talks for just a few minutes: maybe ask them to give a 2- or 3-slide presentation on anything non-confidential, or ask them to read a few paragraphs of something. The point is to get them to talk for at least 10 full seconds.
Afterward, send the recording to everyone who was in the meeting. The purpose of this is so people can hear what they sound like in comparison to everyone else. Usually the folks who who use poor equipment will decide to upgrade after hearing themselves, and overall this means better virtual meetings.
If you sound bad on the recording, how do you fix it?
Your conference call either uses the public telephone system or internet voice, such as VoIP, Skype, etc. If using the public telephone system, you probably have a reliable connection, and desk phones and cellphones nowadays often have adequate-quality microphones and audio circuitry built into the devices. However, if using internet voice, there are steps you can take to improve your voice quality.
Internet voice quality
The main factors contributing to poor internet voice quality are:
1. Microphone placement
2. Network reliability
3. Microphone quality
Microphone placement and quality
Best position is a desktop microphone 6-12 inches from your face angled off to the side, or a headset with an attached microphone positioned an inch or so to the side of your mouth. A lavaliere mic (lapel mic) can work well if it doesn’t rub against loud fabric. Don’t use a mic placed near a computer with running fans. Don’t hold a mic in your hands. Don’t use a microphone built into a webcam that is more than a foot away from your face.
You need a rock-solid path for outgoing internet data, so it’s best to use a wired Ethernet cable to your router instead of wi-fi. If you have to use wi-fi, be sure you’re close to the access point with a high-quality connection. Prevent other users from downloading videos, playing network-intensive games, or anything else that uses network bandwidth while you’re using a voice connection. Close all unnecessary programs on your computer and prevent them from running while using voice, including Dropbox sync, backup programs, unnecessary browser tabs, OS upgrades, and when safe to do so, anti-virus programs.
Even a modestly-priced after-market USB microphone can make your voice sound better than a microphone built into a desktop computer, mobile device, or webcam. A directional microphone can reduce background noise in a noisy environment. No matter what kind of microphone you use or where you place it, be sure you understand how to enable it, set its volume level, and mute/unmute it as needed — before your conference call starts.
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