Why voice quality enables an effective meeting experience

Posted by Johnny Kromer on 04 Jun 2020 11:45:00 AM

Stress, migraines, low productivity, and memory problems have been linked to low voice quality. A purpose-built virtual meeting room along with the right habits can avoid all of that.

Recently the world has been leaning towards remote working and virtual meetings. Organisations that were still mulling over the idea of virtual meetings have been pushed into it by the Coronavirus pandemic as in-person meetings with teams, customers, or suppliers were becoming impossible. Although the pandemic will end at some point , its effects on how we work will remain.

The rising need for virtual meeting spaces

Virtual meetings were the preserve of large organisations who invested in purpose-built conference rooms. Over the years, the technology for virtual meetings has become accessible to small organisations with simpler technology and more affordable prices. This has made it so much easier to gather people swiftly, with no travel time, no accommodation or food cost, and with no location limitations.

This has also benefited large organisations especially those with an open workspace where empty purpose-built conference rooms have become a rare occurrence which forced staff to use ad hoc rooms. Although these rooms may offer privacy, they usually do not offer the same acoustics or sound system offered by purpose-built conference rooms. These rooms are usually smaller and are called huddle rooms.

Image is important, but the audio is critical in meetings

Although video conferencing has taken off, the primary mode of communication is still audio. The image may be pristine, but if participants can't hear what's being said they are excluded from the meeting.

An effective virtual meeting must have good audio for every participant, whether they are seated, moving around. or at the back of the room.

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Bad audio is detrimental to employee health

Human brains handle visual and audio stimuli differently. While the brain can react and focus quickly on visual stimuli, with audio it can't be as swift or multitasking. The brain generally reacts to the loudest sound. So if a virtual meeting has negative audio issues like echo, background noise, poor volume, or static, the brain has to work extra hard to focus on the most important source of the sound. This extra effort is why a day full of conference calls can be easily tiring.

Research has shown that background or low-level noise can disrupt people’s concentration and impair functions such as planning, reasoning, and impulse control. Ambient noise also affects people’s health by increasing general stress levels and aggravating stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, peptic ulcers, and migraine headaches. Sadly, continued exposure does not lead to habituation; in fact, the effects worsen.

Studies have also shown a link between understanding speech that is acoustically or linguistically challenging and changes in cognitive ability. This is because putting extra effort into listening requires you to shift brain power from forming memories and problem solving to trying to understand the speech.

Three factors that make up a virtual meeting area

Building a purpose-built virtual meeting room is no longer too expensive or technologically difficult to maintain. Small organisations can have their own virtual huddle or conference rooms built to purpose.

There are generally three factors that should be considered to make a good virtual meeting space:

  • Room size: a single speaker fitted in a large room will limit audio transmission to those who are near it. Large conference rooms usually need multiple devices to cover the whole area with quality sound along with dynamic audio levelling to cater for multiple participants speaking into the receiving device from varying distances.
  • Acoustic design: sound bounces off walls, gets absorbed by curtains and faces other obstructions that distorts it.Human ears are able to filter out these distortions but microphones transmit that noise to listening participants. Background noise from outside the meeting space can also make its way into the audio transmission and can ultimately detract from the meeting experience.
  • Technology: both huddle and conference rooms are enabled by technology. To function optimally, they need wiring and wireless infrastructure, peripherals, and devices with built-in compute power to support a seamless meeting experience.

Why quality voice matters in meetings

It has been proven that low-quality audio can be stressful, agitating, and exhausting for users. So better quality will lead to a better experience for users. The benefits of quality audio go beyond that.

Quality audio is also essential for AI features that transcribe meetings, identify speakers, capture action items and more. 

Additionally, keep in mind that how an organisation presents itself to partners, and especially to its clients, is important for its brand image. The background noise and the clarity of the audio become part of the client or business partner experience.

How to hold a successful virtual meeting

Having the right software and hardware forms the foundation of a good virtual meeting. The human interaction and understanding are what makes it yield results. A successful virtual meeting requires participants to:

  1. Be prepared: virtual meetings are completely different from in-person meetings. They require planning and presentation that is fit for the digital environment. The agenda and resources must be shared in advance so everyone is on the same page. Schedules must also be aligned and in sync for notifications on meetings times, reschedules, and follow-up meetings.
  2. Eliminate distractions: the fact that virtual meetings can be held anywhere is a strength, but it can also be a weakness if users cannot focus. Background noises and images should be blurred or eliminated by mute functions. Furthermore, users tend to multitask during virtual meetings, like answering emails or working on something unrelated to the meeting. Discipline and etiquette require all participants to focus completely on the meeting at hand.
  3. Be social: the lack of proximity to each other and the technology enabling the meeting can make virtual meetings feel cold, awkward, or robotic. This makes relationship-building a bit harder, but it can be solved by social engagement. Simply greeting each other and taking a minute for each participant to describe their day or weekend can help create a more relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Be engaging: this is particularly important for group calls with more than a handful of participants. If a participant isn't engaged in the meeting they can easily get distracted. To avoid this, every participant must contribute to the conversation and the use of visuals must be encouraged, for example screen sharing.
  5. Follow up: successful meetings come out with goals, time frames, actions to be taken, and responsibilities for participants. This must be clearly spelt out at the end of the meeting along with setting up a follow-up session.

It is possible to have a high-quality HD video meeting solution with high-quality audio to match and serious security protocols to protect the organisation’s data. Employees should not have to suffer dropped calls because of network issues or bad audio because the room's design was off. Huddle and conference rooms are essential, affordable communication assets for any forward-thinking organisation.

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