“Can you hear me?” “Are you still there?” “I think you’re cutting out.” We’ve all been there. Your team is well prepared and your pitch is rock-solid, but the momentum you’ve built comes to a grinding halt as your conference call audio refuses to cooperate.
During a remote conference, poor audio quality can have a serious impact on group productivity. Quiet presenters, confusion about who is speaking, and persistent background noise can ruin the conference experience. Despite advances in conferencing technology, a few key issues still plague the remote meeting experience. Above all, the greatest threat to productivity is poor audio quality.
The Problem of Unproductive Meetings
Sound and productivity are closely linked. Audio problems are not just annoying—they can be damaging to your bottom line. Distractions and disruptions force presenters to backtrack, thus wasting more time—and wasted time equals wasted dollars.
As a meeting wears on, a phenomenon called “audio fatigue” sets in. Early in a call, problems like background noise might be bearable. However, if the problems continue, the extra energy your brain spends focusing on the meeting leads to fatigue and callers tuning out. Poor audio quality results in lower productivity and misunderstandings, which can even damage client and customer relations.
The Role of Sound
Between our phones, loud restaurants, and incessant air and road traffic, sound is an inescapable part of our lives. Even so, we rarely think about how it affects our minds and bodies.
Ambient sounds or noises can negatively affect your health by increasing levels of stress hormones. They also exacerbate existing health issues like high blood pressure and migraine headaches. During conference calls, when you can barely hear what the far end user is saying, you may experience stress, lose the ability to concentrate, and become less productive.
Sound affects us in four distinct ways:
Physiologically: Sound has the power to affect our bodies. Due to our evolutionary history, we interpret sudden sounds as threats. Think of the roar of a bear or the growl of a tiger. On the other hand, calming sounds can soothe us and reduce the presence of stress hormones.
Psychologically: Sound can elicit physical reactions in a listener – whether it’s a cold sweat caused by a horror movie villain jumping onscreen, or a giant grin when you hear the theme song to your favorite childhood cartoon. Sound and emotions are deeply interlinked.
Cognitively: The brain isn’t great at multi-tasking, and hearing is the most difficult sense for it to handle. With vision, your reaction is impacted by motion, and the brain can quickly focus on one thing. Likewise, the brain can function well with taste, smell, and touch. Not so with sounds. We are not able to perform at our peak cognitive ability when we are distracted by unwanted noise or interruptions.
Behaviorally: When we’re subjected to unwanted sounds, it’s our natural inclination to physically leave the space. But what if you’re stuck in a huddle room? Your brain’s next best solution is to check out and start thinking about something else. When audio is crisp and clear, conference callers can be more focused, present, and productive.
How modern speakers & microphones address sound clarity
The technology of capturing and reproducing audio has a long history. Edward W. Kellogg and Chester W. Rice first converted an electrical audio signal into a reproduceable sound in 1925. Their dynamic speaker operated on the same principle as a dynamic microphone, only in reverse.
Even today, the process of transmitting audio between devices has involved compromise. For example, laptops and smart devices need to fit speakers and microphones into small enclosures, at the expense of audio clarity.
In the days of Kellogg and Rice, we simply captured and transmitted sound across low-bandwidth systems. The sound quality was atrocious by today’s standards. With advances in ultra-wideband transmission, today’s challenge is improving how we capture and reproduce sound.
One of the ways today’s microphones and speakers deal with background noise is with Digital Signal Processing (DSP), a way of manipulating digital signals to deliver crystal-clear audio. With DSP, today’s audio systems can isolate human voices from the other noises in an environment. This is a huge benefit for remote conferencing systems.
The Proper Equipment
High-quality audio starts with the right equipment. Yamaha’s adaptive echo cancellation and other advanced DSP technologies – available in the YVC-1000MS speakerphone and the CS-700 all-in-one huddle room system – can help facilitate stress-free conferencing. Once you’ve experienced a meeting without noise and distractions, you’ll never want to go back.