One of the bugbears we hear from customers is audio quality on conference calls.  When everyone is in the same room then it’s great – everyone can hear and be heard.  When everyone is dialling into a call, then the audio is good when everyone takes care about their background noise, network quality etc.

The one area where we still don’t seem to have made improvements is that halfway stage, where some people are in a room, and others are dialling in.  The quality of audio from those dialling in is usally great as long as care is taken with background noise, there are multiple speakers in the room and plenty of volume control options to ensure they are heard well.  The problem seems to be with people in the room speaking and not being heard well by remote participants.  How often have you heard table microphones being moved around (causing big noise bursts) or had to ask people to repeat themselves as they are sat around the edge of the room away from the microphones.

Is this a technology issue?  No, not really.  The technology of clip-on microphones is so good nowadays that if you wanted to kit everyone out with these then you could guarantee great audio quality.

Is this a room acoustics issue? Again no.  This problem occurs in modern offices that  have great acoustic treatments.

Is this a cultural issue?  Yes, I believe it is.  People haven’t made the transition to fully respecting that an increasing number of colleagues are working remotely, and changed their behaviour to match this. As mobile professionals, we are on the receiving end of this all the time.

What’s the solution?  Maybe we should only use meeting rooms for pure face to face.  When even one person has to dial in, then it triggers a rule that everyone has to dial-in.  In this way, everyone gets to learn the best practice for participating in remote work, and our mobile teams can be more effective on calls.