Unified Communications Featured Article

Audio Can Make or Break Your Meeting

July 26, 2017
By Special Guest
Brian Brorsbøl, Director of Product Management CC&O at Sennheiser Communications -

Workplace collaboration has experienced a radical transformation in recent years, wherein virtual meetings have become not just commonplace, but a vital part of our communications paradigm. Advances in audio and video conferencing within unified communications environments have allowed companies to leverage global teams with participants from around the world. Yet companies are sometimes unaware of the importance that audio quality plays in a business’ ability to proficiently collaborate via these different virtual conferencing channels. Premium audio quality can, in fact, mean the difference between effective and failed virtual communications, especially within distributed business environments.

In this global, technology-based business economy, the audio conference has become a default mode of communication for both enterprise and SMB-level organizations. In fact, 65% of all conferencing is done via audio conferences – without a video component. This has developed into a trend toward ad-hoc audio conferences in so-called “huddle rooms” with no installed equipment whatsoever, which utilize portable, plug-and-play technologies. These situations tend to involve anywhere from a handful of employees to a dozen.  And since the advent of innovative unified communications-based devices, workers can participate in audio conferences not just from their desks or from dedicated conference rooms, they can utilize advanced audio headsets that allow them to seamlessly communicate whether in a moving vehicle, a café, or a busy airport, with a minimum of peripheral noise or transmission disruption.

Ostensibly, the world is our workplace. This can only be achieved, however, through the right audio solutions. When audio technology fails, we simply can’t keep pace with the expectations these environments and paradigms have set. We’ve all experienced a simple meeting that devolves into an exercise in futility, where participants spend much of their energy compensating for an inability to clearly hear all parties involved. Audio challenges can make or break a virtual meeting, negating an organization’s business and customer relations and deterring internal productivity.

Poor audio quality in conference calls can have a negative impact on worker productivity due to the physiology of how our brains process information. The brain does a terrific job of deciphering auditory information from both ears. But in the event of bad audio input, it is taxed to an additional degree in order to interpret that stimuli. Experiencing such extra mental exertion on a regular basis and over longer timeframes can impact concentration, focus, and memory, contribute to fatigue and ultimately erode productivity.

Companies can avoid these pitfalls and create a more productive environment through sophisticated audio technology. To accomplish this, they should ideally assess their respective working and collaborative environments before implementing a unified communications environment, and consider what advanced solutions address those particular needs. Organizations should make their technology choices according to those parameters and requirements. Audio is simply not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

For example, a knowledge worker in a noisy, open-plan office should be equipped with a wireless, active noise cancellation (ANC) headset that filters out ambient noise, which can improve their ability to focus amid distractions yet allows them to move within their space. Breakthrough developments in the field include ANC technologies such as the versatile adaptive ANC (AANC), which allows users to set their preferred level of active noise cancellation, instead of being limited to merely turning the ANC either “on” or “off.”

A desk-based employee is best served with a wired headset that incorporates background noise cancellation. And a mobile worker who depends on clear business communication inside and outside the office will require a more flexible wireless headset, with attributes such as multiple microphones to ensure quality transmissions in adverse environments.

Conferencing and speakerphone solutions should be selected according to size and usage of the company’s intended meeting room. A portable, flexible speakerphone is most appropriate for small- to midsize huddle rooms and conference spaces. For larger meeting rooms, installed audio conferencing solutions that are easy to set-up and offer multiple connectivity options are preferable.

Whatever devices an organization selects, they should deliver premium audio quality to help make virtual conferencing as realistic and productive as a face-to-face meeting, fulfilling the original concept behind virtual collaboration. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle