This article is by Rhys Ludlow of Ludlow Media
In my experience recording many webinars and audio-only conference calls, too many are marred by avoidable audio quality problems. Pardon me if many of these seem obvious. Sometimes with all the details involved in preparing for a live event, presenters forget some telephone basics.Almost every item on this list can cause non-essential sound to be heard by all listeners.
1. Be sure you are using a reputable conferencing service known for high quality.
Check reviews if you are unsure. Services vary in quality due to backend equipment, fiber optic lines and other features.
2. Mute everything you can! Some conferencing software allows you to identify lines that are producing sounds so you can mute them. The best practice is to mute everyone who is not a presenter, and for presenters, to mute themselves when they are not speaking. Be aware that you should mute your line even if you are putting your telephone on hold. Many phone systems play reminders or music while on hold.
3. Equipment. Use a land line and a high quality telephone (preferably not one before the 1990’s) or a monaural (non-stereo) headset. Avoid using a speakerphone, cell phone, cordless phone, Skype or VOIP line. Old phones could add static to the line. A high quality wired headset (not wireless or Bluetooth) is preferable over a standard handset telephone because it maintains a consistent distance between your mouth and the microphone resulting in less audio fluctuation.
4. Testing. Before your call, check the volume and sound quality with other callers to make sure it is clear and similar in volume to others who will be speaking. Many headsets and some phones allow you to adjust the volume of your microphone. This volume control is sometimes called gain, level, sensitivity, mic or microphone. A more basic way to adjust your volume is to speak more loudly or softly and to adjust the distance from your mouth to the microphone. There should be a distance of 1/2″ to 2″ between you and the microphone.
5. One device per room. Two people in the same room should not be calling into the same conference because feedback can occur and sound delays can be disorienting for the presenter. Presenters on a land line should not be listening to the conference through their computers for the same reasons.
6. Reduce background noise. Find a quiet room, put up a “do not disturb” sign and close the door! Common background sounds heard on conference calls include: other people speaking, people and kids interrupting, paper rustling, pet noises, TVs, machinery (including kitchen appliances) and even toilets! Using cell phones adds to the possibility of wind noise, traffic and static.
7. Silence alerts. Disable call waiting, paging, other telephone ringers (including cell phones) and devices that provide audible reminders. Turn off computer speakers to avoid email and software update alerts. Deactivate any clocks that will buzz, chime, ring, play music or cuckoo during the call.
8. Avoid echo chambers. The smaller, less carpeted and less furnished a room is, the more likely it will cause the sound on the other end to seem hollow and full of echo. If the person speaking faces a large flat conference table or desk, the voice will bounce off the surface like a trampoline — adding to the echo effect. If such a room is the best place available, you can resort to a trick regularly used by film and TV crews – hang a blanket between the presenter any large, hard flat surface. The blanket will help absorb the echo.
9. Preventable technical issues. Are you using any battery-powered equipment? Check that they are fully charged and/or the batteries are fresh. A dying headset battery can sound “fuzzy” for hours before it dies entirely. Cell phone data can sometimes cause interference with your telephone equipment. If you must leave your cell phone on, keep a distance between it and your phone equipment. Cell phones can cause feedback when placed near other electrical equipment as well.
10. Vocal quality. Keep in mind that conference calls and webinarsare more like a speech than a phone conversation, and some basic speaking rules still apply. Adequate preparation is the best way to avoid nervousness. Have drinking water handy to avoid dry mouth (but dont slurp into a live mic). Dont speak with your mouth full! Use your voice before the call to warm up your vocal chords. Remember to breathe! Take pauses when appropriate. Try not to rush. Smile, gesture and (if practical) stand up — all things that can add positive voice qualities and avoid monotone.
These 10 webinar tips should go a long way to improving webinar audio. Please share these webinar tips with anyone who could use help improving their webinar audio.
Ludlow Media offers webinar recording and editing services that yield much higher quality than standard automated webinar recordings.