The Coronavirus pandemic has made remote working the new normal. Even once the crisis has passed, it’s clear that virtual conferencing will become far more commonplace. Here’s how to make the most of it.
The current global lockdown is creating conditions where high quality, reliable communications technologies are becoming essential if businesses want to compete in a radically altered marketplace. This fact, and numerous others, have been brought home in a recent survey by the provider of high-end audio solutions EPOS.
29 minutes wasted a week
The findings in the EPOS report are stark. The average worker loses 29 minutes of productivity a week due to poor sound quality on calls and conferencing. It’s a fact workers are acutely aware of themselves, with 36 percent saying it reduces their efficiency, while 27 percent report wasting time due to audio-related misunderstandings. In total, a massive 69 percent of those who use headsets or headphones for work said they had to dedicate extra work time to clarification due to poor sound, either during or post-call. Make no mistake, this wasted time adds up. In fact, organizations with more than 100 employees risk losing more than $70,000 per year in lost revenue due to audio issues.
Outdated or low-quality audio tech, excessive background noise, a bad internet connection and a loud working environment are all cited as reasons for experiencing poor sound, while the consequences can be considerable for a company’s bottom line, especially in an environment where fine margins could make the difference between a company surviving or going under. One in three decision-makers goes so far as to say technology issues are the reason they avoid using video for conference calls. All of which goes to make ‘What?’ the most expensive word in business today.
We’re all painfully familiar with some or all of the issues raised in the EPOS report: the embarrassment of having to ask your boss to constantly repeat themselves (or being too frightened not to); absurdly amplified background noise that makes it impossible to hear that key statistic in a meeting; even the irritation and anxiety created by the persistent crackle and fuzz of poor audio, especially when we’re all spending far more of our time communicating remotely.
But there are ways to mitigate these problems, not least through better quality tech. A massive 79 percent of company decision-makers believe that quality audio equipment can be an effective antidote to poor-quality sound, while three out of every ten workers complain that their current headset isn’t up to scratch. In other words, ditch the $10 earbuds and invest in a product that does the job right. Look for Unified Communications (UC) certified headsets and headphones – this means the product is optimized for use with computer hardware and software. Make sure it comes with noise-canceling technology, reducing ambient noise and boosting the reproduction of speech to make it clearer and more distinct from the hubbub going on around you. Equally important is a high-quality microphone, so the listeners can understand you clearly. In this respect, EPOS’s ADAPT and IMPACT lines of products are ideal. For those who prefer to use a speakerphone, check out EPOS’s EXPAND range.
Some useful tools
Inevitably, you’ll want your headset to be compatible with UC conferencing platforms featuring HD video and audio, like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoTo Meeting, BlueJeans Meeting or Amazon Connect (to name a few). Make sure your conferencing software includes cloud services, capacity for dozens of on-screen participants and robust security features – in regard of the latter, your company may want you to use a VPN. After that it’s really about cost (most applications feature free tiers, but these have limited features) and which format best suits your organization – and, of course, adequate internet bandwidth, without which none of the above makes a great deal of difference. Fundamentally, the more a virtual conference feels less like a virtual conference (and more like being there in the room with colleagues) the better.
As for the less technical aspects of virtual meetings, most of it is common sense. Dress as if you were in a meeting in person and make sure your workspace is quiet, tidy and unlikely to be interrupted by unruly kids, pets, or a bleary-eyed partner in pajamas. Position the camera so it’s not too low or too high, meaning you look out square-on from the screen, and try to make sure that what’s behind you isn’t too distracting. Ensure the area is well-lit, and that sources of light are not at your backside lighting is best. Finally, one thing you’ll want to become something of an expert with is the mute button. Be sure to mute your mic whenever you’re not speaking to keep down any potential background noise – especially important if there are lots of you in a virtual meeting – but don’t forget to unmute before embarking on that incisive five-minute monologue.