The ability to see a speaker as well as hear them is incredibly valuable, allowing us to pick up on non-verbal cues that do so much to complement what’s being said.

However, the key phrase here is “to see as well as hear.” When it comes to conferencing, many organizations continue to focus on optimizing video while allowing audio to remain merely “good enough.”

A high-resolution, touch-screen enabled display is obviously great; but if it’s paired with a 10-year old phone set-up that makes speakers on the other end sound like they’re shouting into a tin can, how effective can your overall conferencing actually be?

Form Must Follow Function

The aesthetics of modern workplaces and conference rooms have arguably never been better. Walls of glass, smooth surfaces, and open office plans serve to create contemporary, sophisticated environments.

Yet as attractive as these designs can be, they often neglect basic elements to serve their employees’ needs. This tendency to emphasize style over substance is often applied to AV decisions as well; but a state of the art video conferencing display can’t compensate for poor aural conditions.

“Often an AV conferencing room is a lovely square room, usually glazed with lots of hard surfaces and has horrible reverberation times,” said Nevil Bounds, Key Account Director at Feltech. “The picture on the screen looks absolutely stunning, but the sound can be very poor.”

If you think your conference rooms could use a little more function to go with their form, don’t break out the wrecking ball just yet. Many solutions exist for addressing these issues without requiring a drastic renovation.

The presence of sound masking solutions can dramatically reduce noise distractions, while properly configured microphones, speakers, and soundproofing lets you enjoy stylish spaces while actually using them for their intended purpose.

Usability Is Key

While an amazing video display may initially wow a participant, inferior audio will quickly take center stage. Even the clearest picture can’t disguise garbled speech that leaves listeners struggling to understand every other word.

A common reason that mediocre audio solutions stick around? Ease of use. While a cheap speakerphone delivers serviceable results at best, the fact that it’s simple to use means it still has a place at the table, long past its sell-by date.

Pairing cutting edge video conferencing with a “solution” like this is akin to putting the cart before the horse. For many, the reluctance to upgrade audio is tied to the belief that “high quality” equals “hard to use.”

This simply isn’t the case if an organization partners with a integrator who takes the time to properly configure audio conferencing equipment. Consider upgrading to a system that’s user-friendly and which enables the speech intelligibility you need before setting your sights on anything visual.

Video conferencing is a fantastic tool for distance conferencing with colleagues and clients. However, even the highest definition can’t save an audio system that’s sub-par or intimidating to use. When implementing a conferencing solution, start with a strong audio foundation before moving on to the bells and whistles video offers.

Just remember: while seeing a speaker is helpful, hearing what they have to say is essential.

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