Good communication can be difficult, especially over long distances. This is why we still get on airplanes and travel to meet face to face. Videoconferencing saves the travel costs, and it still gives us the face to face connection. But here’s the key: the videoconference environment itself is critical to ensuring communication success. Human ability (your eyes and ears) are much more forgiving than technology (cameras and microphones). For example, bad room lighting can automatically be mitigated by a change to your eye’s iris, but video cameras will capture an unusable or poor image. Another example is room noise which can be filtered out by the brain but will be picked up by the microphone and ultimately decrease intelligibility. So here is a list of common “weakest links” for corporate videoconferencing:
- Noise from HVAC kicking on and off: whistles, air noise, banging / clanging
- Low rumbles from building vibration
- No acoustical engineering – the room echoes or you can hear sound from adjacent rooms
- Uncomfortable temperature from turning off the HVAC (because of the noise) – no one looks good in a business meeting sweating
- Poor lighting – background is too light or too dark causing camera exposure issues
- Unbalanced lighting – shadows on the face causing the far side not to be able to read expressions
- Harsh lighting – lights that are too harsh causing people to look sharp or even worse to squint
- Lighting temperature – lights that are not the full color spectrum causing a greenish or pale hue on the face
- Background distractions – busy posters, plants or windows that you can see people walk by
- Poor microphone placement – this will be room dependent
- Too many or too few microphones causing the sound to be soft or echo
- Speakers with poor placement or incorrect type for the room leading to a tinny hollow sound or sound so loud it picks up in the microphones
When we look someone directly in the eye, we can block out a lot of the environmental “noise.” When we look someone in the camera, the technology amplifies environmental short comings. These short comings block good communication.
At Acoustics By Design, we help you identify and solve the weakest links in your videoconferencing system, and we provide objective recommendations for how to solve the issues. As independent consultants, we don’t sell anything. This ensures that our recommendations are based on your best interests.