Science & Tech

Five Audio Issues That Derail Meetings

Today’s workforce is increasingly on the go. Workers are scattered across the globe. More and more, teams lean on video, web, and audio conferencing to collaborate and get work done together. Yet while conferencing technologies have pushed forward, one critical aspect has lagged sadly behind: audio. In fact, according to a 2017 Wainhouse Research study, 82 percent of companies reported having audio issues with their conferencing systems.

So what are some of the issues conferencing participants face? Below, the Dolby Voice team has collected five of the top audio-related meeting pet peeves.

1. Poor Audio Clarity Leading to Misunderstandings — “Did You Say Audio Clarity … or Radio Parity?”

Crackles. A high-pitched hiss. Static.

While many conferencing solutions boast of great audio clarity, few are able to consistently deliver. Poor audio quality and faulty sound are commonplace. Speech is choppy, voices are distorted, and conversations range from unclear to unintelligible. Most of the meeting is spent trying to fill in the missing pieces. By the time the meeting ends, participants are exhausted or completely disengaged.

2. Echo (cho, ho, o) — Cover Those Ears!

Someone puts the call on speaker. Or two people connect from their laptops in the same room but forget to use headsets. Suddenly, the meeting is hurled into an abyss of feedback where voices repeat and distort, repeat and distort. A participant desperately interjects, “Can whoever is causing that echo please go on mute?” But it’s too late. Even this request reverberates through the sonic house of mirrors, leaving behind an agitating, ricocheting loop: “…please go on mute, go on mute, on mute, mute, ute…”

Participants grimace. Everyone in the meeting room suffers. By the time the culprit finally goes on mute or plugs in a headset, the damage is already done: The meeting has been derailed.

3. Loss of Critical Verbal Subtleties — Missing the “Ohs” and “Ahs”

Even if the words in a conversation are audible, the verbal nuances easily picked up in face-to-face interactions — the inflections, the “ohs” and “ahs,” the sighs — are missing. The loss of these verbal subtleties means meeting participants lack the critical cues they need to understand a person’s full meaning. The conversation not only sounds flat, but there are bound to be miscommunications that leave people unnecessarily frustrated.

4. No Support for Overlapping Talkers — Don’t Everybody Speak at Once

Someone asks a question — then everybody answers at the same time. During in-person interactions, people often overlap each other when speaking. It’s just a natural part of conversation. But when it happens over conventional conferencing systems, voices get cut off. The sound gets muddy. There’s no telling who’s talking or what they’re saying. Was it the copywriter who said, “I’m almost done with the first round, but I need some feedback during the call,” or was it the designer? Was that even what they said?

Attendees sit silently in the awkward pause, then someone says, “Can you please repeat that?” As everyone jumps in at once to clarify, the communication thread is lost again. Precious meeting time goes to waste and, amidst the confusion, people become disengaged.

5. Intrusive Background Noise — “A Bird? A Plane? Whatever That Sound Is, It’s Coming from One of the Mobile Callers”

Mobile devices give us the ability to work anywhere, anytime. That’s a major perk. The downside? When participants call into a meeting from their mobile devices, they usually aren’t calling from a quiet, secluded spot. They’re often on the road, in a cafe, or in a hotel lobby. And the noises in the background — the roar of a jackhammer, a barista making a cappuccino, music thumping from a passing car — get picked up by the microphone and disrupt the conversation.

So mobile callers go on mute. They listen in. And when asked if they have anything to contribute, they provide 10 seconds of brilliant input, only to be interrupted by someone saying, “Hey there, I think you might still be on mute.” Their words are lost and productivity comes to a standstill.

There’s a Better Way

Conferencing solutions are a necessity in the modern world. But poor or mediocre audio? That should be a thing of the past.

And that’s why Dolby Voice exists. Dolby Voice is a breakthrough audio technology that sets a new standard for how people can expect conferencing to sound. With exceptional audio clarity, Dolby Voice allows participants to easily hear and understand everyone in a meeting. Background noise suppression cuts out sounds that aren’t part of the conversation so meeting attendees can focus on the subject at hand. And with support for overlapping talkers, Dolby Voice eliminates awkward exchanges and allows everyone to participate equally in the conversation.

Meetings need to happen. Audio issues don’t. Check out the online demo to hear the stunning audio quality of Dolby Voice.