How Audio Quality Affects Meetings

How Poor Audio Quality Affects Meetings

You’ve probably heard before (perhaps on this very blog) that 93% of what people communicate is nonverbal. As big fans of the video call, we dearly love that fact. But you have to admit that 7% of verbal communication still does an awful lot of important work. When you’re setting goals and establishing your vision for the future, it’s words that bring those big ideas to life. That’s why we were troubled when our recent cross-industry survey of IT professionals revealed that current technology is plagued by technical issues, especially around poor audio quality.

Audio quality is the second most important criteria when choosing a video conferencing system, but it’s also the number-one technical reason people choose not to use video in every meeting. So it’s no surprise that these poor audio quality issues are killing the adoption rate of current solutions.

We’ve identified four major poor audio problems that take a hidden toll on the effectiveness of video meetings. If any of these ring true for you, it might be time to start exploring new options.

Frequent poor audio issues

Given the state of many conferencing solutions, it’s hard to blame people for kicking them to the side because of recurring bad audio quality. When we asked about poor audio issues, 40% reported that they occur frequently. Those odds of a breakdown are far too high when your next big idea is on the line.

Background noise

Even when the audio on legacy systems doesn’t fail outright, 67% of respondents say background noise frequently affects their hearing. In some ways this is more troubling than dropped audio, since being misheard can lead to drastically unintended consequences.

Maybe you hear “okay” when your client actually said “no way.” Maybe you hear “I took care of it” when your teammate actually said “I’ll take care of it.” The scary part about letting background noise ruin your call is that, by the time you figure there’s been a miscommunication, it might be too late.

Low talkers, long tables

It’s not just the folks in the room who have trouble hearing. When was the last time you were on the virtual end of a meeting with a team using outdated conference room technology? They’re all having a perfectly normal conversation, but to you it sounds like everyone is muttering, except for the few near the microphone.

Our respondents overwhelming reported that video conferencing is important to them as a way to help team members feel connected and make better decisions. But that connection just isn’t happening if virtual team members are missing out on what the low-talkers at the far end of the table are contributing.

Cross talk

Even when all systems are go, people are bound to speak up at the same time. It’s only human, and when you can see and hear each other clearly, it’s not too hard to move past these moments. That is unless your conferencing system is still half duplex, meaning you can’t speak and listen at the same time.

After the initial garble, you both pause. Then you both apologize at the same time, which again comes out garbled. Then you both say “Go ahead” at the same time. After that third garble, there’s an extra long pause. Then you both try to speak again, and the whole vicious cycle repeats until one of you forgets what you were going to say.

The bottom line is, for a video conferencing solution to work, it has to feel like everyone is really in the room with each other. That means you’ve got to have a full duplex system, where you can listen and speak simultaneously. It’s only natural.

So, what the heck is wrong with video conferencing?

Poor audio quality is right at the heart of some worrying results we found in our survey. But there’s hope.

To see all the reasons why video conferencing isn’t working and how you can find a solution that turns meeting rooms into a collaboration wonderland, check out our new Ebook, What the Heck is Wrong with Video Conferencing?


By James Longley