It bears repeating – good audio is a must if you are going to be effective in any remote role. That means you should always prioritize being heard over being seen. But after a few years of most people working from home, folks are still having a difficult time with their audio. This is a quick primer on what you need to do to have good audio in every virtual meeting.
Good audio requires the right setup
To have the best quality audio you need:
- A quiet space
- Good quality internet
- A directional microphone.
- A directional microphone is one designed to pick up sound from a specific area and to minimize other sounds.
- If you can’t have a quiet space, a directional microphone – one that is pointed at or near your mouth – can pick up your voice more clearly.
- However, that means if you talk under your breath, we can really hear you. 😊
- Wired headset with a microphone
- Always have a back-up audio device handy (your phone, for example)
Keys to good audio every time
Assume you are going to have an audio issue in every virtual interaction. Be prepared by:
- Always testing your audio before the virtual interaction begins
- Particularly if your machine has recently rebooted, you’ve unplugged or changed a device or you’re switching tools (ex from Zoom to Teams or Slack)
- If the tool doesn’t have a test feature (like Teams), do a quick microphone check with someone who’s joined the call. (Say “mic check 1, 2, 1, 2” or whatever your signature mic check is). People of a “certain age” will appreciate this microphone check from a 90s hip hop song.
- ALWAYS test your microphone if you are presenting!
- Know how to troubleshoot audio quickly
- Murphy’s Law says if it can go wrong, it will. Always be ready to deploy your ninja audio troubleshooting skills at a moment’s notice.
- Make sure you know how to troubleshoot audio issues with:
- The virtual meeting tool you’re using
- Your computer
- The device you’re using
- In fact, troubleshooting should go in that order.
Avoid audio devices that have built-in problems
An even better way to prevent audio issues is to eliminate certains risks altogether. I recommend eliminating devices that can failure points, like these:
- Wireless headsets require batteries to run and a good Bluetooth connection. Batteries always seem to run out at the worst possible time. Bluetooth can be problematic. If you’re preferred device is wireless, you MUST have a back-up device.
- Earbuds or dangly headphones that are used for listening experience. Often these don’t have great microphones and certainly not directional ones. You may find yourself compensating for the poor-quality audio by having to hold the mic closer or talk louder.
Now try this:
- Hold a meeting dry run with a colleague. Test out the quality of your device in your normal work area. Get feedback on the background noise in that area, quality of the sound and the quality.
- Assess the quality of the audio of members of your team. Is everyone using the same or similar device? Different ones? Does anyone routinely have audio issues? Discuss as a team how to improve the quality of your audio.
- Discuss with your leader if your organization can provide headsets to the team. Or a stipend to purchase a good headset.
- Know how to mute and unmute your audio using the buttons on your headset, the keys on your keyboard, the keys on your phone and the controls in the virtual meeting tool. Yes, know how to mute/unmute in all these places. In fact, you can change your tool settings to mute you when you enter a meeting.
From my book A Guide to Developing Virtual Presence: Virtual Presence for Authentic Digital Communication available online by subscription or for purchase at BookBoon.