We can’t escape video these days. It’s everywhere – and there’s always a lot of talk around video quality for both the design and equipment used. But when it comes to audio…. not so much! It’s something that is quite often just assumed, but is very rarely up for discussion.
When it comes to Webinars and the virtual classroom, impeccable audio is a must. Because the session is running live, participants with poor audio will struggle to fully take part in activities such as a breakout room. This can cause frustration and potential disruption to the group. And even with the best laid plans for trainer set up, to means some activities need to be adjusted on the fly.
Frustrations can be felt by:
The learners experiencing the technical issues who become disconnected from multi-tasked activities.
The whole group, especially breakout partners who may have to rely on chat facilities and so experience a less meaningful conversation.
The trainer who experiences increased stress and has to change a well practiced session on the go
What are the options?
VoIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol which simply means a system that allows you to use your computer as a telephone, and your Internet connection as a telephone line.
Phone calling system – the more traditional method using a phone line.
The pros and cons of VoIP
Pro: It’s the easiest way to connect to a session as both the virtual classroom structure and audio are streaming together. Audio starts automatically when participants join.
Con: A higher internet bandwith is needed to have a stable experience (3-5MB upload depending on the virtual classroom system used. WebEx and Zoom are fairly low, Adobe requires more bandwith).
Some world regions struggle to get the right bandwith and participants have to reconnect regularly, experiencing choppy audio particularly when they try to contribute. This is common in certain parts of India or Africa but also some European rural areas.
WiFi – a wireless connection to the internet – has become incredibly powerful over recent years but there are some restrictions:
It’s more likely to be unstable and should be avoided if using VoIP
The range weakens as learners get further away from the source and it’s not always obvious where the source is located.
Pros and cons of a phone calling system
Most conference call providers will be integrated with the main webinars and virtual classroom providers: Adobe Connect, GoTo, Webex and Zoom.
Pro: Stable and tested. If the internet is slow it will not affect the learner audio and any slight delay in the video stream is barely noticeable. It is the preferred option with a global audience, especially if there are larger groups and any uncertainty about the equipment used.
- It adds an extra step to joining in
- Require participants to have a headset
- Adds an extra cost to the running of the room
- Some corporate telephone systems sometimes struggle with receiving the call, leading to more work for the participants to join and extra support from the producer
- It is not possible to use VoIP and conference call facilities in a virtual room. Participants joining in without a phone can listen (depending on the provider) but they won’t have any audio during the breakout activities and cannot contribute verbally
Key to success with any audio solution
Know your learners: location, equipment used, travelling professionals, age…
Test ahead of time: Send the minimum requirement inviting participants to test their equipment in advance, join early and don’t run any application whilst taking part in the virtual classroom.
Insist on early joining: asking participants to always log in 15 to 10 min ahead of the start will ensure your producer has time to do a verbal check with each of them. It is an opportunity to have an informal conversation. This conversation will allow:
- The producer to evaluate the quality of the line and to come up with an easy fix whenever possible
- Participants to realise from the start that the session will be interactive so they engage in conversations from the start, sharing challenges, ideas and finding solutions together! It makes for an altogether richer and more powerful experience!
It’s thanks to our wonderful team of producers that SyncSkills has grown from humble beginnings to becoming the leading European Production Agency for Webinars, Virtual Classrooms, Online Training and Blended Learning. Meet our fabulous team here.