Audio is at the core of humans communicating. If a staff member or outside partner attends a meeting and cannot clearly understand what is being spoken, the meeting was a waste. Conversely, if people calling in or attending the meeting remotely cannot clearly understand, the same is true.
Audio technology allows people to communicate in a way that was previously available. It now allows a more authentic way for people located remotely to interact, and take part of the meeting, without physically being there. While this cannot completely replace face to face meetings, sometimes it’s not possible for everyone to be in the same room, and technology allows these meetings to take place more easily, with less overall cost.
Audio Technology: A Multi-Faceted Topic
In a meeting space, there are often two key aspects. The first is local sound lift/ reinforcement. If there are any microphones or AV sources, such as laptop audio, BluRays, and music, the local lift/reinforcement system can be utilized to ensure that everyone within the meeting space can hear what is being spoken or presented. This system is crucial, as many meeting room spaces are very large, and microphones are required to be heard throughout the space.
With regards to this portion of the audio solution, the system may have a variety of sources and microphones. All of these will need to be tied together. Oftentimes in less complicated solutions, an auto-mixer can be used to regulate and control the level of the microphones. They also serve to provide anti-feedback processing, which will help ensure microphones, when turned up, won’t feed back.
These systems will provide some form of automation, allowing the customer to simply turn the system on and use it. Of course, with more complexities comes less plug-and-play. The goal, however, is to provide as much ease of use as is possible.
The second portion of an audio solution would be conferencing. The local sound lift/reinforcement system must be tied into the conferencing portion, so that on the far-end they can clearly hear what is being said or discussed. The solution would include a DSP that would handle both aspects of the solution, and provide things like acoustic echo cancellation (AEC) when on a conference call so that people on the far-end aren’t piped back into the system, creating a loop.
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Within the room, the solution would provide for loudspeakers or in-ceiling speakers that are selected to ensure good clarity and intelligibility. The selection of the specific type or model would also be determined by the needs of the room. If music playback or movie playback are a need that will be handled by this solution, then subwoofers may also be provided for a better experience.
The goal is to provide a solution that ties everything together – control systems, audio and video recording, pan-tilt-zoom cameras, and other devices – in a way that is easy to use, and satisfies the end-users needs. It is a “solution” as all the parts must be designed to work together seamlessly, allowing the end user to focus on the meeting, and not on the technology.
Return on Investment: The Importance of Being Heard
If it is determined that this audio technology may be useful, the time comes to pitch it to superiors.
When communication is better, it helps all facets of the organization. In order for everyone to be on the same page, they need to have great communication. With good communication, collaboration is much better. When people are able to share ideas, the ideas form products and services that are better.
There are several ways that companies are using audio technology in order to ring in new collaboration, better communication, and a more engaging experience for remote and on-site persons alike.
For on-site meetings, audio technology will help engage people within the room. The technology can be used to create a more immersive experience. If you have a meeting with potential customers, helping to keep them engaged during a presentation will mean that what you are presenting to them will be seen, and more importantly heard. For remote customers, a video will greatly enhance the meeting, especially if a face to face meeting simply isn’t an option. Companies with this type of technology can also help differentiate themselves from the competition.
What will the return on investment be in response to using this type of technology? The first major benefit to keep in mind is how using this type of technology will help enhance meetings, and ensure people are on the same page.
With meetings where everyone is within the room you’ll require voice lift. When microphones are used in the room, they can be piped into loudspeakers, or in-ceiling speakers, making sure that everyone, including those further back in the room, will still be able to clearly hear what is being said. In really large rooms, roving wireless microphones are required. Having these types of systems will ensure even questions are heard clearly.
Ever been to a meeting where the person asking the question couldn’t be heard? The person at the front of the room or on stage ends up repeating the question. It adds time to the meeting, and oftentimes the person repeating the questions doesn’t fully understand the question. It can be annoying, and detrimental to the meeting.
It’s also worth mentioning that people may be in the room that are hard of hearing. With an audio solution, you can add an assisted listening system (which in some areas is required) to enable those who are hard of hearing to more clearly hear what is being discussed.
From a cost standpoint, an audio system would enable people that are not nearby to remotely call in and take part in the meetings. This could result in less gas and plane travel costs. For organizations with offices all over the country (or even the world), this would be very beneficial.
For local meetings, it often results in less cost as well. Many companies end up not investing the money, especially in large spaces such as theater halls, atriums, and the like. Over time, having to rent equipment and bring in crews can be very costly. Over longer periods of time, there can be considerable cost-savings from having the equipment installed. It means less downtime in these spaces, and less cost over time.