Creative analysis, Marketing and PR

The day job: Sound in webinars and Google Hangouts

Since starting at Radix Communications, I have watched quite a few webinars and Google Hangouts. I’ve noticed that there is an epidemic of poor quality sound in webinars and Hangouts being produced for and/or by B2B marketers.

A few have had poor sound quality some of the time, too many sound quite appalling most of the time and there have been a handful that have been completely unwatchable, because the sound is so bad that you cannot hear what’s being said. Then there are the ones with annoying background noises that keep threatening to distract you from what’s being said.

The podcaster in me knows that there are things that can be done to ensure they sound reasonably clear. I’m not talking about bringing in mixers and getting $300 microphones – but there are steps people should take.

Is it my internet connection that’s causing problems? Having tried viewing content on both my low speed home connection and high speed work connection, even after the event and it’s just the archived presentation… no it’s not my connection that’s the problem. So here’s some steps webinar presenters and those running hangouts should take:

3. Avoid broadcasting from a poor connection

It doesn’t matter what service provider you may be with for your webinars – their servers can only do so much to ensure that the connection is not responsible for decreasing a webinar’s audio quality. This goes similarly for Google Hangouts. Check how you sound on your connection before broadcasting (i.e. do a dry run), and if it seems like the connection is affecting things – then find somewhere else to broadcast or reschedule. Great content means nothing if you can’t listen to it.

Also: turn off applications that could be eating your bandwidth in the background, like Dropbox, and certainly close unused web browser tabs.

2. Know when and how to turn your mic off and on

This past week I have watched one webinar where the mic was left on before the webinar started properly and I could hear all sorts of things happening in the background. If you’re not presenting for a prolonged period of time, turn your mic off. Please.

1. Don’t rely on inbuilt microphones and speakers

You’ll probably look a little strange on a hangout, but do use USB headsets (with in-built headphones and mic). The mics on these are usually of an okay quality and normally better than the one built into a laptop. And at the very least use some headphones (either USB or ones that plug into your headphones jack on your computer), as this will stop the sound you’re hearing being echoed through your microphone.

The exception to this rule is if you’re presenting from a smartphone/tablet – and then I’ll still expect you to use some headphones.

Another advantage of using headphones is that should you receive an IM or email notification onto your computer while broadcasting – your audience won’t have to hear it. I hate hearing message alerts in webinars, Google Hangouts, even podcasts – it makes you sound like you’re not fully giving your attention to the task at hand.

These steps won’t make things perfect

But they should at least improve the overall sound quality of a webinar or Google Hangout.

Recommended read: TechSoup’s 10 Steps for Planning a Successful Webinar

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