One of the big problems with conference calls is that it can be hard to hear what other people on the call are saying. I wouldn’t consider myself to be hard-of-hearing but sometimes I really struggle to hear what’s going on. This is especially true when one or more people on the call are using speakerphones: hands-free phones (that often look like UFOs) that people gather around in conference rooms.
Problems with speakerphones:
- They pick up background noise
- They pick up echo in the room
- People are very tempted to shout into a speakerphone, because they are not physically close to the microphone, which can lead to an unwanted hostile quality in the voice!
- Volume is inconsistent: speakerphone users are often very loud on the call, or very quiet, or a mixture of both (great to blast out the eardrums of everyone else on the call!)
- Bottom line: voice quality is usually very poor, so communication is also poor.
One tip I’ve found is to ask participants not to use speakerphones on conference calls. Instead, ask everyone to use a standard phone, even if they are in the same room together. This way, everyone is speaking into their own microphone, which is held close to their face. Call quality is much clearer, and communication is much easier.
The same is of course also true when using Skype, GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, or other Voice Over IP (VoIP) services.