Conference Calling Tips to Improve Your Calls

Audio Conference Calling Problems and How to Address Them

Manage Your Audio Conference Calls Problems
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Audio conference calls seem interesting when you think the benefits they carry for your business or social meetings. But when you think of the issues associated with their setting up and smooth running, you soon realize that participating in one or holding one is quite challenging. While organizing a conference call, there are a number of issues you have to include in your planning, so as to avoid problems that can make it a failure.

1. Background Noise

This is any noise that comes from a participant apart from their voice, like chairs rattling, people chatting behind them, machinery noises, paper noises etc. You get these noises mostly with participants who use VoIP, because the traditional phone handset has dedicated and short-range microphones, whereas VoIP works with a device-borne microphone that is more sensible. An example is the microphone array system you have most of the latest laptop computers. Some people participate in conferences using their devices hands-free.

The only way to remedy this situation is to make the participants aware of the disturbance they are causing, which is best done through communication before the conference call. For example, as the organizer, you may want to circulate an email on the etiquettes for a conference call prior to the session.

2. Echo

Echo may be part of background noise, but it is more technical than that.

Someone participating in the conference call may have conditions with their phone or may be using a phone that lacks echo cancellation. Read more on how to stop producing echo.

Someone with echo is normally asked to hang up. So again, proper awareness on some technical issues with the phones and other equipment used in a conference call is important beforehand.

3. Presence Management

In an audio conference call, you will be using only one of your senses: your hearing. You will not see people you are talking to or listening to. This means that unless you keep track of each entry and exit in your conference call, you might be unaware of presence in your audience once deep into the conference.

This problem has been without solution so far for audio conferencing, until the development of tools that allow a certain amount of presence management. The first tool giving this is UberConference, where you can see who is talking when they do, who is here and who is not, and so on. A number of such tools have cropped up lately, some with interesting visual interfaces representing participants with icons. 

4. Music on Hold

People normally groom their phone interface for individuals, but never for conference calls. While it might be nice for someone that has been put on hold to hear some music, it will definitely be nuisance in a conference call. Some participants may put the conference on hold while attending to some other call or task, thereby adding rhythmic ambiance to the conference. Here again, the preliminary conferencing ethics awareness campaign will be of value.

5. Leadership

In some instances, if a group does not have a leader, chaos will lead. This is likely to happen in a conference, especially one that involves sensible matters, where there isn’t one person holding the reins. That leader should make sure that everyone is given ample time to speak out, and necessary attention. They should also be able to get things back on track should there be straying or downright conflict.

6. Materials and Documents

Many conferences, especially business ones, involve reference made to documents, materials and tools. Wrong dissemination of such information causes some participants to be in the dark on certain points, thereby causing disinterest. Care should, therefore, be taken to disseminate the necessary information and documents to every party required well before the conference starts. Another, and better, way is to make use of online collaboration tools, where reference to the documents and other materials will not only be passive, but there can also be active productivity during the online working session.

7. Poor Voice Quality

I am not referring to the voice of someone having a sore throat here, but to the voice of someone using a phone service that offers poor call quality. Now this happens often with VoIP service, which is dependent on a certain number of factors, including bandwidth, codecs used, phones and other devices used. There is unfortunately nothing much you can do about this if you are the conference leader or organizer. The participant suffering from poor voice quality needs to get things improved on their side.

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