Can you hear me now? Sound hacks for your next conference call

Updated: Jan 26

As much as we would like our conference calls (or video calls) to be the same as in-person meetings, they are just inherently different.

One of the biggest obstacles is sound. Is there anything worse than trying to pay attention to a presentation when you can't hear well?

There are so many things that can go wrong. Too loud, too soft, echo, hollow sound, muted, spotty connection. The most difficult part is that it is hard to tell how you actually sound to your audience until it's too late. Someone might let you know after the fact.

Here are some tips to help you avoid some of the most common sound problems.

Problem #1: Echo

One of the most common problems in a web call is echo. In technical terms, an echo is created when sound is bouncing off various surfaces. When you yell your name into a canyon, it bounces off those hard surfaces and creates the echo you hear back.

When you are in a bare room, meaning without furniture or carpeting, it can create the same effect. The solution is to make your call in a room with carpet, furniture and other 'sound absorbing' props, which are soft and can absorb sound.

Problem #2: Hollow Sound

Hollow sound describes the sound you hear when you are talking into a long tunnel. Your sound waves are traveling so far, it creates a hollow sound which oftentimes also sound like an echo. This can also be a product of directional audio. You want your sound to go directly into your microphone instead of bouncing off other surfaces or traveling a long distance. A great sound absorber in this instance can be a simple pillow. A pillow creates a sound chamber, much like the padded rooms you see in a radio or audio recording room. Those are to help absorb sound and make your audio directed into the microphone.

Problem #3: Popping sound

If your P's or T's are popping into the microphone, you need a mic screen. This helps soften the sound and avoid those jarring pops you can hear on certain consonants. This is usually not a problem in simple conference calls without professional equipment.


Use props like books or pillows

Carpeting and furniture will help absorb your sound and create a nice, soft tone for your audio. Books not only look great as a background in your video call, they can also help absorb your sound and direct it toward your microphone. Pillows placed directly behind your computer or microphone can help direct your audio and also soften your sound avoiding echo.

Listen to yourself

Take a few minutes before your presentation to record yourself using the audio you are using for your call. That means if you are presenting on zoom, recording yourself on your phone won't help. Set up a private zoom meeting and record it and then listen to the audio. This way, you will hear exactly what your audience will hear and be able to troubleshoot from there.

Cancel outside noise

Canceling your outside noise can be as important as enhancing your inside noise. Pro tip: set up a white noise machine or fan outside your office door to block out outside noise like dogs barking, children screaming, etc. that might be happening in your home office!

Drop me a line and let me know how you make sure you sound good in your conference calls! Here's a little something to make you laugh in the meantime. Does this sound like your office call?

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