Can you hear me now?: Choosing webinar audio options
Audio communication is a critical piece of the webinar puzzle. When deciding on the best way to communicate with your webinar audience, there are several factors to take into consideration.
There are three ways to provide audio during a webinar: 1) VoIP only (through the computer speakers), 2) teleconferencing only (phone) or 3) simulcast (deliver audio via both VoIP and teleconferencing). Your choice will depend on your audience’s preference, your webinar platform and your budget. Some webinar platforms include VoIP or teleconferencing for free, others charge a fee for one or both, and some integrate with audio providers. Let’s look at all three options in more detail:
1) VoIP only:
- The Pros: If your webinar platform includes this for free, this is your most budget-friendly option. This is a fairly simple to use option and facilitates the one-to-many format that is most common with webinars. The advantage of having the audio automatically captured with the recording adds to the ease-of-use.
- The drawbacks: Attendees may not have computer speakers (less common problem today than a couple years ago), attendees may not have a headset for their computer (especially a problem for attendees in a cubicle environment), and bandwidth on the attendee side may be low (which you cannot control). Other drawbacks that may apply to your webinar would include the lack of ability for speakers and moderators to chat amongst themselves prior to the event start time and the difficulty in allowing attendee participation via audio if they do not have the right set up on their end (this would mainly apply to smaller events).
2) Teleconferencing only:
- The Pros: The benefit of this option is that it’s a tried and true technology that will provide a good and consistent quality of audio. Using the audio provider’s prompts, speakers and moderators can also easily hold a pre-conference so early attendees cannot hear final preparations taking place. If you want attendee participation via audio, this is accomplished quite easily (I recommend this only for small events).
- The drawbacks: Some webinar platforms provide teleconferencing with the technology. Otherwise this would be a separate service and could significantly increase overall webinar production budget, especially with an international audience. In addition, many webinar attendees today expect to have a VoIP option. Knowing how to set up the conference call, including muting participants, will be important – typically an operator is desired to help with managing details like this on large calls. If you are recording the webinar, the audio will need to be captured separately and added to the webinar recording in post-production.
- The Pros: Simulcasting both VoIP and a teleconference offers the most flexibility to webinar attendees. It allows attendees to choose the option that is best for them and also allows the speakers/moderators to have a private pre-conference via phone. To accomplish a simulcast you can use Universal Voice (provided with Adobe Connect) which allows the integration of any audio provider with the webinar platform. Some webinar platforms that offer a teleconferencing option will naturally accomplish a simulcast. Another, albeit clunky, way to accomplish this is to have each speaker use both a phone headset and a computer headset and speak into both (the downside is that you will need to manage each broadcast separately). Finally, you can use hardware to accomplish the integration, although I’m not going to cover that here. The simulcast easily and automatically records the audio so that the recording is available immediately without any post-production work.
- The drawbacks: If you are concerned about simulcasting due to the cost of the teleconference, a nice option is to simulcast but only provide the call-in number to those attendees that are having trouble with the VoIP or request a call in. You could also require that international attendees listen via VoIP to save on the teleconference portion. This is not a good option for events where participation on audio is desired because those on VoIP are not heard by those on the phone and the contributions of those on VoIP are not captured on the recording.
Once you have made a choice, ensure and test that you have set up your audio broadcast choice correctly and fully understand how to implement and deploy it during the live event.
For more information on Adobe Connect audio options see the ‘Using audio and telephony’ category on the Adobe Connect Support page.