Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP is rapidly becoming a good option for many internet users over standard Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). I myself use a variant provided by my cable/internet service provider, and it works quite well. However, it is still a young technology. Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional includes it as a way to communicate with meeting attendees, and it works well. However, there are many, many variables that can erode the quality of the experience for either the presenter or the participant. The following 12 steps to success should help you to have the best meeting you can.
- Use a headset/microphone, not the internal PC microphone or mic built into a web camera. A good-quality but inexpensive USB headset should work just fine. I use a Plantronics DSP myself.
- Users should run the Connection wizard to make sure they have the latest version of Flash and install the Connect Add-in if possible – also note their Connection speed for the next step: Test your Connection. Note, many folks sit on a LAN, but because of network traffic, length of cable, wi-fi (not recommended for meetings) or other factors, only get DSL or Modem speed throughput to their client. This step is especially true of anyone planning to speak. Listeners can take this step if they are experiencing poor quality of sound.
- Meeting users should go to the Meeting drop-down menu and under “Manage My Settings” select “My Connection Speed” and select Modem/DSL/LAN depending on what the Connection wizard told them.
- All users should run the audio setup wizard ahead of the meeting to test their Microphone and speakers, test location silence settings and reduce echo (note – I’ve seen many cases where headsets were not used and participants essentially transmit the audio from the meeting out from their speakers back through the system’s microphone, creating an echo for other participants. Usually the built-in echo cancellation catches this, but not always which is why I always recommend a headset/microphone combo.
- The Meeting Host, under the “Meeting” drop down, should optimize the meeting room bandwidth depending on the lowest connection speed of the participants (see the Explanation below).
- Assuming all users completed step 3, the meeting host should consider setting room bandwidth at the speed of the lowest connection, especially if several participants show up in the connection status window (see the second Explanation below).
- You should not run other applications in the background during meetings, particularly web applications (email, chat, etc..) These compete for CPU and client bandwidth to the internet. In some cases, people will be running applications that are using the camera or microphone driver already which restricts Connect from using the same driver in the meeting room.
- If bandwidth is the potential issue, consider not using web cams – or pausing them when they are not physically speaking.
- If multiple speakers are involved, make sure the “multiple speaker” option is selected in the Audio option in the room.
- Set expectations for the “push to talk” mechanism such that you start talking a moment or two after the button has been pushed as opposed to starting to talk as the button is being pushed. I’ve seen many cases where the first part of a person’s sentence is cut off because they are talking as the button is still being engaged.
- As it relates to #10, consider push to talk vs. having everyone lock the talk button down. First, whether you’re talking or not, if the lock button is down, you are transmitting audio – no reason to clog up the pipe with bits of silence.
- Note a few of the port requirements on the install guide. Port 1935 and 80 are required – also port 443 is required if SSL is enabled to establish TCP connections. Are these ports open on the client side? Are they throttled down for any reason? You may not know this for one-to-many presentations, but as a potential source of trouble, it’s worth noting.
Explanation: View attendee connection status
A group of bars, like the bars indicating signal strength on a mobile device, can appear next to an attendee name in the Attendee List pod to indicate an attendee’s connection status. (This option is off by default.) When the attendee’s connection falls below the current meeting room bandwidth, the number of bars in the icon decreases. Hosts can configure the network connection status indicators to be on or off any time during a meeting.
The network connection status is shown for all attendees that have a bandwidth set lower than room bandwidth you selected. For example, if the room bandwidth is set to DSL/Cable, connection status is shown for attendees with a connection speed set to Modem. (Attendees can set their connection speed by clicking Meeting > Manage My Settings > My Connection Speed.)
To enable this feature – 1) in the menu bar, select Meeting > Room Performance And Appearance > Optimize Room Bandwidth 2) Select DSL/Cable or LAN 3) Click the Pod Options button in the lower-right corner of the Attendee List pod 4) Select Show Connection Status from the pop-up menu.
Explanation: Set meeting room bandwidth
The host sets meeting room bandwidth to determine the speed (kilobits/second) at which data from the meeting is sent to attendees. The host should choose a room bandwidth that matches the connection speed used by attendees. If attendees are using a variety of connection speeds, choose the lowest speed that attendees may be using. For example, if some attendees are using modems, choose Modem for room bandwidth to ensure that all attendees have a good connection and client computers are not overloaded
The following general guidelines are recommended for room bandwidth settings. Actual speeds can vary according with each network environment:
- Modem: One presenter can generate around 26 kbits/second of data. Attendees need around 29 kbits/second for a good connection. Having more than one presenter with the Modem setting is not recommended. Screen sharing with the Modem setting is not recommended.
- DSL: One presenter can generate around 125 kbits/second of data. Attendees need around 128 kbits/second for a good connection. If screen sharing is used, attendees should hav e 200 kbits/second.
- LAN: One presenter can generate around 250 kbits/second of data. Attendees need around 255 kbits/second. If screen sharing is used, attendees should have 400 kbits/second.
These steps can’t always guarentee a perfect audio experience, but for most of the issues you will see they help.