When setting out to improve the sound of any workspace, a good first step is to find how it sounds already. It's often shocking to discover how bad we sometimes sound to our customers, employees, even to the boss.
In a call, we never sound as good to the far end as we do to ourselves. The best way to test this is to ask a friend to sit in the home office, call them from somewhere else, and listen. Ask them to move around and talk. How does it sound now that you're the far-end caller? Is the sound kind of reverberant and muddy? Traffic noise in the background? A whining dog?
Time to fix that! The easiest first step is to get the microphone closer to your mouth. This one helps two ways, because it lifts your voice well above both outside noise and room reverb. Put the microphone, either a headset or a desktop style, about six inches from your mouth (in the average room two feet or more is where it can often start sounding unclear again, but extremely close can actually sound kind of creepy).
Another thing: Be sure that you've got HD Voice. This is crucial because it preserves the full fidelity of voice in both directions and saves you from fatigue through long days. HD Voice preserves the full quality of the voice, and helps make sure everyone is easily understood.
Once your office space is behaving itself, you're just left with the obvious: local sirens, dogs, nearby conversations (“…well, I wasn’t going to put up with THAT so I told HIM…”), kids, family, and all the rest of life. Here are some quick solutions for common situations.
- Become a virtuoso with the mute button. If you're not talking, mute. One user can disrupt a whole meeting, so keep it on mute if you're not in the spotlight. Don't forget to unmute when you talk.
- Even better is to use next-gen speech management if you have it. This is built into many Polycom products and is called the "acoustic bubble;" it recognizes that it's you and not a distant dog or siren that's making the sound, and automatically opens the mic - but only while you talk.
- Soundproof the room where it's possible. Close the window against outside noises if possible, and close the doors when you're on a call. I even know one guy who hung a big "ON THE AIR" sign on the home-office door (although he wasn't too good at remembering to turn it on and off). It didn't always work but at least it was showy.
- Let the family know when you're "at work." If you can't be disturbed for an hour or two, let them know. But then make a point of coming out and saying hi, so they get some good stuff to reward them for their patience. This is a good time to bring coffee to your long-suffering spouse, if you're me.
- If you are typing, be sure you're muted. And the third time someone on the conference says WILL WHOEVER IS TYPING FOR THE LOVE OF POTATOES MUTE YOUR PHONE, check out automatic noise detectors that shut out the noise while you're typing. Really good ones do exist (check Polycom, surprise!)
Once you're done, there's one more benefit: you now have a great place to use for family voice and video calls!
Your voice is often the single most important tool you have for communicating. Make it radiant!