Shouldn’t streaming audio be getting better every year? Aren’t compression algorithms improving? Aren’t high speed networks and CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) making data easier to stream globally?
Irwin and Amanda wrote to me today after listening to a public webinar they hosted at Brainshark. Irwin asked “Why is it that I can watch live Olympics on my smartphone on the train, yet audio drops for participants on webinars?”
I had the same questions today after moderating a client webinar. I spent half the session in typed chat with attendees who complained about audio cutouts, echoes, and complete stops. As a host, there’s not much you can do other than tell people to try refreshing their console or log in again and see if that happens to help.
I wrote a long blog post about this a full year and a half ago. In “The Web Conferencing Performance Conundrum” I pointed out that better performance quality is not sexy. It doesn’t help secure new customers. Web conference software marketing directors want new features, New Features, NEW FEATURES! So vendors don’t tend to put a lot of R&D into an area where many of the contributing factors are outside their control anyway (network congestion, slow/overworked attendee computers, etc).
Read the comments on that post. Web conferencing customers are frustrated. They know that poor audio performance is undermining audience concentration on content and messaging. It contributes to lower ratings and a downgraded perception of the webinar, the speakers, and the company. And they feel powerless to do anything about it.
I was interested in a comment from an employee at an audio transcription company. He pointed to the extreme compression and terrible quality of many webinar recordings. I loved this statement: “If you’re going to all the effort to produce a webinar it seems ridiculous to then record it on the equivalent of a wax disc from the 1920s.” That’s not just hyperbole.
So I’m on the lookout for two standouts. What vendor/product produces a high quality, robust, dropout-free streaming audio signal during live webinars? And what vendor/product produces a high quality, full frequency range webinar recording file?
Nothing will overcome bad source signals. If your presenters start with poor telephones, speakerphones, cell phones, noisy rooms… Well, I don’t expect the vendor to magically fix those problems. But given a good input, I think it’s reasonable to expect a good output to the audience.
Are you a vendor in this space? Want to play up your quality in this area? Great! Go for it… I want to hear from you. Add your comment to this post (you need to visit the source post on my blog). But I’ll want to hear from the clients and attendees using your product and see if their actual experiences match your claims.