How to Address Audio Challenges in Evolving Event Formats
Event organizers are welcoming the gradual return of guests and delegates to their venues and conference rooms. Understandably, things look a little different with social distancing a requirement for the safety and wellbeing of all participants.
At the same time, many more people are still joining from home or other locations, desperate to be included but unable (or unwilling) to attend a live event in-person.
What everyone wants is to get back to some semblance of normality. But this new reality brings new challenges that event organizers and their equipment suppliers must address. The overriding question: How do we provide an engaging experience for all? Research undertaken in 2020 found that engagement was by far the biggest challenge for event organizers pivoting to virtual formats and wanting to match the live event experience with the help of technology.
Audio Quality is Vital
Back in early 2020 – before the pandemic wreaked global havoc research conducted on behalf of Shure into the current and future state of business meetings found that virtual meetings were perceived as an essential business function. However, they were consistently plagued by audio issues, with four out of five business professionals’ top frustrations with virtual meetings related to audio. Sound familiar? If you’re a conference organizer, planner, or AV equipment provider, you’ll already know that the issue of audio quality reaches beyond the enterprise into the world of events.
What is a participant likely to do when they’re attending an event and can’t hear clearly what other people are saying, even in the same room? How can remote attendees stay engaged with live streams in poor quality audio, which makes it difficult to listen to and comprehend event content? In both cases, the answer is that the affected person will simply switch off – either mentally zoning out or, in the case of a remote participant, dropping out from the event altogether. Neither of the above are the kind of experiences that event organizers want to deliver.
Let’s take a closer look at these scenarios and the audio challenges they present:
Audio for In-person Events
A survey of meeting and events professionals found that the top factor (cited by 77 percent of respondents) influencing event safety and security was the ability to accommodate social distancing.
This means that events need to be held in larger spaces with more room between attendees, which generally results in fewer attendees overall depending on the venue capacity. We’ve seen school gymnasiums and community halls being repurposed for meetings because they offer plenty of space. Other non-traditional venues, such as stadiums, offer outdoor space that can accommodate social distancing requirements.
In these expansive spaces, the challenge is clear: The further apart people sit, the harder it is to hear and be heard. It’s therefore important that spread-out seating arrangements, particularly in large and acoustically challenging venues, should not prevent participants from exchanging ideas.
At Shure, we believe that the audio experience should enhance not detract from live engagement. Our solution? The Microflex® Complete Wireless (MXCW) digital conference system. It’s a reliable, flexible sound system that integrates microphone and loudspeaker into a single wireless conference unit. Event attendees can easily contribute and hear every word at their seats, in high-quality detail. And because it’s cable-free, it takes away the hassle of laying or hiding wiring, reduces tripping hazards, and minimizes the impact of temporary AV setups in all types of venues and layouts.
Audio for Online Events
Beyond physical events, virtual conferences and meetings have kept the events industry afloat in the most difficult of times. Attendees have accepted the downside of remote participation knowing that, in many cases, it’s been the only way to join in. That’s all changing. A recent survey found that 67 percent of event professionals felt hybrid (remote and in-person) events were the way of the future. As such, event organizers must ensure people joining remotely feel truly included, with flawless audio for online event attendees.
Shure’s pre-COVID research had already found that background noise and echo, difficulties connecting, and audio cutting out entirely, as well as speakers not being picked up by microphones, were big causes of frustration with audio for virtual meetings. And now, this has been further exacerbated by so-called ‘Zoom fatigue.’
The Shure MXCW system offers event organizers a way forward. How? With quality audio for event livestreaming. While providing each local participant with their own, all-in-one conference unit for dedicated voice capture, the networkable system supports Dante digital audio over ethernet, as well as analog XLR connectivity for simple integration with downstream equipment, such as livestreaming or meeting software. A system that's simple and easy to set up gives MXCW the edge.
Audio That Event Organizers Can Rely On
At Shure, we understand event planners and organizers are going through a time of flux and uncertainty. Fortunately, there is growing optimism as the industry gradually adapts.
We aim to provide audio technology that you can rely on to create extraordinary experiences for both virtual and live participants. Make different easy with powerful, scalable and proven wireless audio for all your events.