Webinar Tips and Tricks: Taking Your Sound from Good to Great - GotoMeeting

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Ask any presenter if they want their sound and voice quality to be awesome, and they’ll say yes. Sadly, in the world of virtual meetings and webinars, exactly how to produce that awesome sound is often overlooked. 

The good news is that improving your sound quality isn’t hard, it just requires intentionality. 

Recently I partnered with the GoTo team to deliver a webinar, “11.5 Tactics to Rock Your Webinars in 2021 where I included a test to demonstrate how differently microphones can sound – and we had way more questions than I could get to (even though we hung out for an additional hour!). This post tackles some of the most common questions arising from that session, including speakerphone usage, connection troubleshooting while live, using pre-recorded sound, and more.  

So if you’re ready to up your webinar game, look no further. These real answers to real users’ questions are chock full of actionable tips.  

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I use the phone and speak on speakerphone.  Is that a no no? ~ Diane B., Renee H., et al 

It’s not wrong, it’s just not optimum (listen to my audio test here). Here’s why: 

Speaker phones and/or the mic in your computer are designed to pick up an area. It’ll therefore pick up extraneous noise (paper rustling, your wrist thumping the desk, etc) and the general reverberation of the room. And this is more important for great sounding recordings than live events. Almost any headset, even cheap ones, will produce a better result. The key is the proximity of the mic to the source (your mouth). 

Remember, there’s a big difference between “able to be heard” and “sounds awesome.” Asking your audience if you sound ok will only get you the former. In the aforementioned test, besides listening to the quality differences of the mics, note the huge difference in warmth in the very final test I do. ANY voice can sound more rich and “present,” but a speakerphone will almost never get you there.  

How do I get rid of pops that happen with some words? ~Prakesh S.  

Typically those pops (called “plosives”) happen because the air released from your mouth rushes into the mic. In other words, it’s like a momentary gust of wind. 

Position your mic slightly below and slightly to the side of your mouth. It’s still useful to keep the mic tight to our face (the sound will be warmer), but once it’s out of the line of fire, the plosives will go over/past the mic, not into it. 

What would you suggest to do when a connection issue happens in a live meeting/webinar? ~Ana L. 

I’ll answer in two parts: troubleshooting and preparation. 

How to troubleshoot audio: The most frequent way that presenters figure out their audio is having an issue is someone types in a chat/question something (“Your audio is breaking up” or “I can’t hear”). The very first thing to do is breathe. Remember, your audience wants you to succeed (it’s to their benefit!).  

Second, determine if everyone is having the same issue. The fastest way is to simply pause and ask. If you get back responses that people can hear just fine, the issue isn’t you, it’s the individual attendee’s issue (9 times out of 8 it’s poor bandwidth over wifi).  

If it’s you, though, having a backup plan is useful. In GoToX, it’s easy to switch from your mic/speakers audio to telephone in the Audio pane. Bonus tip: use chat/questions to send a note to the audience that that’s what you’re doing.  

Finally, remember that video without audio is useless, but audio without video/visual is (oddly enough) what we did for 100 years before GoTo was around. J Keep on keepin’ on! 

How to prepare for audio issues: I mentioned during the webinar that I always use two separate computers. To save space here, I’ll refer you to this post where I walk you through step-by-step how I do it and why. Short version: on the second I have my phone dialed in and muted.  

When logging in as a presenter with two different email addresses, when you set up the webinar, do you have to have the email address from the presenter in advance and add it in the Presenters field? ~ Kelsey L. 

Kelsey, in addition to referring you to this post for exactly how to use two computers or monitors generically-speaking, there are two GoToWebinar-specific things to know. 

Yes, if you have a second email address for the presenter in advance (and assuming they’ll be using two computers), set both up as Panelists when you set up the webinar. Benefit: saves you the most time, and both of their email addresses will get the reminders. If they have a problem, it’s faster for them to find a link to join/rejoin. And practice/rehearsal time will be better. Keep reading. 

If that doesn’t happen in advance, it’s easy to promote an Attendee (their second login) to being a Panelist. Be sure to use GoToWebinar’s ability to rename them with a slight variation so you know which is which. Downside: Your practice/rehearsal won’t be as effective. Remember: GoToWebinar’s practice mode is awesome because you’re practicing in the exact same “room” that you’ll be in for the live event. Only Organizers and Panelists can get in (to a practice session), however, so the presenter’s setup, mic, etc., won’t be tested in practice. 

We have started using Kahoot in our GoToMeeting events but how do you pull the sound from the online program into GoToWebinar? ~Bart K. 

Worth noting, you can do this in GoToMeeting, but it’s not a feature in GoToWebinar (Yet? I don’t know, I’m not employed there). If you want to do it with GoToWebinar 

Remember, your computer is looking for a single audio source (that’s how way they’re made), so to use a secondary audio source to your microphone, you’re either “switching” sources or “mixing” sources before they get to the audio output that GoToWebinar is looking at. 

Mixing could be done external to your computer (a painful workaround I’ll not go into), or internally using software. I use Loopback (Mac only) and love it. Trusted associates who use PCs suggest VoiceMeeter (though I’m sure there are others). 

I have had trouble with pre-recorded sound coming through.  I can hear it on my computer but the audience was unable to hear it.  Is that just a setting I have wrong? ~Boone P 

No, it’s not a setting, but it does suggest a missed opportunity. I’m guessing that you’re playing a video…and that’s something you can upload in GoToWebinar before the webinar starts (like we did in the session you attended). Then when you play it, the audio plays through GoToWebinar. 

If you don’t, what’ll happen is that the audio from your video comes out of your computer speakers and is then getting picked up by your microphone. That’ll mean the level will be low if it can be heard at all. The good news is that GoToWebinar has what you need 

What are you using Roger, your sound is so clear, no room noise, no annoying echoes. ~Susana G. 

What can I say, I was an audio engineer in a past life. The good news is that you don’t have to be. For this webinar, I tested a Samson G-Track, but my go-to (pun fully intended) is an Electro-Voice RE-20 (the standard in the radio biz for a long time). BTW, something like the Logitech H390 works great and is cheap. 

I’m a pilates instructor, but I keep dealing with echo. Is there something I can use for echo cancellation? Is there software I can use to fix it? ~ Claudia D. 

The good news is that GoToX handles audio better than just about anyone. The bad news is that the issue is your setup, not GoToSince I can’t ask you a follow-up question (the power of a live event!), here’s a lengthier answer that’ll help you think it through. 

The first rule of good sound is “fix it at the source.” Software-based echo cancellation is fine, but it’s a band-aid that may not entirely solve your problem. I’ll first describe the phenomena in terms of aural environment, then help with solutions. 

Echo is a sound you hear at an interval…like yelling into a canyon and hearing back a response. Reverberation (‘reverb’) is that same reflection when you canNOT hear a distinct response. 

Reverb, described another way, is like hearing a “bright” room because of hardwood floors or other flat, hard surfaces (that reflect the sound a lot) versus a “dead” room that has lots of carpet, drapes over the windows, and/or uneven surfaces like a bookshelf full of books (that absorb or deflect higher frequencies). You or your audience experience it as your sound source being located spatially instead of like the sound source being isolated (like a mouth really close to a microphone). Such a ‘spatial’ sound very frequently is harder for an audience to hear clearly and makes poorer recordings (see my previous response about using a speakerphone). 

Echo isn’t technically what we get when tech is involved (unless the issue isn’t yours). Most commonly, it’s instead a feedback loop — like if a band’s singer holds the microphone in front of a PA speaker — sound comes out of speaker, goes into the microphone, goes through the system and back into the speaker, round and round and round. There are softwares that isolate and dampen this enough to stop the problem, but they’re less elegant because they take up computer horsepower and usually require a workaround. 

Assuming echo is, in fact, what you’re describing, the simple/fast solution of which is to move the mic away from the speakers (or mute it altogether, which probably isn’t an option for you) or turn down the speakers. Or… 

In your special case, I’m guessing you have the volume of the speakers turned up to hear music, audience, or both. This is complicated by smaller speakers that have to be turned up more, too. I’m guessing that muting your microphone isn’t an option. 

You’ve got three variables: mic, speakers, and setup. 

I’d first consider a wireless headset microphone that enables your movement but has the mic close(r) to your mouth. Personally, I’d consider a real wireless mic (such as this) versus using computer Bluetooth, but this means you’ll have to plug it into your computer. GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar make it easy to switch mics, so you’d simply select the right one from the Audio pane. 

Less elegant: I have and sometimes use a wired lavalier mic (Audio-Technica ATR3350xiS Omni Condenser Microphone), and it’s wonderful for the money. I can’t imagine, though, a wired mic being elegant for teaching Pilates. 

The benefit with either of the above is that your mic will be farther away from the speakers (and you’ll sound waaay better when it’s closer to your mouth). 

Once your speakers are farther away from your mic, it’d also be useful to hear them clearly without turning up the volume as high. There are ways that “equalizers” or sound-shapers can help with this, but it’s beyond the scope of this response. But getting speakers that include a sub-woofer would likely make a huge difference – you’ll more easily hear the beat and won’t have to turn up the volume to do so.