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Virtual Events Tips: Does Audio Matter?

by Emily Iwankovitsch Social Media Marketing Manager

Even as life begins to slowly inch forward mid-2021, a post-pandemic world doesn’t look the same anymore — and in some ways, that’s for the better. Consider virtual events: They are immediately more scalable, accessible, cost effective, and environmentally friendly...

Let’s back up, though. The increasing popularity of virtual events was already happening pre-pandemic. Research shows that global market size was valued at nearly $78 billion in 2019, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027. 

And now?

In LinkedIn’s newly released State of Virtual Events report, 75% of event marketers worldwide say they plan to continue running virtual events over the long term. And, a typical event marketer plans to run more virtual events (40%) than in-person ones (34%).

As a speaker, think of the implications of not having to travel a day to get to the conferences you’re invited to present at. Rick Berke writes, “Seems like Anthony Fauci was a headline speaker at just about every major (and even) minor event in 2020.” Indeed, that would have been impossible to accomplish even without COVID-19.

Now put yourself in the shoes of being an attendee. Consider 80% of people join virtual events for educational purposes, and the next biggest reason is networking. Not only can companies improve scalability with virtual events, but you as an attendee can, too. Think of (1), what a variety of conferences you can attend and learn from far more conveniently, and (2), who you can meet to network with as well... even when you’re physically across the world.

But alas, of course this can’t be said without also considering the challenges of virtual events. What exactly does a successful networking session look like at a virtual event? How can companies increase engagement with their content at virtual events? (Keep in mind that 49% of marketers say that audience engagement is the biggest contributing factor to having a successful event.) What about interactivity in general? All excellent questions, and there are many awesome guides and articles to address these thoughts and many more. Here are a few of our favorites:

Today, though, let’s address a single component that basically every virtual event will have, without fail. This essential piece of the puzzle that seems almost modest — it could be even overlooked, but assuredly, if this part of your virtual event isn’t high quality, immersive, or consistent, it would be impossible to not take note.

And what is that one component?

Audio.

Explore Spatial Audio API Now

The Power of Audio for Your Virtual Event

Imagine for a moment you are at a virtual event and you’re listening to a speaker. You’re really enjoying the talk, taking notes throughout. One thought in particular you highlight to research later, as it actually addresses a problem you’ve been stumped on for a new app you’re coding.

And then — the speaker’s audio crackles, fizzling out, and suddenly you can only hear every tenth word.

Oh no. Is it your internet? Their internet? Is it the platform?

In any case, the audio recovers a bit after a few minutes. The sound quality still seems poor, but you can mostly understand them. You’re frustrated, but you’ll deal with it.

An hour later, you join a small networking group on the platform with six other folks from the day. As you begin sharing what talks you enjoyed most that day, a few of you keep accidentally talking over one another. The conversation doesn’t flow as naturally as it would in real life, and you feel a bit… strained. You’re familiar with this feeling of Zoom fatigue from remotely working, and yes, it does feel draining. Shortly thereafter, you exit the virtual event.

Pause for a moment to consider how your experience at this virtual event could have gone differently... and better

Higher Quality Audio Is Statistically More Compelling

An experiment showed people even rated a physicist’s talk at a scientific conference as 19.3% better when they listened to it in high quality audio vs. slightly distorted, echo-prone audio. “The effects were similar in experiments with NPR’s Science Friday interviews, where the researchers tested the same interview in high quality audio vs. a simulated bad phone line (but still fully understandable),” Thomas McKinlay writes. Simply put, messages that are difficult to process are less compelling.

Here’s the thing about online events, virtual conferences, meetups, networking sessions, and the like: It needs to stay focused on customer value at all times. Your audience isn’t at a bustling dinner party or an in-person happy hour with free drinks around the expo floor, chatting with your company at its booth. “There needs to be a mindset shift,” Rebecca Harmer writes, “Your audience has a range of other things they could be doing right now, on the same screen they’re watching you on. That means your event has to keep providing compelling reason to put those things to one side.”

And when people can’t understand the speakers to learn from them, or chat with other attendees to network effectively, you risk losing them.

So what can be done?

Try Implementing Spatial Audio for Your Next Digital Event

The bar for online events continues to be raised, and now high quality, immersive audio is actually easy to add. Check out the below video for a quick example, and for the best experience, wear headphones.

 

Hear how it’s now possible for multiple people to be speaking at the same time, and each of them is actually intelligible. High Fidelity's Spatial Audio API lets you integrate real-time high-quality voice communication for hundreds of people simultaneously, so it is also (importantly) scalable for your virtual event.

How is this achieved? All audio is mixed on the server and sent to each user in one personalized 3D audio stream (if you’re curious to learn more about it, check out our FAQ here). The end result is that your attendees and speakers not only get to feel immersed (“Spatial audio” means that the sounds and voices come from different directions, so it simulates real life), but the conversations feel more natural thanks to the low latency. (You can read more about why latency is important here, too.)

Related reading: What is Spatial Audio?

Consider CES 2021 this year. Their virtual party had hundreds of attendees: Ryan Seacrest chatted with Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish performed to a huge crowd. Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, said the event “draws on lessons learned from throwing virtual music events during the pandemic, combined with an appetite to provide ‘remote togetherness in a time where actual in-person gathering is limited,’” Joan Solsman writes. “The event also functions as something of a coming-out party for Spatial Web, after piloting its platform with events last year for the likes of Unicef and TedX.” Spatial Web’s audio is powered by none other than High Fidelity.

“Virtual opens up the playing field for immersive experiences, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, livestreaming and video, to engage with people at a much larger scale — through their laptops, mobile devices and beyond,” Don Scales writes. The possibilities are vast.

High quality spatial audio can’t fix everything, that is true. Sometimes your internet does go out; sometimes other issues do occur. But for how simple it is to integrate High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio API (and free to create a developer account and give it a shot with a smaller group, first) — why not give it a try, and have your attendees and speakers listen for the differences at your next virtual event? Your ears (and theirs!) will thank you.

You can get started here with our step-by-step guides and resources. And we’d love to see what you’re creating: Once you sign up for your free developer account below, don’t forget to join our Discord server (link is in your “Welcome” email to join). Happy building!

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Published by Emily Iwankovitsch May 18, 2021

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