Handling Online Meetings in a Noisy House

Due to the unique conditions brought about by this pandemic, many of us are forced to work remotely in our own homes. Employers have made us reliant on video conferencing applications like Zoom for conducting meetings and classes. If you make or attend conference calls, then you know how distracting and annoying background noises can be. Crying kids, family members watching TV while you work, barking dogs – all these can affect the productivity of your call.

The need for a great acoustical background condition is becoming essential to make way for clear and effective communication in a remote work setting. Perhaps you’ve become the master of the mute button because not everyone can create a soundproof room.

Here are six tips for handling online meetings and how to lessen the noise:

1. Choose a quiet area

Put your temporary work area or home office in a quiet location as much as possible. Choose an area where you can close the door. Set it up far away from the living room where your spouse is watching his or her favorite TV show and far from when your son plays video games after school. Also, if you live near busy streets or near the train station or airport, choose a room that is farthest from the hustle and bustle.

The most effective way to minimize background noise is to choose an area that’s quiet and as isolated as possible from the noise.

2. Use a room with drapes, carpets, and furniture

Porous fabrics have different degrees of acoustical absorption, which means it can help lessen the noise that would otherwise bounce around a hard room that’s filled with smooth surfaces only. The more material you have in the room, like pleats in window drapes, the more sound can be absorbed.

3. Keep pets and children in other rooms, behind closed doors, as much as possible

While working from home, create a boundary for dividing your workspace from the home space. Keep your children and pets away in other rooms to avoid noise. Ask help from your family members to keep the kids and pets away from you and let them know if you have an important call that you don’t want to be disturbed. Your colleagues will appreciate the quiet, as well as your other family members.

Isolating the area in your home by lowering the level of background noise can help make sound clearer and easier to understand. While not everyone has enough room at home to create a separate office space, but the more separate area it is from the source of the noise, the better.

4. Improve the acoustical absorption of a room

Dampen extra noise and keep it from affecting a videoconference is to hang a quilt or blanket behind you. It can offer sound absorption, as well as a visual background for your videoconference. It’s easy to add, and it can significantly improve the sound quality of your videoconference.

5. Block out the noise

When your dog just won’t stop barking, consider measures like getting noise-canceling headphones to help with your concentration. But when making calls, try a white noise machine that emits soothing, neutral sounds.

6. Keep fans, air conditioners, and other noisemakers from the microphone

You may not be bothered by it, but other people in your videoconference might be distracted with air conditioning and fans in your room if it’s too close to your microphone. Keep in mind that your mic in your computer or smartphone can pick up sounds from these things if it’s close to you. A simple audio test is to ask people on the videoconference if they can hear your fan or other equipment. Turn it down temporarily or move the appliance away from where you are.

7. Use a headset

One of the most common problems with audio in videoconferencing has an easy fix – put your mouth closer to the microphone when you’re speaking. We often forget it, or we might not be aware that we are not being heard when the microphone is on our laptop. The farther away you move from the mic, the poorer the audio becomes during a videoconference. Using a headset will make it easier, as the microphone is moved closer to your mouth and will mostly pick up your voice over the noisy background sounds.

You can always tell who is using a laptop or mic on their webcam during a virtual meeting. They will sound thin and distant, and their voice reverberates. They are the party who must mute and unmute during the meeting.

8. Use good lighting

While this isn’t necessarily a sound-based tip, it will help. How your speech will come across will be greatly improved by how someone sees your mouth and facial expressions. Make sure your face is well-lit on online meetings, but avoid placing light sources directly behind you as it can make it difficult to see your face.

Zoom Noise Cancellation

Zoom is the most used videoconferencing software today, and it’s also one of the pioneers in noise cancellation technology. You can easily get rid of unwanted sounds and enjoy your conference calls with Zoom’s noise cancellation function.

In August 2018, Zoom introduced the background noise cancellation feature. This function automatically detects and blocks background noise like keyboard typing. This feature automatically functions as you use the app, so you don’t have to tinker with anything in the settings.

Zoom added advanced settings that allow you to suppress either intermittent or persistent background noises (or both) to enhance the noise-canceling feature. Intermittent noise includes irregular sounds like keyboard strokes, shouting children, or barking dogs, while persistent noises are continuous sounds like a fan or air conditioning noise.

However, there are times when noise cancellation will only do worse, like when you’re teaching online keyboard or guitar classes. The feature will prevent your students from hearing you properly, so in this case, it’s best to turn off the noise cancellation feature.

Noise Cancellation using Krisp

There are times when there’s just too much background noise that Zoom’s noise cancellation feature can’t mask, like when there’s a loud party at your next-door neighbor’s house or when there’s construction right at your street. During these special instances, it’s best to move out of the house and look for another conducive place to work as a coffee shop. But when you don’t have that opportunity, you still have an option.

You can use an external app that helps remove background noise from your calls using one click, like Krisp. Krisp is an AI-powered noise-canceling app that can remove background noise from calls using one click. This app can block background noise on both ends, you can cancel noise with Krisp Microphone so that other call participants can hear your voice. Also, if there are background noises coming from other participants, the Krisp speaker will prevent you from hearing those noises.

Krisp works with any conferencing app, including Zoom. Here’s how to use it with Zoom.

  1. Download the Krisp app.
  2. Follow the instructions in Krisp Setup Wizard.
  3. Open the Zoom app and select Settings. Click the Audio tab.
  4. Select Krisp Microphone and Krisp Speaker from the dropdown menu.
  5. When you start a Zoom call, turn on the Mute Noise option in Krisp.

Now you’re all set up!