Understanding Bandwidth Requirements for Video Conferencing
Last week, the Toronto Blue Jays held a conference call for the media, after it was announced that their general manager wouldn’t be returning next season.
Simple enough, right?
They wound up running into a host of problems, including some that caused the call to start 15 minutes late and others that affected call quality once it was finally underway.
The call hit capacity and additional participants couldn’t join.
Call notifications weren’t disabled.
The speaker couldn’t be heard.
Q&A wasn’t handled efficiently.
“We’re hearing a lot of background noise. Please re-mute your line by pressing star-6.”
Let’s just say there was quite a reaction on Twitter as well:
You’d think @Rogers would be able to get a conference call working
— Blue Jays Live (@BlueJaysLive) October 29, 2015
You see, event conference calls require more attention and planning than your standard audio conference. More participants means more going on and more room for error.
Each issue that the Blue Jays experienced on their call could have been avoided and prevented.
The issues are quite common, too. So if you’re reading and find that you’ve experienced any of them yourself, don’t worry!
When these things happen, it’s mainly due to not knowing about the conferencing solution designed specifically for this type of situation, known as operator-assisted conference calls.
Here’s a look at what caused the issues the Blue Jays experienced and how you can avoid having them happen to you on your next event call.
The Issue: A beep or another sound whenever someone joins the call, unmutes their line, or disconnects from the call. With more than 100 people on the call, that’s a lot of beeping!
Summary of the call so far: “BLEEP BLEEP BLOOP BLOOP” “Can you hear us, Alex?” “BLEEP BLEEP BLOOP” @BlueJays
— Cam Kelly (@camiam80) October 29, 2015
The Reason: Treating an event conference call the same as a smaller call with only 5-10 users and using an audio conferencing bridge for a call of that size.
How to Fix It: Call into your conferencing service provider ahead of your next big call and let them know you’d like to disable call notifications.
In fact, when you book a call with more participants than normal, your provider should automatically suggest that you turn off call notifications and offer to do it for you.
The Issue: The Blue Jays’ call quickly filled up and additional participants couldn’t join. So they had to cascade another conferencing bridge alongside their current one in order to handle the additional traffic — all without changing the dial-in codes that were sent out to everybody prior to the call.
The Reason: Not knowing bridge capacity and not properly planning for the expected number of participants.
How to Fix It: First, understand your audience and have an idea of how many people will be joining your call.
Every single conference bridge has a limit, even if your conferencing service provider hasn’t told you what it is. It’s a soft limit designed to prevent surges on the bridge if, say, someone hosted a 10,000-person call.
Regardless, you should still know what your limit is.
If you think you might go over, let your conferencing provider know. They’ll create a special room for you on a bridge that is guaranteed to have the capacity for that call while also removing the soft limit, so even if more people call in than you were expecting, you’ll be ok!
The Problem: Reporters ask questions and there’s silence on the other end. “Alex, are you there?”
The Reason: The speaker was muted and didn’t know that he had to unmute his line before speaking.
How to Fix It: Use an operator-assisted service that has someone control all aspects of the call.
When you’re making an important announcement to investors or your customer base, the last thing you should need to worry about is whether or not your speaker has unmuted their line.
On a managed service, when the speaker is asked a question, the operator clicks on their line and the speaker can talk without a worry. Easy peasy.
The Problem: Background noise from multiple lines was interfering with the clarity of the call.
One reporter even had a radio talk show blaring in the background. A team employee had to remind people on the call multiple times to mute their lines, too.
The Reason: Participants either forgetting to mute their line or choosing not to.
How to Fix It: Don’t leave it up to the participants to mute or unmute their line! Look to an operator-assisted service that can mute either individual lines or everyone at the touch of a button.
The Problem: Reporters talking over each other after being told the lines were open to ask questions.
The Reason: No advanced planning or moderation. Every caller could unmute their line and talk at the same time.
How to Fix It: When booking a larger call with your conferencing provider, they should discuss your options for call management with you.
Essentially, the Blue Jays chose to manage this call themselves. They used a service designed for an interactive, collaborative meeting of a small to mid-sized group to host a large, one-to-many announcement call with a structured Q&A.
Some conferencing services are self-serve, where you can manage lines and queue up questions on your own. A service with a web-based interface is a great option for calls like these.
When participants are prompted to hit *7 to ask a question, you see a list of the interested names. You (or your operator) open the lines one by one.
No reporters talking over each other. No reporters monopolizing time or hogging the floor. Even better, no unnecessary background noise.
It’s possible that the Blue Jays requested larger capacity bridge and their provider didn’t give it to them. It’s also possible that they requested no call notifications and were denied.
But it’s more likely that the Blue Jays just used a regular conference call code and bridge for basic calls of 5-10 people for a large-scale, event-style call.
It just doesn’t work.
To be fair, it’s not like the Blue Jays were expecting this news. They had to scramble to put together an event call quickly.
But these spur-of-the-moment, reactionary situations are common for event conferencing, when an important, time-sensitive announcement has to be made.
Did you know that conferencing service providers are built to specifically handle requests like these?
In three minutes, you can create a plan for the call with your provider so none of these issues happen. It just comes down to understanding what your options are.
With a web-enabled service, you could be on an audio conference with up to 1,500 people and a simultaneous webcast with another 5,000 participants in five minutes or less. For up to 10,000 people, a call could be live in less than 10 minutes.
At the end of the day, there wasn’t a single problem experienced on the Blue Jays’ call that couldn’t have been avoided.
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