Audio is at least as important if not more so than what you see. Both what you hear and what you’re speaking into need to be up to the task of presenting you properly.
There are a wide range of microphone options. Most newer meeting room cameras have built in mic arrays. These are designed for smaller groups of up to 6 participants or a maximum of 10-15 feet. You’ll want active beamforming built in which focuses on the person in the room while not picking up the sound coming from its own speakers. Duplexing is when you can hear and be heard in equal measure.
Expansion mics are great for larger rooms. However, you have to be careful to get mics that work with the camera system. If you just start throwing the cheapest mics you find on Amazon into the room you run the very real risk of feedback, confusion, and a truly awful sound experience for everyone. All the major webcam manufacturers have system ecospheres that work with their own extension mics.
Manufacturers such as Poly Studio, Logitech, and Q-SYS all have holistic microphone systems. Each have specific types of problem they are solving that work great within their own realms. However, none of their audio components work with each other.
Sound baffling and acoustics are important in larger rooms. As soon as you make a space with hard walls and ceilings you run the risk of creating echo and unwanted feedback. Ceiling tiles, and panels on walls opposite the speaker systems are great, low impact solutions. They can be designed right into the architecture or even built into wall art.
The next consideration is speakers. Yes, you can use the speakers built into your room TV/monitor. However, they are rarely powerful enough to fill even a medium sized conference room, and are often have a bad “tinny” sound. The option that is quickly becoming the most popular is the all-in-one camera bar with built in speakers and mics. Most current offerings have either built in Artificial Intelligence (AI) or will in the very near future. Which means that they, like the microphones mentioned above, have active features that can direct audio fields for the best listening experience. Additionally, the AI manages the built-in microphones to avoid any feedback or crosstalk problems.
A downside to the all-in-one with built in AI is an inability to add extension speakers. This can, and often does, pose a problem for larger rooms. In these situations, it’s best to utilize a modular room system. This has the benefit of more robust room management software that is able to manage the component for optimum sound pick up and reinforcement.
Modular solutions such as the Rally Plus from Logitech or the Q-SYS system from QSC scale well for larger training rooms or multi-use spaces. By spreading the technology around the room the user is not tied down to only one layout.
In conclusion, audio is vital to a successful meeting. When looking into solutions be mindful of interoperability and coverage size. No one likes feedback or flat tinny sound.