You're on THE call of your career. "It's time to swim with the big fish," you think to yourself. Your boss's boss asks you, "What action figures can wheel ever edge, toga toss north of lass tears numb bears?" You panic and say the first thing you can think of... "Batman!" That would have been right had the question not been, "What actionables can we leverage to get us north of last years numbers?" Smash cut to you laying in the cold gutter, jobless, rambling about what a "numb bear" you've become.
This type of misunderstanding is what WILL happen to you if you don't soundproof your conference room. Luckily there are a few things your can do to cut down noise and make understanding all the business jargon a little easier.
Quick fixes for cutting out ambient noise:
- Dampening panels
- Secure shaky items and de-squeak chairs and doors
- Projector placement and dampening
Step 1: Location
If you have options for what room to use as a dedicated conference room make sure to keep these things in mind:
- Foot traffic- Every office has the guy who walks like they are trying to crush cockroaches. Try to keep your conference room as secluded as possible.
- Neighbors- Does the room share a wall with another business? If Williams-Sonoma has their pots and pans sorting facility next door it's probably not the best spot.
- Vents- There is enough needless venting and blowing of hot air in most conference calls. Why put your conference room in a space where you can't close the vents. The constant conditioning of air or the hum of a heater can be distracting so try to make sure you can control these sources of ambient noise.
Step 2: Dampening Panels
So you've picked the best place possible in your office for your conference room. Chances are it still sounds like a cathedral made of showers. Let's try and take the echo out of there.
Fabric wrapped panel
- 4 1” x 2” furring strips cut to the size of the panel you're trying to create.
- Wood screws
- Wood glue
- Spray glue
- D-ring hangers w/ screws
- Frame hangers
- Sound-absorbing core material (2″ thick Roxul Rockboard 80 8lb pcf, 2″ thick Johns Manville 817 Spin-Glas 6lb pcf, and 2″ thick Owens Corning Fiberglas 705 6lb pcf are great options)
- Cut your furring strips to the desired dimensions. Make sure you aren't cutting all the strips to the same dimensions as your core material. Either both sides or the top and bottom need to account for the length needed to connect the strips together without making the inside dimensions to small for your sound-absorbing material.
- Drill pilot holes for each screw location to make sure the wood doesn't split.
- Apply glue where the segments meet.
- Screw the frame together.
- Spray the inside of the frame with wood glue.
- Place your core material inside the frame and let the glue dry over night.
- Wake up
- Take your fabric and put it pattern down on a flat surface.
- Place your panel on top face down
- Stretch each side one at a time working clockwise stapling the fabric to the frame every 3 inches.
- When you get to a corner fold it like you're wrapping a present. Actually not like you're wrapping a present. Do it like your mom wraps a present.
- Attach the D-ring to the middle of the top strip.
- Hang that magnificent specimen of craftsmanship.
Art print panel
You can use art prints and stretch them around the frame for a custom look. You could even dampen an entire wall using a custom wallpaper mural and multiple large panels. Perhaps a giant picture of a wall or even something interesting!
Step 3: Rugs
Office buildings usually get by with the minimum a human foot can stand to walk on resulting in thin carpeting on concrete. Getting a large rug placed in the room can help absorb sound and dampen the secret dance competitions you have during your calls. A rug can especially help in an upstairs office.
- Get a thick rug
- Put it on the floor
Step 4: Secure Shaky Items and De-squeak Chairs and Doors
Remember when you were a kid and you'd come home late from a night of throwing rocks at trains. I do. Sneaking out wasn't the hard part. Sneaking back in was the real challenge. I'd close the door with the steady hands of a surgeon but as soon as that door closed it would register as a 6.0 on the Richter scale for my mom.
Think of your boss as a mom who has super hearing and the power to ground you from your steady paycheck. Better keep momma happy.
Secure shaky items
- Make sure any pictures hanging on the wall are secure. You can use a pack of furniture felt pads on the back of the frame to keep it from rattling against the wall.
- Secure and book cases or shelves from rattling against the walls.
- Pretend you are on the deck of a ship. If it is going to roll around and rattle it probably doesn't need to be in the conference room
De-squeak chairs and doors
Spinning in your chair is probably the most enjoyment you'll get during a conference call so use WD-40 or some sort of lubricant to keep chairs from squeaking. While you're at it hit the door hinges with a little.
Step 5: Projector Placement and Dampening
Many conference rooms have projectors to showcase the vast PowerPoint skills of the employees within. Even charts named after my two favorite things, pies and bars, can't keep my attention when competing with the mind-numbing buzz of a projector fan.
- If possible purchase a short throw projector to keep the unit as far away from the conference table as possible.
- If you need to mount the projector from the ceiling then look into getting or building a projector hush box. This will surround and dampen the projector while still keeping the box ventilated.
- Most projectors have a whisper mode that cuts down on noise but usually comes at the expense of light output. If you have good control of light in the room you are using this mode is usually more than sufficient for presentations.
- Clean the filter. Many projectors will have a filter that can become clogged up with dust overtime causing the fan to work harder to ventilate. This can cause a fan to wear out and become noisy. Remove the filter and spray with a can of spray air.
Step 6: Hardware
If a tree falls in a soundproof conference room does a terrible mic still sound terrible? The answer is yes. You can soundproof all you want but if you have bad equipment then the sound quality will suffer regardless.
- Check to hear what you sound like on a call. Set up a mock call with coworkers to hear how others will hear you.
- Check all connections.
- Check each mic, phone, and speaker for possible problems. Listen for static or pops and try and isolate the problem.
- Replace loud keyboards with specialty silent keyboards.
Step 7: Software
The sound quality of a call is largely determined by the hardware being used but many people overlook the software side of things. Using a conference call service like Zip Conferencing can help improve call quality and usually comes with a bunch of helpful features. We can lower the volume of other people on the call without having to disrupt the meeting and even record the call. It's great for when you look at your notes and you realize it's actually a drawing of a robocat.
- Make sure your internet connection can handle things like HD video conferencing.
- Check to see what resources your provider may have. Apps, tips/advice, support, etc.
- Make sure your software is up-to-date.