Your Voice, Not the Cat, Is Biggest Virtual Meeting Challenge

Virtual meetings have become ubiquitous since Covid, setting off new anxieties for employees and executives alike. Is the suit jacket covering the sweatpants? Will the kids or the cat interrupt the meeting?

Turns out that if you’re a woman, how you sound may be a bigger concern.

New research into video conferencing platforms reveals that services like Zoom, Skype and Teams don’t transmit all sounds equally well. Voices are compressed and not all frequencies survive the process intact, according to Oliver Niebuhr, an associate professor at the Center for Industrial Electronics at Syddansk Universitet and assistant professor Ingo Siegert from the University of Magdeburg.

Particularly affected are the voices of women, which end up sounding less expressive and therefore less charismatic than men’s, the researchers said. Bad internet connections worsen the effect, they said, and called for the technology to improve.

The recommendation comes amid signs that businesses will continue to use virtual meetings even as economies re-open.

“If you want to convince a person of something, then it is essential that you appear charismatic. You need to have that person’s full attention,” Niebuhr said. “Our voice is extremely important in that context -- especially in a context where body language is taken out of the equation, as is the case in a video meeting.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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