The Primacy of Voice

Do you remember your first words?

Do you remember trying, for the first time ever, to define one of the many fuzzy objects and smears of color that made up your reality?

Whether that first word was "momma," "papa," or "banana bear," this was your initial attempt to articulate an idea to another person. Before, with just noises and gestures, you could indicate what you wanted, but you couldn't actually express yourself. Over time you've learned to write, chat, text, and tweet, but voice still remains the primary way you interact with other people. This is why audio conferencing still remains a powerful tool in the world of business.

The volume of audio conferencing has been on the rise, doubling worldwide in the last five years. In 2014, a reported 100 million people used an estimated 150 billion minutes of audio conferencing time. While technologies such as video conferencing and screen sharing have become increasingly common, they still supplement what's being said through audio conferencing. Even if you had state-of-the-art, high-definition video conferencing technology, what real use does it have if you can't hear what anybody is saying?

Back when the technology was more limited, conference calls usually meant gathering men in suits into a single room so they could call another room of men in suits. Somebody spoke, and everybody listened until it was time for another person to speak. Because the technology was so primitive, it couldn't accommodate people moving around or multiple speakers. The technology has changed (not to mention the makeup of the workforce), but it's still built around passive listening or that old way of meeting.

For actual work to get done, we need to be able to hear with clarity and certainty. Because, as the Harvard Business Review discovered, good listening is essential to effective collaboration. Listening isn't just politely staying quiet while somebody else speaks, but involves actively engaging by asking questions that lead to discovery and insight. We can't do that if our audio conferencing technology isn't designed around that active way of listening and collaboration, especially as the workforce becomes more remote.

A conference call can involve multiple people using multiple devices in multiple locations. A few people can dial in from a breakout room, another person calls from her home office, and a stakeholder calls from an airport while waiting for a flight. In a situation like this, video conferencing and screen sharing technologies are ineffective. Voice remains the primary form of communication, offering the most flexibility.

Technology will continue to innovate and create new methods to communicate, but all those will be secondary to the way we first learn to communicate -- with our voice. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure the audio conferencing solutions we rely on work the way we do and accommodate a rapidly growing remote workforce.

In a webinar on Wednesday, May 31, at 2:00 p.m. ET, learn why picking the right audio technology can make all the difference in supporting the modern meeting and keeping remote participants feeling like they're part of the team. Register now and tune in tomorrow for expert insight from Phil Edholm, president of PKE Consulting, and David Martin, CTO of Nureva.