Why Your Zoom Viewers Can’t Hear You

Mismanaging the mute button may seem like a rookie mistake during Zoom calls, but it’s a more frequent problem than you’d expect. Here’s why…

This ‘golden’ age of Zoom has redefined what to expect from daily video communications. Sure, throughout these ongoing months of isolation, there have been any number of ways to improve the quality of our Zoom calls.

And in the Zoom meetings I’ve attended, I’ve observed a growing awareness of video production best practices. That said, there’s one skill that many people still seem to struggle with… handling the mute button.

We Can’t Hear You!
How many times have you heard someone say to a Zoom speaker, “Are you on mute? We can’t hear you! (pause) We still can’t hear you. You’re on mute!”

This epidemic of awkward Zoom silence is partially the result of education campaigns during the early months of the pandemic to mute yourself if you’re not talking in a Zoom meeting.

Remember all of those Zooms that imploded because there were a couple of people who couldn’t mute themselves if their lives depended on it? And then they would jabber away as they talked to their household members, unaware that their microphones were unmuted.

Besides being an embarrassing oops to unknowingly allow everyone to eavesdrop on your life at home, this mistake will also effectively derail any Zoom meeting.

So by now, we’ve learned to mute ourselves to avoid becoming
Zoom Enemy #1.

Expect the Unexpected
It’s certainly better to try to talk on a Zoom while still muted rather than saying something that your Zoom world shouldn’t hear. But it’s still a mistake that anyone should strive to avoid.

At the end of the day, I think the solution comes back to maintaining enough focus on the live elements. For those of us who have tried to ‘master’ Zoom, we’ve instead put a lot of work into our preproduction.

  • The lighting
  • Your background
  • The right microphone

But when our imaginary on-air light pops on, I feel we’ve tended to let down our guard and assume the technology will handle itself.

Keep your Hands on the Virtual Steering Wheel
Live television used to take a whole control room of production experts to ensure success. It’s amazing that Zoom has boiled it down to just a few clicks of your mouse.

That said, someone really needs to pay attention to your Zoom stream while you’re talking. And that person is you.

Any number of problems can crop up.

  • Someone can unknowingly walk into your background, but this now happens so frequently that nobody cares anymore.
  • Your attention might get temporarily diverted, which could require you to first mute your video.
  • You may subsequently forget to unmute your video. That’s not usually a dealbreaker.

But if you lose track of your audio, you’re either the 800-pound gorilla in the virtual room or a Luddite who doesn’t know how to work your microphone.

Don’t Forget to Unmute Yourself
Zoom isn’t really a set-it-and-forget-it technology (well, not yet).

You simply need to train yourself to pay attention your video and especially your audio feeds throughout your personal and professional Zoom calls. And that requires a diligence to be constantly muting and unmuting yourself exactly when you need to focus on the content of what you’re saying.

If you feel like that’s an annoying juggling act, it is. But it’s a small price to pay to step up your Zoom game.

Can you hear me?

Practice your Magic
During this difficult time for so many of us, it’s certainly understandable that there may be tons of distracting elements in your environment that are urgently competing for your attention. Sometimes it can feel like you need a magic wand.

Zooming at home throughout the day brings new meaning to art of multitasking. There’s no perfect solution. But beefing up your Zoom muscle will certainly help you keep all of your balls in the air.

Happy juggling!