Thursday, March 27, 2014

Smartphone as Crowd Mic? We’re Not there Yet

There was a buzz in the events industry this month over a new app that allows attendees to use their smartphone as a mic at presentations.

This sparked a lot of interest, and rightfully so. We all hate that downtime and awkwardness that comes when a moderator hustles around the room with a mic during Q&As. Or when we have to repeat questions or shout them in the room.

Crowd Mics App
Crowd Mics is a great idea, but it's
not a solution for large events yet.
But as good as it sounds, I’m sorry, as a tech and AV guy I have to tell you that the technology just isn’t there yet for people to use their smartphones as microphones at events.

Launched in February 2014, Crowd Mics is an innovative smartphone app that allows members of an audience to connect their smartphones to the event’s sound system. With Crowd Mics, your audience’s smartphones can now be turned into wireless microphones.

It’s free for 20 people or less, but if you want 50 people to have access to Crowd Mics then you will have to pay $25.

The app works simply. The presenter first needs to plug their smartphone in the room’s sound system, then create a name and access code unique to the particular event. Both are given to the members of the audience, eliminating the risk of “rogue” commenters in the process. The presenter then directs the audience on how to download the app and join the event.

Throughout the presentation, the presenter (or the moderator) is offered several options—either to let someone speak, mute them, or enable an “open mic” mode that lets members of the audience comment at the same time.

It’s a great idea, and it could be great for small events or booths, but it’s not a large-scale solution yet.  
Anyone who wants any type of professional audio is not going to want to use it yet. For one, it works off of bluetooth and IP protocol, and the technology just isn’t there yet to work seamlessly. If that connection drops or drags at all it’s going to stall the show.

It’s the same reason you can’t do a full wireless show yet. You have 500 devices or more trying to connect over wifi, you’re going to have inconsistency. Even if you saturate the floor with airports they’re going to drop signals.

The tech is just not there for a pro style conference Q&A. If a conference came to me and they had more than 50 people in a room and wanted to use it, I’d make them sign off that there’s a 50/50 chance this isn’t going to work.

But first I’d try to talk them out of it.