Making Communication Work at AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo

Making Communication Work at AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo

February 05, 2020 Academy News

By Catherine Palmer and Amanda Ortmann

Academy members are communication experts, not just in clinic but at our conferences as well.

Whether you are a presenter, exhibitor, attendee or all three, you come to the Academy’s annual conference to communicate. You are seeking to share and gain information and to connect to long-known colleagues and people who will become new colleagues. Everyone needs to be thoughtful about communication in the various roles we play at the conference.

  Notable Tips for Presenters and Attendees

  • If there is a microphone, use it.
  • If a question is asked from the audience, repeat the question before you answer it.
  • Don’t talk if you aren’t the presenter or the person asking a question of the presenter.
  • Upload presentations by the AAA 2020 deadline so attendees can familiarize themselves with the topic.
  • Arrive at your talk a few minutes early so an attendee has time to give you a remote microphone if needed.
  • Seat yourself near a sound source (e.g., loudspeaker) if you are using Google Live Transcribe.
  • Make sure your device is charged, wifi or data are on.
  • If someone asks you to use a remote microphone, use it.
  • Clip remote microphones on your clothing in the direction you will face to view your projected slides.

For our audiologists and other attendees with hearing loss, communication accessibility is a primary concern prior to attending the conference. This starts with identifying communication needs during the registration process. For some individuals, improving signal-to-noise ratio caused by distance and/or reverberation in large rooms will be the most important solution.

ALDs and Presenter Readiness

Attendees can request the use of a free assistive listening device (ALD) to use during the meeting for this purpose or they may choose to use their own remote microphone that they know works seamlessly with the hearing aids they are using. Either way, we are all part of the success of this solution. For this solution to work, the user needs to give the remote microphone to the presenter to use. This means the presenter needs to show up to the room with time to spare so people have time to provide them with the microphone. The presenter needs to clip the microphone on as close to their mouth as possible. If the screen is to the left of the presenter, they need to clip the microphone on the left lapel so if they turn to look at the slides being projected, they’ll still be on mic.

With more individuals using their own personal remote microphones, presenters need to be ready to wear more than one microphone; this isn’t hard. If someone asks a question from the audience on or off microphone, the presenter needs to repeat the question. If you are the presenter in the room and someone has handed you a remote microphone to use during the session, know that you need to repeat the question even if the person asked the question using a room microphone. The question needs to be picked up by the remote microphone which means it needs to come out of the presenter’s mouth which is near the remote microphone. Repeating audience questions is important for every listener in the audience regardless of technology use.

If you are in a smaller meeting with someone using a remote microphone, the microphone should be passed around to each speaker. This isn’t hard, it just takes some thought. If you are in a room with a microphone set up for people to use for questions, use the microphone. Do not be the person who stands up talking from their seat saying, “I don’t need a microphone, I’m really loud.” We’re all audiologists, we know this doesn’t work. You know how sound travels and how intensity diminishes over distance—you passed this course. Use the microphone.

For some attendees with hearing loss, having a transcription of the spoken signal will be more helpful or will provide help in addition to the use of a remote microphone.

Google Live Transcribe

This year, the Academy will be using Google Live Transcribe to facilitate transcription. In the past, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) has been used for this purpose. CART requires a third-party vendor whether present or virtual to transcribe what is being said. Because of this, CART use needs to be planned. With the drastic improvement in transcription programs like Google Live Transcribe, the user does not have to plan. They do not have to identify which sessions they think they’d like to access ahead of time.

The General Assembly will be captioned due to the excessive size of the room is which it is being held. 

How to Access Google Live Transcribe

We will provide access to Google Live Transcribe via provision of free Android tablets. Attendees requiring a transcription accommodation indicate so during the registration process and will check out a tablet at the beginning of the meeting and return it at the end of the meeting. 

There is no fee for the use of the tablet or the app. If an attendee has an Android device and prefers to use their own device, they may certainly do that as well (the Android App is free). If an individual uses their own device, they will need to make sure they have wifi or data capability in order for the app to work. The convention center has wifi available in all areas of the meeting.

The goal of using Google Live Transcribe is to provide attendees needing a transcription accommodation with more flexibility and freedom to access the entire meeting. The technology works anywhere so long as the device microphone can pick up the signal and the device has a wifi or data connection. This means that not only will the attendee have transcription in meeting rooms, but in other communication encounters as well (e.g., exhibit hall, lunch/coffee with colleagues, meeting receptions, etc.). 

Given how the technology works, users will want to seat themselves in rooms within proximity of the loudspeakers in order to get a good signal for transcription. This may not be in the front of the room, users will want to take a look around the room and think about the best seating for them. Given the room configurations, this provides a lot of flexibility in seating. For attendees who prefer front row seating, they will find reserved seating in the front of every room.

If another attendee talks nearby during the lecture, the Google Live Transcribe will transcribe that as well. So, just as this would disrupt another listener with normal hearing, this will disrupt someone using this technology. We do need everyone to be considerate of those around them attending to presentations. If you are talking during presentations, people around you are missing information. If there are audience questions that are not on microphone, speakers will need to use good presentation etiquette and repeat questions (this is good etiquette regardless of the hearing ability of the audience).

Google Live Transcription is extremely accurate including transcribing technical language. But just like CART there can be errors in transcription. Typically, someone with a basic knowledge of the content area will be able to handle these small errors. It is beneficial for all audience members that speakers upload their presentations as requested by the academy so individuals so inclined can familiarize themselves with what may be new topics. Uploading presentation materials according to deadlines is part of enhancing communication for all attendees at the conference.  

Work Together

Whether you are someone with hearing loss or someone with normal hearing, you have invested a great deal of time and money to attend the meeting and you want to feel sure that you will be able to access the information in which you are interested.

We explain good communication habits to patients all the time. When we are at our annual conference, we all want to get value from the wonderful sessions that have been created for attendees. We do this together by acting on good communication. None of this is new information, but we may forget to apply it to our own communication. We are wishing everyone a successful convention with outstanding communication opportunities created by our audiology community.

Learn more about the Special Accommodations at AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo and indicate your needs during the registration process. If you have already registered, please contact Heather Finney with your specific needs.


Catherine Palmer, PhD, is the president of the American Academy of Audiology and serves on the AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo Program Committee.

Amanda Ortmann, AuD, is a member of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Audiologists group, a member of the Academy’s Students with Hearing Loss Task Force, and the chair of the Academy’s Outreach Council.


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