Need a Tech Refresh Before You Use Your Conference Rooms Again?
By Brandon McDonald and Kris Wood
When it comes to daily collaboration and communication, employee and customer requirements are changing. The ability to remotely engage in a meaningful way is now an experience that everyone wants.
Prior to the pandemic, most offices weren’t set up to support hybrid workers. Meeting spaces were designed based on physical attendance and face-to-face interactions. When we were forced out of conference rooms amid COVID-19, expectations changed.
We estimate that tens of thousands of conference rooms across our customer locations in Iowa and Wisconsin have a display hanging on the wall and a speakerphone placed in the middle of the conference table—the standard setup for most pre-pandemic meeting rooms. Unless people happened to sit in just the right spot, the few participants attending via audio or video had a hard time seeing and hearing. Because most attendees joined in person, it wasn’t a big concern for most organizations at the time.
Today, however, conference rooms play a major role in bringing people together—whether they’re inside or outside your office walls.
If they haven’t already, organizations are now discussing timelines for bringing workers back to the office (whether it’s fully in-office, fully remote, or a mix). Employees will be returning to conference rooms that, in many cases, haven’t been used in more than a year. Firmware and software are likely outdated; some hardware may not be supportable anymore. As a result, you may return to rooms that no longer work for your teams—or encounter challenges as you get them up and running again.
Compounding this problem is the fact that many people bring their laptops, phones, tablets, and notebooks to meetings with them. Remote attendees can hear the ambient noise: shuffling papers, typing, and notifications and alerts from personal devices. Whether you’re talking to an employee, customer, or job candidate, this creates a difficult and distracting environment for those relying on video and audio.
Using Meeting Spaces Effectively: 3 Technologies to Help
While communication and collaboration expectations increased over the past year, the costs associated with deploying new technology did the opposite, making it an ideal time to refresh meeting rooms before employees return.
As you re-evaluate spaces, consider these three technology updates to create environments that work for onsite and offsite participants …
- Intuitive User Control
We’re seeing a huge push toward “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “bring your own meeting” (BYOM). In other words, people are using the devices and videoconferencing tools they’re most comfortable with.
Along with this change is the increase in poplularity of Zoom Room and Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) platforms. Each platform has a predefined user interface developed by Zoom or Microsoft, providing a consistent user experience across the Zoom Room or MTR platforms.
To provide a simple, standardized user experience regardless of platform, we’re developing standards for our own custom control solutions—and we can do the same for you. Having a universal, intuitive user control interface that works the same for any videoconferencing platform streamlines work and system deployment.
If your company has multiple locations—or even multiple meeting rooms—usability and problem-solving are much easier when the steps to utilize or troubleshoot an issue are the same across all conference environments and platforms.
- Intelligent Microphone Systems
Traditional microphone systems tend to pick up any and all sound, including ambient noise (like those shuffling papers and keyboard taps we mentioned earlier). The devices aren’t able to differentiate between “good” and “bad” noise, so they amplify everything in the same way, whether it’s someone speaking or the HVAC system running in the background.
Intelligent microphone systems use beamforming: a process that focuses and shapes a wireless signal, forming a pickup pattern for the microphone. It also analyzes sounds to determine which are the most prominent (like someone speaking) and focuses in that direction. By creating narrower pickup patterns, intelligent microphone systems also reject ambient noise to improve audio quality while minimizing distractions.
Some microphone systems also incorporate active noise rejection that can identify noise and eliminate it. Many of the headsets used in conferencing applications include built-in active noise reduction.
- Active Speaker Tracking Cameras
If you’ve been on the remote end of a meeting without active speaker tracking cameras, you know: It can be hard to see who’s speaking, especially if they’re seated far from the camera.
Active speaker tracking cameras can work in two ways:
- A single camera identifies a person in a space and can differentiate between an empty room or a room with people in it. It zooms in on people to make them front and center. For small groups, this can work. As the room starts to fill, however, the camera pulls back to view everyone. Someone at the far end of a conference table will be harder for remote participants to see.
- Intelligent microphones with beamforming capabilities are distributed throughout a room to detect where voices are coming from. Active speaker tracking cameras integrate with these microphones; as someone begins to speak, the camera focused on that person will automatically zoom in on them. This setup is ideal for large rooms with multiple participants. No matter who speaks, virtual participants have a dynamic view that spotlights the right person every time. Multiple cameras can be used to provide different camera angles and/or provide alternative views when multiple people are talking at the same time.
Are you preparing your conference rooms for a return to work? Do you need to support onsite and hybrid employees? We can help!
Schedule a free technology assessment with CEC. Our experts can help develop an affordable technology strategy that works for your organization—including the option to package the latest technology into an affordable monthly usage payment with our Managed Systems Program.
|Kris Wood joined CEC in 2014, bringing with him more than 14 years of AV experience. Today he serves as our director of AV, using his tremendous knowledge of and passion for AV to help attract AV talent, seek out new AV solutions, and build better processes for our customers.|
|Brandon McDonald joined CEC in 2019 with more than a decade of technology and communications experience. As CEC’s executive director of sales, he provides leadership to a regional team of enterprise sales professionals, helping them deliver excellent client technology experiences.|