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Hybrid meetings. Is your meeting room AV fit for the new normal?

MS teams room installed in london by MVS Audio

Background:

Before COVID-19, meeting room AV and video conferencing was primarily the concern of medium to large multinational companies who had geographically-dispersed customers and staff. Most organisations still operated a 5 days a week in the office working practice. Travel to and from customers and suppliers was the norm.

Today many organisations recognise the benefits of “hybrid working” and the days of commuting to the office 5 days a week are over. Work is what you do and not a place. Offices are now more focused as destinations for face-to-face meeting time, resulting in:

  • Reduced office estates
  • Reduced desk space in offices
  • Increased meeting room space and room types
  • Need to cater for remote meeting participants
  • Increased importance of video conferencing

Meeting room AV is crucial and many companies can see that what they put in place before and during the pandemic is not fit for the new normal. So they are actively updating their meeting rooms. If you haven’t got there yet, but need to make changes, we can help you.

It’s time to review your meeting room AV 

In this article we’ll share our expertise and the questions you need to answer, but if you’re short of time, feel free to contact us to arrange a FREE site survey.

Some questions to ask:

Before you commit to a video conferencing platform and select your AV Hardware it’s really important to understand your meeting rooms. How they are used, their size and proportions and what capabilities would benefit your staff. As well as what your budget is! Here are some key questions to ask:

  1. Which video platform do we have / should we have?
  2. What video platforms do your customers and suppliers use?
  3. What VC equipment do we currently have?
  4. For what purposes are our meeting rooms used?
  5. What size and shape are our meeting rooms?
  6. What are our rooms’ acoustics like?
  7. Which meeting room capabilities would be benefit your colleagues?
  8. How do we arrive at the right solution?

Which video platform do we have / should we use?

Zoom became pre-eminent during the pandemic. It’s ease of use, advanced features, interoperability, ease of deployment and management, all make it an obvious choice. Whilst many still see Zoom as the leader, Teams has made significant advances and many organisations which have Office 365 licences and use Teams for collaboration are putting in Microsoft Teams Rooms. Some use Zoom and Teams. Google Meet, Starleaf, Cisco Webex, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, Pexip, whichever software you choose has implications on meeting functionality and the choice of hardware. So you need to understand the functional benefits of the VC platform and AV hardware combinations, as well as the cost comparisons.

What video platforms do your customers and suppliers use?

This is an important consideration when deciding which VC platform your organisation uses. One of our legal customers uses Teams internally, but many of their customers use Zoom, so they have Teams and Zoom Rooms. Others have installed BYOD (Bring your own device) solutions in meeting rooms, so participants can use their AV hardware with other meeting software used by external customers and suppliers. However, whilst BYOD brings flexibility, it does not provide the full set of features and experience of a native solution such as Zoom Rooms and Microsoft Teams Rooms.

What meeting room AV equipment do we currently have?

If you have invested significantly in traditional hardware-based video conference room systems previously, you might want to look at whether or not that can interoperate with newer cloud-based platforms. Conference Room connectors are available for Polycom, Cisco / Tandberg, Lifesize and more.

For what purposes are our meeting rooms used?

Large boardrooms are often used for formal presentations with the board or customers. In both cases there are likely to be remote participants. The ability to start the meeting quickly without technology challenges and for slick changeovers between presenters is crucial. But what about being able to see the content and audience clearly? Would it be beneficial to have dual screens, one for the content and one for the participants, rather than one big screen?

meeting room av allows man writing on digital white board

Smaller rooms or “Huddle Spaces” might be used for idea generation which requires whiteboarding. But again, there are likely to be colleagues joining remotely so you will need appropriate AV equipment. It might be appropriate to have a fixed all-in-one touchscreen device which provides for video meeting with digital whiteboarding capabilities. Or it might be more useful to have a mobile touchscreen device on a cart?

What size and shape are our meeting rooms?

As well as the uses of a room, size and shape matters too! In a small room you need a camera with a wide FOV (field of vision), but an all in one system with built-in microphones and speakers may be fine for audio.

meeting room AV set up with 3 screens for large meeting

In a large room you may need a PTZ camera with a large optical zoom and separate speakers and mics mounted around the room. But shape and structure is a big consideration too. If the room is wide multiple screens can be mounted on one wall for good visibility, but if the room is long, how will people at the back be able to see? Wherever participants are located in the meeting, they need to see, be clearly seen and heard.

meeting room av set up with acoustic treatments

What are our rooms’ acoustics like?

Office spaces with wooden floors, lots of glass and warehouse-style open ceilings might look great, but your meetings might not sound great. A survey, followed by the installation of an acoustic sound treatment might be money well spent.

Which meeting room capabilities would benefit your colleagues?

Technology vendors have risen to the challenge of the modern workplace by continually developing functions and features which make meeting rooms easier and more effective to use. By understanding what your meeting rooms are used for and what complementary VC / AV capabilities are available will make a difference. Here are just a few to whet your appetite:

  • Hands-free meeting room control
    • Instead of using your fingers to activate a meeting with a room controller you can start the meeting with a voice command or via your mobile phone and control the meeting room hardware
  • Analog whiteboarding
    • Everyone will have been in a meeting where a flipchart or whiteboard is used. So how does that work if you have remote participants? A content camera is able to intelligently find, crop and zoom in to create a full screen experience. Creative thoughts and ideas can now be digitized and brought into a collaborative experience for everyone involved. So not physically being in the room is no longer a limitation. Even if someone walks in front of the whiteboard remote participants continue to see right through them. And all notes are continuously saved.
  • Bringing remote participants into the room
    • As a remote participant looking into a meeting room you have been denied the ability to see your colleagues close up and see their facial expressions. But Zoom and Microsoft have been working with AV hardware vendors to overcome this:

So how do you arrive at the right solution?

Meeting room users just want to join their meeting and go about their business productively without thinking about the meeting room AV that facilitates their meeting. To them it should be easy. Arriving at that solution however is not easy. It requires careful planning, design, installation and support, so we would always advocate engaging a professional AV integrator to work with you to turn your vision into reality.

Would you like some advice about your meeting room AV?

If you are looking to assess your meeting room capabilities, we can help. Get in touch with us today and request a free site survey to find out what you might need and how we could help.

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