How to transform the conference room into an effective collaboration space
It can feel that 10 to 15 minutes are wasted in every 1-hour meeting because of things that shouldn’t happen.
- People come late to meetings.
- Meetings don’t have an agenda.
- People show up unprepared.
- The sound wouldn’t work properly.
- The internet connection was unstable, and the video call kept cutting.
- A meeting runs late and delays other people’s meetings.
There are hundreds of other reasons for why a lot of the time allocated for meetings is wasted. This is a huge issue, especially when research indicates that a 10% of employees in the EU work remotely part of the time, and a whopping 15% of the average employees’ time is spent in meetings!
Commercial or enterprise AV systems in 2019 are not just a nice-to-have. They are critical for business operations. Presentation and collaboration technology is an essential supporting element to the way we work; as important as emails and phone calls. That’s why companies must invest in the right technology for their business and create the right experiences in conference rooms. Companies need AV solutions that are highly reliable, sustainable and scalable. We’ll dive into what that means later. But first, let’s look at what you need to improve the conference room experience.
It goes without saying. To invest in the right technology for your conference room/s, you need to take a step back and first understand what the current issues and needs are. Once you are armed with that knowledge, you will be able to find the right tools to solve those issues and fulfil those needs.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself, to help you make better conference room design decisions.
What will the conference room be used for?
The primary purpose of the conference room is an important consideration when deciding on size, furnishing, equipment and more. Let’s say that the conference room is meant to be an open space that promotes creative discussions and idea mapping. There needs to be space for standing and walking around, whiteboard for spontaneous drawings (perhaps even an interactive whiteboard?). Conference rooms can also be used for presentations, informational or ‘knowledge transfer’ meetings. In this scenario, the room would require an adequate projection system, audio, equipment control systems and the appropriate seating style. Other typical purposes for meeting spaces are workshops and training seminars, focused work, management meetings, one-on-one private conversations or video calls. It’s important to find out how the room and equipment can support these different purposes.
Who and how many people will the conference room be able to support?
Who is using your conference room? Is it staff only? Or are external partners and clients also bringing their own devices to make presentations? What is the average amount of meeting participants?
It’s important to determine whether the typical meeting in your company has 3 or 20 attendees when designing a conference room. You can decide to design different rooms to hold smaller meetings, larger meetings or make one big space that can be separated or combined, depending on the need. Smaller meeting rooms, also called huddle rooms, should have space for a maximum of 4 people. The room would have a basic setup, ready for ad-hoc meetings and video calls. An example would be a TV or display, a whiteboard and a webcam. Companies might even decide to make huddle rooms unbookable, giving employees a dedicated space for spontaneous meetings. Larger conference rooms, perhaps for department or company-wide meetings would have a larger, more advanced equipment setup. This could include projectors, microphones, a speaker system with amplification, several webcams and central AV control.
A conference room is an extension of your company image
First impressions mean everything in business. Potential partners can form a lasting opinion of you and your business based on that first interaction. The first interaction could take place on your website or at your retail store, but it could just as easily be in your conference room. People can be positively or negatively influenced by the conference room’s design, layout, furnishings, technology and more.
Let’s come with a simple example. You invite a potential business partner to come to your corporate office and pitch their idea. Your company policy decrees that all the employees have Lenovo laptops that take HDMI and standard USB-A connections. But what happens when that potential partner pulls out a MacBook that only takes micro USB inputs? If there is no converter or no wireless screen sharing system, it puts both parties in an embarrassing and frustrating situation, where time is wasted until a solution is found. In the process, your company risks looking unprofessional, unprepared because it uses outdated technology that is not very compatible with others.
What kind of technology do we need in the conference room?
The modern way of working, more than ever before, requires teamwork and collaboration. Furthermore, many employees are very techy savvy and desire the freedom and flexibility to work remotely at least part of the week. Working remotely and collaborating via video saves time and money, expedites decision making and boosts productivity. The collaborative work lifestyle is also an important factor to consider when attracting millennials. It’s essential to have the right technology to support collaboration and remote workers in the conference room. As a minimum, conference rooms should be equipped with a microphone, speakers and high-resolution camera with a wide viewing angle.
Other tools and equipment that can improve the meeting room experience:
- A display, TV or monitor that is the appropriate size for the room it will be in.
- A whiteboard for brainstorming and clarity. Interactive whiteboards allow editing, transcribing to digital text, saving and emailing material and more.
- Motion sensors that automatically turn equipment on/off when people enter or leave the room.
- Meeting room booking systems with a touch screen outside that shows room availability and allows people to spontaneously book meeting rooms.
- Wireless screen sharing solutions make it easy to display content from users’ devices to displays or through projectors to a large screen.
- Dynamic cameras that pan and zoom on their own to focus on the person who is speaking.
- Automated switching devices such as the Neets Control – QueBec Pro that can detect the current input signal and can automatically switch between sources, removing the need to use remote controls to switch sources manually.
- Quality microphones and speakers to enhance the audio experience in the room, making sure people in a video conference can communicate clearly without getting frustrated about bad sound or having to repeat themselves.
- Wi-Fi boosters, repeaters or extenders. Nothing worse than losing the internet connection in the middle of an important video conference. Make sure to have great Wi-Fi coverage in the conference room. And don’t forget to fail-safe your internet by ensuring that a cabled network connection is available if everything else fails.
- Integrated technology that minimizes clutter and increases convenience for the user. This includes having built-in power supplies in the furniture, input panels at strategic locations in the room, cable management or tabletop solutions that offer connections and control such as the Neets EasyConnect Control.
Other factors to consider
Technology is one of the key pillars of creating a positive experience in your conference room. There are, however, several other factors that contribute to the overall experience. The ultimate goal here is to make employees feel good about using the conference room; they feel comfortable in it, comfortable using the equipment, and they feel like it’s a space that helps them be productive and enables decision-making.
If you’ve noticed, we used the word comfort twice. Why? Because comfort is paramount. A conference room that is used for meetings that last for more than an hour needs to be comfortable to be in. We’re not just talking about decent chairs. Ensuring comfort in the conference rooms also means eliminating common irritants, such as background noise, flickering lights, wobbly tables and overcrowding. Ensuring the room is well-ventilated and has an agreeable temperature also makes a huge impact. Lighting – or lack thereof – is also a factor. Too much light in a room can make it difficult to see content on the screen. Too little light makes people feel drowsy – and make it difficult for remote attendees to see the others. A great conference room needs good lighting; a window with lots of natural light and blinds and curtains to adjust lighting conditions, or an artificial light source that can be adjusted with switches and dimmers. A comfortable conference room is a place where employees can be more productive.
The acoustics of the room also play an important role in shaping the experience of a conference room. This is especially relevant in larger rooms, or modern rooms with glass walls. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have to strain to hear what the person standing at the front of a room is saying. Hard, flat ceilings and surfaces are very susceptible to reverb, making playback audio and speech sound faint and muddy. Room acoustics also impacts meeting privacy, if conversations from the conference room can be heard in the corridor or other rooms. Use sound masking and sound-absorbing materials such as curtains, ceiling tiles, partitions and soft furniture.
AV repair and support
Depending on the type and size of the company, there might be a person specifically responsible for meeting rooms and conference rooms, like an AV responsible. Otherwise, it could be the IT Manager, the Operations Manager, the CEO…or the person who complains the most about the meeting rooms!
This person would be responsible for ensuring that the AV equipment in meeting rooms is installed, maintained, repaired and upgraded as well as making sure that users are trained to use it. Typically, if you purchase a tailor-made AV solution from an AV integrator, the integrator is responsible for all these tasks. If you have purchased equipment from other resellers or platforms, you would be responsible for these tasks in-house. In that scenario, it’s even more important to purchase technology that is high-quality, reliable and support-free.
Putting it all together
This guide is information-rich, and we hope that you have found it illuminating and instructive. It’s not exaggerating to claim that designing the ultimate conference room will greatly improve the lives of everybody using them!
However, the room is not going to use itself. You must train employees on how to get the best out of the conference room by using the equipment properly. We’ve seen it countless times; equipment that people don’t know how to use does not get used. By investing in a little bit of training, you can save a disaster from happening in an important meeting later.
What else can you do, aside from train employees to use the equipment?
Empower them to say no to meetings they don’t need to be in. By cultivating a culture of ‘no meetings unless it’s really necessary’, employees are much more likely to feel positive and engaged when they are in meetings. This will result in better, more productive meetings, and positive associations to conference rooms. Gone will be the days of conference room hell.