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Simply Connected Episode 1: Getting to Know Data Projections

Data Projections is excited to introduce the inaugural episode of the Simply Connected Podcast with company commentators, Sandy Hill and Chris Mitchell. The goal of the podcast in general is to provide listeners with a bi-monthly podcast designed to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding AV integration. However, the initial episode focuses primarily on introducing who we are as a company and highlighting the services we provide. This introduction introduces the scope of our services and lays the groundwork for the content of future episodes.

 

Who Is Data Projections?

Data Projections is a Texas-based AV integration company, which often begets to following two questions from potential customers:

  1. What exactly is AV?
  2. What is AV integration?

We first want to address the definition of AV as it applies to most of our readers:

  • AV stands for audiovisual.
  • Essentially AV is whatever elements are in a classroom, conference room, boardroom, or building that shows video and shares sound and also has the capability to integrate those things.
  • It is the ability to utilize messaging to connect and communicate with other people.
  • AV equipment is the hardware and main avenue we use to enable clients to share messages, with sight and sound.

The definition of AV integration then becomes the collaboration of audiovisual elements working together to achieve a common purpose. This typically requires addressing a great number of details, such as the elimination of audio feedback for all of the various elements that come with AV integration to work together seamlessly.

We are set up to both equip our clients with AV technology as well as AV integration so that our customers can make the technology work for them, and not the other way around. With offices in Texas’ largest cities such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, we are proud to be serving in many capacities across the Lone Star State.

Maintaining Educational Roots and Facilitating Expansion

The Houston office is the corporate office for Data Projections and is where it all started about thirty years ago with the company’s founders, Linda and Bill Zaleski. Since the earliest days of the company, Linda’s goal has always been to equip the education sector. As a previous educator herself, she understands the need for technology in the classroom and wants to do what she can to ensure its availability for Texas schools.

With the company’s humble beginnings in education all those years ago, Linda still remembers carrying in massive projectors to a classroom to work alongside a huge pull-down screen. It was still considered technology then, but it has drastically changed and improved in the subsequent decades with digital applications.

Today we are honored to assist the educational industry with schools K-12 and higher, but we also serve industries such as:

  • Corporations
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Local Government
  • State Government
  • Transportation

We offer audiovisual technology and solutions in the education market that have strikingly similar applications for corporate and government industries as well. Whether the people benefiting from audiovisual equipment are seven years old or forty years old, Data Projections can customize audiovisual equipment and integration to better fit each client’s unique needs.

Our Dedicated Education Team

One of the things that often makes our company standout for clients in the education sector is that we have a dedicated education team. In addition, many of the team members have spent some time in the classroom giving them an intimate understanding of what these clients need to efficiently do their job.

Some of the ways in which our education team has served school districts includes:

  • Enabling classroom technology to facilitate virtual, in person, and hybrid learning environments
  • Outfitting technology for divide and combine classrooms
  • Assisting school district boards to connect virtually, in person, and in hybrid environments
  • Creating collaboration spaces for group and project work
  • Equipping specialty programs such as the high school Incubator Program to work more effectively
  • Offering digital signage as a means of communication to individuals present in a school district building or campus
  • Establishing an audiovisual solution for reaching out to school guests and visitors with important information

How We Do What We Do

Our audiovisual solutions are designed to work for clients of the private and commercial sectors with options for detailed customization.

Unlike some AV integration providers, in areas where we are not experts about a specific type of technology or support, our clients can be confident that we are working with experts to provide the needed support. Our designers, project managers, and sales team work closely and have relationships with some of the best manufacturers in the industry.

We acknowledge the importance of working with the best of the best, from the people we have on staff to the manufacturers we work with on a daily basis. Our clients benefit from the knowledge and advancements of some of the leading integrators and minds in the audiovisual industry.

Our goal is to put the best audiovisual technology into classrooms, conference rooms, boardrooms, lobbies and wherever our clients need it to be. We want to help them communicate, collaborate, and connect with their audience whether it be students, business partners or clients. We want to help them simply connect with others via the best AV solutions available.

What To Expect for Future Podcast Episodes

Through a vast foundation of professional knowledge we have built over the last thirty years, we are excited to bring answers to your technology questions and address specific concerns that are now popping up, especially in the ever-changing landscape of enduring a pandemic. Our staff is finding that the questions people are asking today are quite different than the questions people were asking even just two years ago. This speaks to how fast technology is changing.

To learn more about how to simply connect with various audiences with the right audiovisual equipment and integration plan, be sure to subscribe to our podcast, which comes out every other week, and visit us online.

How ActiveFloor Propels Learning

What is the ActiveFloor?

Educators may not typically think of their classroom floor as an optimal learning surface, but with ActiveFloor, it can become that and so much more. Here’s what the system consists of:

An interactive projector 

An interactive projector drives the ActiveFloor system, producing an image on the floor that students can interact with. The projector is housed inside an unobtrusive box that is mounted in the ceiling and well out of reach. Alternatively, the projector may be built into a mobile cart that can be wheeled from room to room.

An onboard computer

An onboard PC allows users to access a variety of learning games and activities and run them through the interactive projector.

A set of onboard speakers

The ActiveFloor box also includes a set of speakers that produce quality audio, making for a multisensory experience.

A tracking camera

While the ActiveFloor is in operation, a camera mounted in the box tracks students and ensures the device can respond to movements and gestures.

A large vinyl floor

The ActiveFloor also comes with a white vinyl floor that provides an ideal surface for the projector. The result is a bright, vivid image that can be easily seen, even in brighter rooms. The standard floor size is 4×3, but larger surfaces are available with some models.

A library of learning software

This interactive education tool comes with more than 30 learning games and activities, designed to get students out of their chairs and moving around. In addition to included software, educators can develop their own learning games and quizzes from easy-to-use templates.

Together, these six components give students and teachers a new way to deliver and engage in lesson content.

How does the ActiveFloor propel learning?

The ActiveFloor is different than most other forms of lesson delivery. Where a typical lesson consists of lecture and some visual aids, the ActiveFloor gets the students’ bodies involved in the learning. There are multiple reasons why this approach is an effective one for students and their teachers. For example:

1. The ActiveFloor emphasizes multisensory learning

Study after study shows that children learn better when they are given a chance to move around. One study, published in Pediatrics, studied 500 elementary school children in the Netherlands. The children were split into two groups and one group was allowed to exercise and given physical movements to pair with their lessons. After two years, the children’s academic progress was reviewed and researchers found that the exercise group was several months ahead of the non-exercise group in mathematical performance.

Multisensory learning is generally accepted by educators to be a superior approach to lesson delivery, compared to traditional stand-and-deliver lecturing. The ActiveFloor makes it simple and fun for teachers to bring movement into their lessons, along with all the benefits movement brings to academic performance.

2. The ActiveFloor improves engagement among bored students

There’s no getting around it, a lot of students think school is boring. A national survey of more than 400,000 middle and high school students found that half of them were bored most of the time in school.

It’s possible that reducing desk time could help many of these bored students connect with their lessons in a different way—a way that interests them more than just sitting at a desk and listening to a lecture. The ActiveFloor is one such tool that could help provide variety in the classroom.

3. The ActiveFloor can drive social learning and collaboration, too

Whether students are assigned a desk or not, they tend to sit in the same spot every day for the entire school year. This limits their ability to interact with other students and improve as effective communicators and collaborators.

The ActiveFloor gets students moving and provides opportunities for them to work together in solving problems, answering questions, and accomplishing objectives. Students that may struggle to interact while seated at their desks may find it easier to do so while engaged in an interactive quiz or game.

4. The ActiveFloor makes lesson creation simple for teachers

A lot is expected out of modern educators, so it’s difficult to find time for effective lesson creation. With the ActiveFloor, though, teachers can put together a fun, effective lesson in minutes, freeing up time to concentrate on other essential classroom tasks.

Which ActiveFloor model is the right choice for my school?

The ActiveFloor is available in several models, so there’s a fit for every room, no matter its size or layout. Here’s a quick look at the options:

ActiveFloor ONE

The ActiveFloor ONE is the smallest model available, which makes it ideal for smaller spaces, like those found in kindergarten classrooms and preschool. The reduced floor size makes it easier for the smallest movers to keep up with the action.

ActiveFloor PRO2

The ActiveFloor PRO2 is the standard option for most classrooms, as it comes with a larger floor and projector than the ONE.

ActiveFloor MAX

The ActiveFloor MAX is the largest model that’s intended for classroom use. Its onboard projector is also brighter than the ONE and PRO2, which means the MAX is also recommended for rooms that are brightly illuminated.

ActiveFloor Mobile

The ActiveFloor Mobile is built into a mobile cart that can be moved from space to space, bringing the fun wherever it’s needed. It comes with the same interactive projector and same learning software as the other ActiveFloor models.

ActiveFloor GIGA

The ActiveFloor GIGA is designed for gymnasiums and comes with a floor that’s 16 times larger than the PRO2. It runs on the same technology, but the projector and camera are configured for a larger space.

ActiveFloor SPORTsWall

A new addition to the ActiveFloor family, the SPORTsWall casts an interactive image on the wall instead of the floor. A completely new way to experience ActiveFloor, the SPORTsWall can be interacted with using thrown balls and additional gestures.

The ActiveFloor is an engaging way for students to learn and an engaging way for educators to teach. With several models and dozens of applications to choose from, there’s room for every class to interact with the ActiveFloor.

6 Ways Video Conferencing Makes Interviews More Effective

Can video conferencing be used for interviews?

Video conferencing is a standard AV solution for unifying remote teams, facilitating effective meetings and ensuring professionals can remain connected, wherever they are. As such, video conferencing solutions also make sense for interviewing purposes, and in fact, many companies leverage the technology for this purpose. This trend has accelerated since the start of the pandemic, and according to a Gartner survey, more than 80 percent of businesses utilize video conferencing to interview at least some of their candidates.

There are several reasons why this is the case, and why video interviewing is likely a long term solution for companies around the globe.

Six Ways Video Conferencing Makes Interviewing Easier and More Effective

A top-notch team helps with the success of a company, so the interview process is of paramount importance for hiring talented team members. Every advantage counts, and here are six advantages that come with video conferencing technology:

  1. Video conferencing reduces scheduling headaches – When interview candidates show up for an onsite interview, there’s a lot of pressure to get them in front of everyone who is part of the process. A single candidate may speak to several people within the company before any judgment can be made on their fit.That can be a logistical nightmare to arrange, and if any obstacles come up, they can put the company in a poor light. It also takes a great deal of time and effort to line up several managers’ schedules, which is time and effort not being spent on other important tasks.Video interviewing removes this common pitfall from the process because it allows everyone involved to interview from their desks. Setting up several dedicated time blocks for onsite interviewing is tough, but even busy executives can find 10 or 15 minutes at their desk to ask a candidate a few questions.
  2. Video conferencing accelerates hiring – Another problem with onsite interviews is that they are often pushed back or rescheduled due to how difficult it is to get everyone in the same room at the same time. Not only is this frustrating for the candidate and other people involved, it also slows down the process, which also lengthens the time it takes to fill the position.One of the most critical hiring metrics for companies is the time-to-fill, or the amount of time it takes to fill a job opening once it becomes available. The faster your business can get new hires comfortable in their position, the faster your company can fill any gaps in productivity. Video conferencing streamlines interviewing, so your business can review more candidates, spot the best choice faster, and transition them into their new role.
  3. Video conferencing expands the candidate pool – Modern video conferencing technology is extremely stable and designed for maximum usability. It doesn’t matter what conferencing platform your business chooses as most candidates should have no trouble connecting to your conferencing solution.With location no longer a limiting factor, your company can open up a position to candidates all over the state, country or the entire globe. If the position is a remote one, then it makes sense to do the interviewing remotely so that your organization can find the best candidate, and not just the ones who can be there physically.
  4. Video conferencing makes it easy for interviewers to keep track of candidates – Some positions may receive thousands of applicants, and hundreds of candidates may be interviewed before the company picks one. That’s a lot of information to keep track of, which is a problem if an interviewer needs to know more about a particular candidate. If there’s no record of previous interviews, then it may be impossible to keep track of which candidate offers what.Video interviewing also solves this problem. All modern conferencing solutions have built-in recording features, so your interviewers can focus on asking important questions and providing important job details to candidates. If a candidate is moved to a second or third round of interviews, then it’s helpful to have previous interactions on record so they can be reviewed. This way, your company’s interviewers know what questions to ask next and what information still needs to be communicated.
  5. Video conferencing can help organizations find better candidates – If your company does keep track of its interviewing and hiring history, valuable information will emerge. Perhaps a new hire is showing excellent potential right away, or maybe a new hire doesn’t fit in as well as hoped.With video conferencing, your organization can keep a record of how previous interview processes have gone, so it’s easier to pick out common traits among the most successful new hires. This information can be used to guide future interviews so that the best candidates emerge more quickly.
  6. Video conferencing makes a positive statement about your business – While the pressure is normally on the candidate to make a good impression, it does go both ways. If your organization wants to attract top talent, a pleasant, modern interviewing process can go a long way in selling your business as one to work for.Video conferencing is a must in producing this positive impression, especially among younger professionals. Gen Z and Millennials are accustomed to the speed of video chat, as they have grown up with it. They would rather leverage technology to make the interviewing process as painless and efficient as possible, and with video conferencing, your business can meet them where they are most comfortable.

Video conferencing solutions serve a lot of roles for businesses. They facilitate internal and external communications, they enhance meetings, they reduce time wasted in on-site meetings, and allow people to connect when they are most comfortable and receptive to discussion. Video conferencing, however, is also a frontline option for interviewers, and can be used to attract top talent, no matter where that talent is.

5 Features That Make Photon A Perfect Fit For The Modern Classroom

How does the Photon fit into the modern classroom?

The Photon is part robot and part lesson plan, designed for students from kindergarten through high school. It’s designed to help students acquire familiarity and competency with STEM-related tasks from an early age. Concepts like coding, logical thinking and troubleshooting are emphasized while using the Photon, but it offers more than just a STEM lesson plan.

The U.S., along with the rest of the world, are looking for STEM-focused professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. may only be able to fill half of its high-skill manufacturing positions over the next 10 years, and that’s just one industry. Across many industries, technological expertise is an emerging critical skill.

One obstacle to higher STEM education, though, is the lack of preparedness among high school students. Without the foundational knowledge in place, college STEM majors are more likely to drop out, but the Photon can be one tool teachers use to provide this knowledge.

Five Features That Make the Photon a Valuable Teaching Tool

The Photon is packed with features that allow it to provide an endless number of compelling learning scenarios. Five of those features include:

  1. Age-appropriate coding and programming – Computer science is the foundation for many growing technologies, and coding is the foundation of computer science. For this reason, Photon places coding and programming at the center of its lesson design. Each lesson, though, is designed for a particular age group, so complexity grows with students.
    For example, Photon can be used with children who haven’t learned to read yet using visual cues. With Photon Draw, students can use their fingers to draw paths for Photon to follow. This trains students in spatial reasoning and planning. Photon Badge is also for pre-readers and allows students to program Photon’s behaviors using colors and symbols. This trains students in error detection and prediction, both of which are useful skills in veteran engineers.
    For older elementary and middle school students, Photon Blocks and Code serve as a bridge from visual-only coding to a mix of verbal and visual coding. This allows students to stretch their creativity and capabilities while getting comfortable with advancing coding techniques. At the high school level, Photon can be used to teach students actual coding languages, including Python and Javascript.
    A single Photon robot can deliver all of this lesson content, which reduces the number of Photons a school will need to acquire to begin teaching its students.
  2. Versatile interactivity features – The Photon comes laden with sensors, so students can interact with the robot in many ways. It has a sound sensor, light sensor, obstacle sensor, contrast sensor and touch sensor, so it will respond to users no matter how they communicate.
    These sensors can also be used to drive lessons and get creative with Photon’s capabilities. For instance, Photon can navigate along a black line using its contrast sensor, so students can create paths for Photon to follow. Photon’s sensors can be used to measure distances and angles, respond to other Photons in the room and respond to certain noises. In this way, Photon can be used to introduce mathematical concepts such as geometry and engineering.
  3. Designed and built to last – The Photon robot is made from sturdy, durable materials that have weight, so it will hold up even in active elementary school classrooms. The Photon’s battery is also designed to last and can provide eight hours of operation before a recharge is needed.
    Also, with health and safety a major focus for schools, it’s nice to know that the Photon can be easily cleaned with a sanitizing wipe.
  4. Compatible with an array of devices – The Photon consists of the robot and app, and both can be powered by any device. This includes iOS and Android devices, as well as Windows devices and Chromebooks. The Photon, then, can fit into any school’s larger technological ecosystem.
  5. Expandable with kits and accessories – The Photon is built for long-lasting educational and edutainment value. In addition to the variety of coding and programming lessons, the Photon can be augmented with magnetic accessories or with learning kits that expand what the robot can do.
    Photon’s back is magnetized and can be used with a variety of pieces to alter the robot’s look. Students can really stretch their creativity by using their own 3D printed accessories, which are also compatible with the Photon.
    The Photon’s educational kits, though, give the robot life beyond STEM. In addition to robotics and coding, Photon can also be used to teach physics, ecology and even socio-emotional concepts. Additional kits, including artificial intelligence and early education, are in development and expected to be available soon.
    Of particular note is Photon’s Special Education kit, which is designed specifically for students who require additional educational support or who are nonverbal.

The Photon robot and app uses child-friendly colors, images and learning methods to introduce students to the complex world of coding and programming. Those are valuable skills to meet professional and creative goals, but Photon’s value goes well beyond its STEM-focused curriculum and tools. The Photon also allows students to work and play together, collaborate on solving problems, develop confidence with technology and learn about a variety of subjects with the help of a versatile robot assistant. For teachers, that versatility can be put to use in engaging students in STEM and beyond.

How Is AV Technology Changing The Courtroom?

New Horizons, New Landscapes.

While AV technology is not necessarily new, the increased demand for it is, and this demand even reaches into the modern courtroom. With the pandemic, the need to continue trying cases didn’t lessen, which paved the way for AV technology to fill in the gaps, effectively keeping the docket moving while also keeping people safe.

How is AV Technology changing the Landscape in the Courtroom?

This new landscape is presenting many benefits and could change how the justice system works in the future. The benefits include increased efficiency, flexibility, accessibility, and solutions to keep cases on track.

Efficiency

Efficiency is the biggest change that is brought about in this new landscape. Scheduling with court proceedings can be pretty tight, and if one person was not available or one item of evidence could not be delivered, this could delay proceedings from continuing. This occurrence can also sway how the proceedings go, as evidence and witnesses that aren’t able to be shown or cross examined cannot be considered. However, AV cameras and conferencing technology can be utilized to keep proceedings on schedule.

Accessibility

Accessibility goes beyond wheelchair access, braille, and any of the other tools in place to facilitate movement for in-person proceedings. Working with a reputable AV integrator with access to a variety of video conferencing technologies opens up the possibility of having remote witnesses and expert testimony from those who may not otherwise be able to appear.

Solutions

A solution to a lot of unforeseen problems, AV integration can add a level of convenience that was not there before. Not only in the sense of being able to connect and communicate at a distance, but also allowing the chance to record the proceedings. Collecting court recordings can be useful to refer back to the trial for either historical record, fact-checking, or as a lesson for new law students. AV technology can also provide a solution for presenting evidence in a way that everyone can see clearly.

What products could be seen in a courtroom and why would they be useful?

The four main products that would be useful in a courtroom would be audiovisual conferencing equipment, displays, a control system, and document cameras. A well-equipped courtroom would have these items available for optimum success. Here are some examples of this technology at work in the courtroom:

  1. Audio visual conferencing offers much in the way of communication and connection. This technology can link more than two people together to offer long-distance conversation or proceedings to take place. Audio-video conferencing can add many levels to a call by including the ability to use a whiteboard, share content, and share documents during a presentation. This can be particularly useful to any lawyer arguing a case.
  2. Displays are integral to the visual aspect of video conferencing. There is a vast array of displays to choose from, and a courtroom can go from simple to impressive depending on what type of display is utilized. High-quality, high-resolution displays are ideal for making sure every image is as crystal clear as possible.
  3. Document cameras are a crucial piece of technology to include in the design of a modern courtroom. These cameras offer a very detailed close-up look at any items that need to be shown. In a courtroom, these can be extremely useful in showing evidence to a room of jurors. It sometimes takes only one piece of evidence to sway a jury, so it is important for the documents presented to be clear.
  4. Control systems can tie it all together. Control systems are extremely flexible and can make the entire system easy to manage by linking it all to one, unified place. They are integral for maximum usability.

How can a reputable AV integrator help?

A reputable AV integrator will assess the courtroom to determine which solutions are needed to keep proceedings on track. Is a permanent integration needed, or one that can be easily moved from one courtroom to another? The integrator will then create a design that would fit the particular needs of the court while remaining within the budget. Oftentimes this means integrating new solutions seamlessly with existing technology. The AV integrator will then be able to train relevant personnel on the proper usage of the new AV systems and answer any questions that may arise.

AV technology is changing the courtroom for the better and bringing it into the modern era. For the best results, be sure to work with a reputable AV integrator that can provide a variety of solutions to keep court proceedings on track and on time.

Tips For The Best Quality Video Conference Experience

Remote work is increasing at an unprecedented rate, and that means more and more professionals are spending much of their time video conferencing. According to Upwork’s 2021 Future of Workforce Pulse Report, the number of remote workers is expected to increase by 87 percent by 2025. Learning how to video conference effectively is an important skill for the modern workforce, but it’s not so tough with some simple tips.

Test everything before the meeting and arrive early

It’s highly recommended that you test your equipment before entering a video meeting. This is especially important if you’ve changed your setup (software or hardware) before your last video conference. If you’re short on time, the most important things to check are your audio levels, lighting and camera framing. That way, you’ll at least know you can be seen and heard clearly.

Another recommendation is to connect to the video conference early. That will ensure you’re familiar with the interface, so you know how to mute your microphone or toggle your camera. Arriving early also gives you some advance notice if you’re having connection issues, so they can be remedied right away. If there’s another early arriver in the room, they can also verify that your audio and video quality are on point.

Doing all of this ahead of time minimizes the chances that you’ll have to come up with a fix while on a call, which is likely to cause the kind of stress that makes quick problem solving difficult.

Know where to position your lighting and camera

Poor lighting or an awkward camera angle are extremely distracting problems, but they have simple fixes. Here’s where to position both:

Lighting

Natural light is almost always the best option when it’s available, such as through a window, but positioning is everything. If the window is behind you, your camera will have trouble with proper exposure and may leave you looking like a silhouette. The best place to video conference relative to a window is to the side or in front. In either case, natural light should be softened so it doesn’t result in harsh shadows. This can be done with a window sheer or blinds.

If natural lighting isn’t available, consider a light source developed specifically for video conferencing. The Lume Cube is one such option, and provides a compact, powerful illumination source that looks like natural light and can be mounted on a desk.

Camera

Cameras designed for remote workers are affordable, compact, easy to connect and can be mounted to a monitor or laptop. To ensure the most flattering and least distracting angle, though, make sure your camera sits at eye level. Any lower and your colleagues will be staring up your nose. Any higher and people will think you’re looking up at them. Try to look into the camera while conferencing to show you are in tune with the meeting.

Opt for a wired connection when video conferencing

Connection issues are common when video conferencing over WiFi, but using an Ethernet cable can improve connection stability. When video conferencing from home, be mindful of your household’s bandwidth use, too. Shutting down unnecessary bandwidth hogs (like streaming services) will give your network the speed it needs to ensure a high-quality video conferencing experience.

Consider a dual-display setup for enhanced presentations

In conference room settings, there is typically plenty of room to go bigger with a video conferencing solution. For example, many businesses outfit their conference spaces with two displays instead of just one. A second display can be used to deliver presentation materials while the primary display provides video of the speaker. This is helpful for the person doing the presenting and the people observing it. The meeting’s presenter doesn’t have to worry about how to share content or visualize data for the audience. The meeting’s participants get all of the visual information they need to follow along.

Interactivity can be a powerful addition to your conference spaces

If a dual-display solution sounds like the right approach, an interactive display may make the most sense. Interactive displays are a proven learning tool in educational settings, and they can drive better, more engaging meetings as well. With an interactive display, presenters can begin a whiteboarding session, bring in visual aids or examples, annotate over them and allow other meeting members to add their own notes. Modern whiteboarding software is designed for people video conferencing from anywhere, so even if your team relies on mobile conferencing, they can still engage with whiteboarding software.

Boost your audio quality with the right microphones or headsets

Even if your video quality is pristine, poor audio can negatively affect a meeting. Most of the time, audio issues arise from an ineffective setup. Perhaps the microphone is too far away or not configured properly. Maybe the speaker is too close to the microphone. Background noise can also interfere with the meeting. Whatever the issue is, remote workers can maximize audio quality by wearing a headset with a quality microphone. This will prevent any problems related to microphone or speaker positioning.

In a professional conference space, make sure there are enough microphones for everyone and ensure you have the right microphones for the room. Gooseneck microphones, for instance, deliver high quality audio but take up considerable desk space. Ceiling microphones are out of way, but may pick up ambient audio, such as an air conditioning system.

An AV integrator can help their clients pick the right microphones for their conferencing rooms, along with the right displays, the right conferencing platform and anything else a remote team may need to create the best quality video conferencing experience.

How To Keep Virtual Meetings Productive

Virtual meetings may have started from a place of necessity, but as many companies move forward with hybrid work environments with at least some remote participants, it is a clear signal that virtual meetings are here to stay. One of the biggest challenges with this setup is how to keep virtual meetings productive and engage participants. The solution can be three-fold: putting engaging practices in place, enlisting the help of an AV integrator, and using the right technology to facilitate it all.

How to Keep Virtual Meetings Productive

In a virtual meeting, it can be all too easy for bored participants to look like they are staring at their computers when they are actually streaming videos or playing a game of Solitaire. The solution is to implement new practices to keep individuals engaged and participating throughout virtual meetings.

If determining how to keep virtual meetings productive has been a challenge for you, consider employing some or all of the following tips:

  • Stay face to face. Most virtual meetings ask participants if they would like to turn on their computer camera for the meeting. While applications offer the choice of a camera, it is best for businesses to request that the video feed remain on for the duration of the call. This helps hold participants accountable and keeps them involved.
  • Eliminate distractions. Whether a remote employee is at home or working from a nearby coffee shop, distractions are everywhere, largely in the form of background noise and scenery. Consider asking participants to use a green screen effect to limit visuals of things happening around or behind them. Keeping participants on mute until a discussion period opens or someone virtually raises their hand may be the best way to eliminate unwanted interruptions and background noise.
  • Create accountability. Consider having each virtual attendee have a specific job for the duration of a call such as an attendance taker, note taker, etc. While this can seem elementary, it keeps individuals involved and in tune with the call as they each complete their specific task.
  • Be bold. To keep a virtual meeting productive, it may help to think of putting together a presentation for the topic. Be bold with graphics, color usage, and special effects. The more interesting a presentation is the less tempted participants will be to tune out the presenter.
  • Make it a need to know basis. Time is valuable, even while on a virtual call. Show event participants that you are respecting their time by including only useful information in the presentation, and when applicable, presenting supplemental information in the chat.
  • Let participation be fun. Do not just ask individuals to pay attention and participate in a virtual meeting, give them an exciting avenue to encourage them to do so. Some of the most popular ways to engage individuals is to ask them to participate in a poll to keep interest.

How an AV Integrator Can Help

A professional AV integrator can help businesses establish remote virtual meeting spaces that not only make communicating more feasible, but that also integrate seamlessly with existing IT infrastructure.

This step is key in making virtual meeting technology user-friendly, sustainable, and cohesive. Integrators are able to not only set up a proper system designed to fit a customer’s budget and make their virtual meetings productive, but they can also put together staff training to ensure that individuals understand how to use the technology to their advantage.

What Types of Solutions Can Help with Productive Virtual Meetings

Customizing a videoconferencing system designed to meet the unique needs of a business while being mindful of the budget constraints is a specialty of reputable AV integrators. Their knowledge is invaluable when it comes to knowing what digital technologies will work the best for each client.

Some of the more popular technology solutions for productive virtual meetings include:

  • Cameras: A high-quality audio-visual camera should do more than just facilitate video. Look for a camera that limits noise interference while providing excellent audio, is compatible with multiple devices, and offers multiple views. Some of the most popular companies providing cameras that assist with productive virtual meetings are AVer, Logitech, Lumens, Poly, and Vaddio.
  • Feedback suppression devices: While there are things such as a room’s acoustics that cannot easily be changed to decrease audio feedback, companies like Biamp and Poly are offering products that offer feedback suppression. Biamp Crowd Mics, an app-based solution, allows text and voice capabilities during a meeting, as well as moderator control options and a poll-based participation feature. Poly Headsets are other devices that ensure clearer communication and works well with other platforms such as Zoom.

If a virtual meeting is a part of a hybrid work environment, the following technologies can also be helpful for businesses to employ:

  • SimplyConnected ZoomRooms: A ZoomRoom allows employees at a place of business to set up interface opportunities with colleagues and clients that are working remotely.
  • Simply Connected Huddle Package: The Simply Connected Huddle Package works much the same way as a ZoomRoom with the exception that it generally caters to a smaller group of on-site employees communicating with remote clients or colleagues.

No matter what type of technology solutions you use for virtual meetings, having an AV integrator assist with it all from start to finish may be the most important factor. If you are struggling with how to keep virtual meetings productive, schedule a consultation with a trusted and reputable AV integrator today for a smoother tomorrow.

Audience Participation Using Personal Cell Phones For Mics

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter the way schools and businesses operate, more organizations are looking into increasing audience participation using personal cell phones for mics when it comes to classrooms and boardrooms.

Why More Schools and Businesses Are Turning to Personal Cell Phones for Mics

Pre-pandemic, students and executives often sat in a communal space where they could pass around or share a microphone without much worry of contracting germs from their neighbor. With the arrival of coronavirus, there is heightened awareness and the need for another solution.

The challenge facing many schools and businesses then becomes how to increase audience participation for an in person, virtual or hybrid environment in a way where all participants can clearly hear others without being forced to use a shared microphone. The solution to this problem may be found in something most older children and adults already have access to—a cell phone. By pairing personal devices with Biamp Crowd Mics, a phone also becomes a personal microphone.

Smartphone Microphone Solutions via Biamp Crowd Mics

A technology solution that uses smartphones to be microphones is currently available in Biamp Crowd Mics. It opens up the lines of communication between a teacher and their students, a meeting leader and participants, and even among attendees in both groups depending on the settings.

Once the Biamp Crowd Mic central hub is set up for use, this user-friendly program simply requires that users:

  • Download the free app
  • Use Wi-Fi to connect to their event
  • Join the event in progress via the free app

By following these three easy steps, schools and businesses can use wireless technology to connect event participants with moderators. Not only will Biamp Crowd Mics allow smartphones to act as microphones, the app also:

  • Notifies the moderator if a student or meeting participant would like to speak
  • Gives the moderator the power to choose which individual will speak next
  • Enables the moderator to mute mics as needed during an event
  • Creates real time polls to enhance classroom or meeting participation

The Benefits of Cell Phones as Personal Mics

Biamp Crowd Mics uses a central hub to connect a space’s main audiovisual system with students or meeting participants via network connections. Despite its ability to be a valuable resource in small classrooms and boardrooms, it also has the capability to connect up to one thousand participants for an event or lecture.

Some primary benefits of a school or business using Biamp Crowd Mics include:

  • No sharing or passing of a microphone, which can help limit the spread of germs between event participants
  • Event attendees only need to download the app and then join the meeting via the internet
  • Microphones connect directly to the event’s public address system so participants can be clearly heard as they are approved to speak
  • Participants who do not wish to speak into their phone as a microphone but still wish to contribute may also do so via text
  • Event leaders and moderators can better control conversation flow during a meeting
  • Moderators can utilize real time polls as a way of encouraging participation among meeting attendees

Some schools can find this particularly effective as instead of making phones off limits in the classroom, it allows them to let students use them as learning tools. As students use the app to text comments, speak in real time, or engage with a poll, teachers are able to better gauge the interest and participation level of students.

In a business setting, meeting moderators can have more control over a meeting than they did pre-pandemic. By having the ability to mute mics when reaching a stopping point, moderators can better set the pace of a meeting to be respectful of the participants’ time.

Why Personal Cell Phones as Mics May Also Prove to Be A Post-Pandemic Trend

As the nation continues to reopen schools and businesses, some experts estimate that a hybrid school and work environment may outlast the pandemic. In some sections of the nation, companies are going so far as to sell their corporate office space as they plan to change the way they work in the future.

For reasons like these, it is more than plausible that schools and businesses will have a need to utilize personal cell phones as mics during and post pandemic to support students and employees in a safe manner.

As the hybrid school and work environments continue to trend up, those interested in audio solutions such as Biamp Crowd Mics should choose to work with a reputable AV integrator that also offers other smart technologies. Whether it is a tool like LumeCube that offers better lighting for conferences and streaming, or ScreenBeam which assists with wireless presentations, the provider you choose should offer multiple solutions that will facilitate and enhance collaborative work in the classroom and the boardroom.

The New Way To Route AV Systems

In the last five years, the audio-visual industry has seen a boom in AV over IP as the new way to route AV systems. The trend has impacted most professional exhibitions and is now making its way to businesses and school districts across the nation. AV over IP is considered by many to be the wave of the future, but it is also an effective and valuable technology for the here and now that can be built upon for years to come.

Understanding AV over IP

AV over IP, technically known as audio-visual over Internet protocol, uses standard network equipment to transmit and switch video signals in a more modern and cost-effective way than methods of the past. In other words, this technology allows audio-visual elements (such as camera feed and microphone) to be sent via a:

  • Local area network (LAN). This is a network that often serves one particular building or cluster of buildings in fairly close proximity to one another.
  • Wide area network (WAN). This type of network can facilitate the transmission of audio-visual signals from one building in a network to another, even if they are not right next to another.
  • Internet Cloud. An Internet cloud connects local area networks and wide area networks together to provide even more comprehensive coverage for schools and businesses.

Why Ditch Traditional AV for AV over IP?

It is important to note, that even businesses and schools considering ditching traditional AV systems are already set up for AV over IP. This means that essentially most of the groundwork is already laid and bringing the audio-visual system online would not require an extremely costly investment or huge changes in protocol for the IT department.

The main issue with traditional audio-visual systems is that they cannot match the modern conveniences and cost-effectiveness of the newer AV over IP systems:

  • Life with less cables. Traditional AV systems are notorious for the copious amounts of expensive cables needed to transmit sights and sounds. With AV over IP, an IP switcher uses less expensive and more common cables that can facilitate transmission of video and audio without as many cords.
  • Pre-formatting for Internet Protocol. With the more modern set up, information transmitted via a switcher is already coded to follow Internet protocol.
  • More switcher ports. Old AV systems typically feature a limited number of ports which can to a point hinder an audio-visual system’s capabilities. However, the AV over IP technology allows multiple IP switchers to be connected together to allow for much broader audio-visual capabilities.

Primary Benefits of Going with AV over IP

For many schools and businesses considering the switch to AV over IP, a primary concern becomes cost as technology upgrades often can affect the annual budget. Perhaps in contrast to most of these types of upgrades, making the switch generally tends to save money and be a more budget-friendly solution. Not only is much of the equipment already in place, any additional equipment can be purchased for a lower cost than that of a traditional AV system.

With financial constraints out of the way, another concern becomes feasibility. An AV over IP system can offer more coverage for long distance transmission. Because older audio-visual systems were based primarily on physical cords and those cables can only reach so far, AV abilities were limited to a relatively small area. The new way to route AV systems allows audio and visual data to be transmitted hundreds of meters away, and the Internet cloud can go beyond even that.

Common Examples of AV over IP Equipment

While schools and businesses using an AV over IP system should save money compared to making a more outdated and traditional system function in the long term, there may be some pieces of equipment needed to complete the transformation. Some common examples of AV over IP equipment can include:

AMX’s SVSI Products.

As a company AMX is known for high quality switches, and models from their SVSI product family are made for AV over IP use including network video recorders, video encoders and decoders, audio transceivers, video management systems, and more.

Crestron’s DM NVX Series.

With some of the most advanced switches in the audio-visual industry, Crestron’s DM NVX series can be a smart choice to facilitate data transmission with 1 GB Ethernet.

Extron’s Video Streaming Products.

The company Extron offers video streaming products made for AV over IP applications. Extron’s NAV Series is often the most popular of its products when it comes to AV over IP.

Liberty’s DigitaLinx.

This company’s 2000 Series is known for managing hundreds of displays and sources, is compatible with third-party control systems, and can support a 16×16 video wall. The 5000 Series takes these capabilities even further.

If your company is currently utilizing an older and more traditional AV transmission operation and is looking for a new way to route your AV system, consider the more modern AV over IP system and reach out to a trusted and reputable AV integrator today.

How To Effectively Implement A Hybrid Workplace

With the arrival of the year 2021, one of the primary concerns for businesses of all sizes is how to effectively implement a hybrid workplace. While some employees embrace returning to the office, others are still working from home, and this workforce split is creating some challenges in collaboration. The most common challenges can be addressed by implementing a hybrid workplace in which both in-person and remote employees are able to continue collaborating and contributing to a company’s success.

The Essential Elements of a Hybrid Work Environment

When it comes to the essential elements of making a hybrid work environment successful, some are largely intangible. Aside from the obvious action of creating effective in-office and at-home workspaces for employees, other considerations to incorporate are ways to:

  • Create more freedom and flexibility for employees
  • Inspire employee productivity
  • Keep up company and employee morale
  • Set and meet company goals

The way a company sets up a hybrid work environment should directly complement each of these goals in order to achieve sustainability.

How to Effectively Implement a Hybrid Workplace

To effectively implement a hybrid workplace, there must be a balance between those working in office and those working from beyond the office. As an employer, it is crucial to give both of these groups what they need to do their job and do it well.

For those that are in-person, it may be helpful to see what tools they require to foster interaction, engagement, and productivity with their remote colleagues. This type of solution may include a special audiovisual conferencing solution and camera. In other instances, this group may benefit from some of the same tools as remote individuals, such as headsets that suppress ambient noise and enhance effective communication.

Individuals working remotely may have some overlap with in person employees such as a need for a laptop or point-tilt-zoom camera. However, some demands will differ with one of the primary ones being access to a high-quality internet connection. This may mean securing a higher bandwidth for better speed and interactivity with cloud-based services. Consider if this is something you want to provide as an employer or if a stipend might be more appropriate.

An often overlooked group when considering how to effectively implement a hybrid workplace is the information technology or IT department. While this group of people likely already have a working knowledge of some of the tools and practices needed for an effective hybrid workplace, working with a reputable AV integrator can ensure each department has everything they need to be successful.

Products Helpful in Implementing Hybrid Workplaces

Perhaps the most critical factor in ensuring a hybrid workplace is a success is making sure that both in-person and remote employees are properly equipped. Some of the products AV integrators are implementing to achieve this balance include:

  • Barco ClickShare: From this line, ClickShare Conference is instrumental in enabling wireless presentations for individuals who are in person or remote. This system is designed to work in a variety of spaces, including large spaces like a boardroom to smaller spaces such as huddle rooms. This is a popular option among companies for its simplicity and versatility.
  • Cameras from Logitech, Poly, Aver, Vaddio, and Lumens: One of the keys for connecting individuals that are in person and remote for a shared immersive experience is a quality camera. These cameras come in a variety of sizes and shapes that allow them to work well with laptops and desktop computers alike. The PTZ (or pan-tilt-zoom) camera is popular for smart conferencing rooms as they feature face recognition and framing functionality, which enables the camera to focus on the person speaking even if they are not sitting or standing still.
  • Biamp’s CrowdMics: This product can be a useful tool in collaboration by allowing in person and remote individuals to clearly communicate and participate in polls via a smartphone. It enables users that are connected to CrowdMics to broadcast their voice over the public address system as approved by the meeting host. This product also offers a feature that allows users to communicate via text if they prefer not to communicate orally. With CrowdMics, both in person and remote individuals get to communicate together in real time.
  • LumeCube: This device is designed to provide a cost-effective and compact option for video streaming, video broadcasting, and video conferencing. It helps to enhance lighting via a softening diffuser that helps to eliminate shadows. The product comes in a variety of models so it can be used on a laptop, computer monitor, or even a tripod. The LumeCube has the capacity to run for fourteen hours straight after it has been fully charged.
  • Mersive Solstice: This line of conferencing solutions has positive reviews for user-friendliness and performance in a hybrid workplace. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Mersive products utilize a company’s existing network and AV system to facilitate in person and remote collaboration. This line is popular for its ability to support multiple 4k video streams simultaneously.
  • Poly Headsets: In person and remote individuals alike can benefit from the enhanced audio quality a Poly Headset provides. This product is geared toward the person who spends much of their workday video conferencing or telecommuting. It is designed to suppress ambient noise and improve effective communication. This headset can be used with most workflow systems such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Ring Central, and GoTo.
  • WolfVision Cynap: The Cynap, Pure Pro, and Core Pro have been developed to provide collaboration technology that is useful in both remote and in-person meetings. This technology allows attendees to connect wirelessly with a variety of devices. It features numerous built-in conferencing, annotating and screen mirroring capabilities without apps, cables or dongles complicating the process.

If your company is trying to figure out how to effectively implement a hybrid workplace, a great place to start is by establishing goals, plans, and products that can help you achieve success, and a reputable AV integrator can help every step of the way.