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Why A TV Is Not A Monitor

Are commercial monitors and consumer TVs interchangeable?

They may look the same and appear to function the same, but commercial monitors and consumer TVs are built with entirely different capabilities. One of the most common technology mistakes A/V integrators see is a client using a flat screen TV in a commercial role. Many choose this route because commercial monitors cost quite a bit more than some big box TVs, but this is one instance where the buyer gets what they pay for. When businesses skimp on their digital displays, they are setting themselves up for frustration and added costs, even though they saved money up front with the TV. Continue reading “Why A TV Is Not A Monitor”

Planning A Training Room Design Layout For A Business

HOW DO WE KEEP UP WITH AND TRAIN A NEW BREED OF WORKFORCE?

From Baby Boomers to Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z and now Millennials—the latter, those that were born with the world constantly at their finger-tips to the former, those that just want to tune out the world at the end of the day, today’s workforce is the most demographically dynamic in the history of the world. Thankfully, skilled A/V Integrators can help design and layout a training room to effectively communicate with all generations. Continue reading “Planning A Training Room Design Layout For A Business”

Why Apple TV Is Designed For Your Living Room Rather Than The Boardroom

Apple TV is one of several streaming boxes that promises to liberate people from the tyranny of basic cable. Apple has gone a step further, though, producing a version intended for enterprise use. In a professional context, this means enabling features like screen sharing and virtual meetings. Superficially, Apple TV may seem like an ideal choice for business leaders, as Apple is known for its slick interfaces and quality products. Surely, Apple TV is a continuation of these design principles, right? Continue reading “Why Apple TV Is Designed For Your Living Room Rather Than The Boardroom”

What’s The Difference Between Skype And Skype For Business?

Is there a difference between Skype and Skype for Business?

Skype and Skype for Business are two similar sounding services, but there are some notable differences between the two. While Skype remains one of the most popular communication options for one-to-one calls, this isn’t enough for most businesses. Hence the need for an enterprise Skype solution. Continue reading “What’s The Difference Between Skype And Skype For Business?”

Be Prepared When Adding A Digital Signage Display

There’s no doubt that a digital signage display can ignite sales and branding power. According to a study by VAGlobal, more than 40 percent of consumers prefer to shop at stores with digital displays. An Eclipse Digital Media study determined that about 30 percent of consumers consider digital menus an influential part of purchase decisions. And a Lavi study revealed the power of digital displays in perceived checkout waiting times, cutting them up to 35 percent. Continue reading “Be Prepared When Adding A Digital Signage Display”

MS Hub vs. Clevertouch For Schools

The interactive display market is a competitive one, and Microsoft’s addition to it will only make the market even more competitive. Its version of the technology, the MS Hub, was first released to the market about two years ago, and it just oozes “Microsoft.” There’s some good and bad to that, but the bottom line is this – the Hub is a specialty product, and for the vast majority of teams out there, it’s too expensive and just too much. Continue reading “MS Hub vs. Clevertouch For Schools”

How Can Technology Improve Our Business And School Relationships

Can modern technology improve relationships between coworkers or students?

Technology is often seen as this unwieldy, esoteric thing that just complicates relationships, but when properly implemented, modern technology is a great communication facilitator. It’s this quality that AV integrators strive to bring out in every technology they work with, to make every A/V solution a bridge between people. Continue reading “How Can Technology Improve Our Business And School Relationships”

Cutting Corners With Technology Could Cost Businesses More In The End

Businesses often succeed or fail on their ability to make smart budgetary decisions, so every investment is one that merits real concern. It is only natural that some companies would seek to cut corners when considering technology. This may be an understandable mistake, but it is a mistake none the less. Enterprise technology iterates so quickly that going cheap is a surefire way to stay behind. Continue reading “Cutting Corners With Technology Could Cost Businesses More In The End”

Teachers Can Adapt To New Technology With Help From A/V Integrators

How to Help Teachers Become Comfortable with Modern Classroom Technology

There is so much information out there regarding educational technology and its place in the classroom that it’s understandable that some educators would be a bit intimidated. This is a brave new world, where schools are discovering what works and what doesn’t, so there’s bound to be some hesitation on the part of educators. What is clear, though, is that proper teacher training is essential to getting technology completely assimilated into the classroom. This isn’t a surprise, as it’s a phenomenon seen in the business world as well. If users embrace the technology from the outset, and know how to access its basic functions, chances are that it will prove to be a valuable asset.

The mission is clear for A/V integrators. Get teachers onboard with new technology, and make sure their concerns are addressed. The key here is communication. In an industry that’s largely focused on improving communication between people, this is an opportunity to put those communication skills to the test.

Asking Questions is a Great Place to Start

Teachers don’t skew toward one demographic, so there isn’t a single training solution that’s going to work for everyone. Fortunately, there’s an antidote to this – get to know the teachers. Here’s what A/V integrators will need to know before training teachers on new technology:

1. What is their relationship with technology? By far, this is the single most important piece of information that A/V integrators can use. If the room is filled with educators who embrace technology, who use it willingly and enthusiastically in their daily lives, the trainer doesn’t need to waste time advocating for the technology. A/V integrators can build their training material for a more advanced audience, skipping past the boring bits and ensuring teachers are engaged and excited about the new technology.

If, though, the educators in the room skew toward technological reluctance, then it’s up to the trainer to get on their side. Win them over. Break training into multiple sessions, and build on the lessons slowly.

2. What do they want or need from the technology? This is a natural follow-up from the initial question. When teachers are introduced to a new piece of technology, the first thing they will do is ask themselves “What can I do with this?” They probably don’t care about the smorgasbord of features, device connectivity and the like, at least not at first. They want to know how they can improve their lesson delivery.

With this in mind, trainers must ask – what do you want this technology to do for you? If the room is filled with bright, tech-savvy teachers, the answer may be leveraging particular features to introduce new media or enhance collaboration. For teachers that are technological novices, the answer will be more general, usually focused on saving time during lesson planning or keeping students’ attention better attuned. With this information, trainers have a valuable starting point for their material.

3. What do you want to learn during training? This is the obvious question that trainers may not ask. Not only is this another valuable piece of insight into each teacher’s attitude toward technology, it’s also a nifty psychological trick.

Again, every teacher envisions how the new technology will work for them, as an individual. As such, the room is full of individual concerns and worries. Approaching each person and learning what, exactly, they want to learn during training will help the trainer build their own lesson plan. Further, when people know that their concerns have been addressed in particular, they tend to be more open-minded and engaged about the training they receive. This is helpful for both the trainer and the teacher.

With those questions answered, A/V integrators have a foundation to build off of. But how should an A/V integrator make use of the valuable information?

Make training sessions as dynamic as possible

Teachers may not come from a homogenous demographic, but they tend to share one thing in common – the ability to teach. This can be used to the trainer’s advantage.

Consider, for example, recruiting a teacher or two to help with training presentations. This is particularly useful when there are varying levels of technical expertise in the room. With a couple tech-experienced teachers helping their colleagues out, it feels less like a lecture and more like a conversation. And because teachers know what the technology looks like from their angle, they can often anticipate training challenges and work with the A/V integrator for the solution.

Other than that, here are some ways to rework the training formula:

  1. Get some students involved, too – After all, students are the other part of the education equation, so their input and response to the technology is also essential. What’s great about bringing students in is that most are so familiar with technology that they can attack a new piece of tech from a different angle. Of course, this approach is ultimately up to the school, but with students in the room, teachers will try even harder to pick up the technology. Further, those students can then help the teacher when they are back in the classroom by assisting other students in grasping the technology.
  2. Allow for plenty of hands-on time – The lion’s share of A/V training should involve the user directly interfacing with the technology. This isn’t a new line of thinking, obviously, but it can still feel rigid if the trainer brings everyone up one at a time to accomplish some predetermined task. Instead, invite anyone to approach the technology whenever they want, ask what they want to do, and provide just a little bit of guidance to ensure they go down the right path. If they accomplish something with minimal help, then they will feel a sense of ownership over the device. That has long-lasting effects.
  3. Build a set of challenges that teachers can take with them – Some people prefer to learn on their own time, outside of a group setting. These teachers would benefit greatly from supplemental resources, like task challenges. Each one provides a set of instructions on performing a particular task, and they can be scaled up or down to fit the teacher’s skill level. So, for example, an introductory challenge may be as simple as learning how to connect a device or open up a certain application. An advanced challenge might bring together several pieces of media in building a lesson, or even an entire set of lessons. If put together in a visually clear and compelling way, teachers will continue to learn outside of the training room.

Technology always comes with a transition period. A/V integrators and their trainers are there to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible. To get there, integrators must understand their users and keep the training process fresh.

Using Skype For Business For A Meeting

Are there alternatives to Skype for Business in putting together a meeting?

There’s no denying the impressive functionality that comes with Skype for Business. It has become one of the most popular and capable communications platforms available. It’s fit for companies of nearly any size, though it is particularly effective for enterprise applications, where its security and meeting volume capabilities make sense for large organizations. However, Skype for Business comes at a cost. While the cost isn’t typically prohibitive for companies that only have a few dozen employees, Skype alone may not be enough for the company’s communications needs. On the other hand, paying monthly fees for meetings is not a feasible option for every business.

Fortunately, Microsoft is finally recognizing the companies caught in this uncomfortable middle ground. Skype Meetings, launched in 2016, gives small businesses what they need most from Skype for Business, including the ability to organize meetings, while trimming out most of the other features. But the price is trimmed off as well, as Skype Meetings is a completely free service.

What is Skype Meetings?

Skype Meetings was released in July 2016 as a stripped-down alternative to Skype for Business. It’s clear why Microsoft made Skype Meetings a priority. In the race for the perfect tech ecosystem, Microsoft is only one player, engaged in a fierce battle with Google, Amazon, Apple and a few other big names. Google, with its Hangouts now integrated into its suite of services, likely drove Microsoft into releasing Skype Meetings. This is to the benefit of small businesses, as Skype Meetings provides a nice “freemium” option for companies that either need barebones meeting capabilities or are looking at testing out the Skype product family before jumping in with both feet.

What are the main points of interest regarding Skype Meetings?

1. Skype Meetings is built for small businesses – The basic version of Skype is designed for individuals, but it can still support 25 people on a call. Why bother with Skype Meetings, then? Mostly because getting 25 people into a Skype call is a feat of endurance, as the platform is notoriously clunky in this regard. That’s understandable, as Skype was first and foremost built for peer to peer calls.

Skype Meetings doesn’t make people jump through hoops in getting a meeting going. Participants can quickly jump into a meeting using an original URL, and the meeting can be accessed through any device, which is a mandatory feature for any commercial conferencing platform.

2. Skype Meetings has some of the Skype for Business features – As Microsoft has built Skype Meetings for businesses, it does come with the kind of security that companies demand. That level of enterprise security is something that is also a mainstay of Skype for Business.

Skype Meetings also comes with the same streamlined interface and is also packaged with the head tracking feature that comes with Skype for Business. This feature detects where each participant is in relation to their camera and adjusts the image so that everyone is always centered, even when someone is on the outside edge of the view.

However, it isn’t all sunshine with Skype Meetings. While Skype for Business is integrated with all Office 365 software components, including Outlook, Word and PowerPoint, Skype Meetings only permits collaboration via PowerPoint. Now, some small businesses would rather keep their Office 365 integration to a minimum, and PowerPoint is a valuable piece of software for companies that don’t need media-heavy presentations. But, if total integration into the Microsoft ecosystem is desired, Skype Meetings won’t quite get the business there.

PowerPoint integration is total, though, so Skype Meetings allows users to share screens and use the laser pointer feature for better annotation and presentation efforts.

Skype Meetings also comes with a couple other functions for better meeting productivity. One is instant messaging capability during meetings, so people can interact privately while the meeting is ongoing. Professional meeting controls are also standard, such as the ability to mute the audience in order to command the floor.

3. Meeting configuration is limited, but effective for smaller groups – This is where the freemium component comes in. Skype for Business can accommodate up to 250 people in a single meeting and allow for broadcast to up to 10,000 people. Those are some huge numbers and really sells the idea that Skype for Business can work for the largest businesses out there.

Obviously, most companies don’t need to cram 250 people into a single meeting. For these companies, the meeting member limit that Skype Meetings comes with might not be a concern. For the first 60 days after creating a Skype Meetings account, companies can execute video calls that involve up to 10 people. However, once that 60 days is up, that hard limit is reduced to three people.

Clearly, this is Microsoft’s way of getting businesses hooked on the technology and gently goading them into adopting Skype for Business. Some companies will make the jump, as the three-person limit is too limiting. But if all a company needs is a secure, functional video conferencing option for small action teams, then Skype Meetings may remain viable even after transitioning out of the 10-person period.

Of course, Skype and its commercial derivatives aren’t the only game in town. Google, Facebook, Apple and a litany of third party options are available to companies that don’t find the Skype package attractive. Most of those options cost money or require a commitment to another ecosystem, though, so they aren’t fraught without their own challenges.

In the end, the decision on what conferencing platform to go with is an important one. It’s also one that shouldn’t be made alone, as there is a lot to consider here. A/V integrators are thoroughly versed in video conferencing solutions, and can guide their clients to the optimal solution for the company’s particular needs.