In some offices, the modern conference room may look like a showroom for various technologies. There’s no doubt that conference rooms have been a primary target for A/V integrators, and it’s easy to understand why. The conference room is where a lot of the creative heavy lifting is done, and where companies link to clients and partners around the world. To facilitate such critical missions, modern conference rooms are outfitted with an array of technologies, each of which forms a critical link in the chain. And when every component is selected and installed carefully into the space, the result is a powerful center for brainstorming and communicating.
Audio, Video and Ambiance
A surprising amount of work has to go into a comprehensive A/V solution. It’s not enough to just add a bunch of equipment to the space with no plan, though a surprising number of companies do just that. When A/V equipment is added to a conference room without accounting for employee needs or knowledge, the result is usually a system that goes unused.
That’s why A/V integrators prefer to start from the bottom up, determining the company’s needs and working from there. It’s a process that integrators use with every project, but it’s especially relevant for building conference rooms, given their strong focus on communications. Here’s what a modern conference room needs to be effective:
- Comfort – Above all else, the conference room has to be a place where people can feel comfortable communicating. Otherwise, what’s the point? People are made comfortable, or uncomfortable, through dozens of factors, both obvious and not so obvious. It’s up to the company and the A/V integrator to do everything possible to ensure people can relax and exchange ideas freely in the room.
- Controllability – The modern conference room usually contains several technologies, all interacting with each other to create a single experience. It’s extremely important, then, that all of these technologies can be controlled separately. That way, the look and sound of a presentation can be tweaked until it’s just right.
- Effectiveness – It’s not difficult to establish a space for people to talk to each other. A table and some chairs will do that just fine. But if a company wants more from its meeting spaces, then presenters will need more dynamic material, communications will need to involve other parties, and a focus on content retention will be required. This is generally impossible to accomplish without some sophisticated pieces of hardware.
It doesn’t matter exactly what the objective is with a conference room – whether it’s intended for group brainstorming or large scale meetings to discuss project management, comfort, controllability and effectiveness will determine the room’s success rate.
But what technologies are essential to hitting that big three? Though every conference room has to be designed with the company’s particular needs in mind, there are some A/V technologies which have become popular across the board. Here is a snapshot of a fully outfitted conference room, using modern A/V technology:
- Crisp, comfortable lighting – Before A/V integrators can get heavily involved in the nuts and bolts of putting a system together, the room’s lighting may need to be addressed. Lighting has an enormous impact on presentation quality, whether the meeting is confined to the table or if the meeting involves teleconferencing. Harsh lighting can frustrate and wear people out, making it difficult for them to participate meaningfully. The best way to approach conference room lighting is to consider what comfortable lighting feels like outside the context of work. It tends to be gentle, warm and indirect, ensuring there is no annoying glare. Setting up the proper lights will be essential to moving forward with system installation.
- Quality displays – A lot plays off of the room’s central display, so it should receive special focus. Modern LED displays are capable of outputting at least full HD, though it’s becoming increasingly common to see 4K displays as well. LED displays can be continuously operated for years before they suffer any degradation in picture, so they are a standard choice. The ideal display size will determine how large the room is, and how far away people will be sitting from it. This is something that A/V integrators can determine easily, even by feel. Some conference rooms are fitted with multiple displays in a videowall formation, allowing for meetings with multiple parties, or for better data organization.
- Precisely arranged audio inputs and outputs – Audio is affected by a ton of factors, including the size of the room, what it’s made of, what furniture is in the space, whether doors are opened or not, and so on. A/V integrators can model acoustics in 3D space, giving them insight into how microphones and speakers should be arranged. In most cases, integrating the microphones into the central table promotes optimal audio clarity, as they can be spaced to ensure that ambient sounds are not picked up. Some companies choose to install their microphones in the ceiling, which allows for audio to be picked up around the room. It’s more difficult to control, though. Speakers should be arranged and zoned throughout the space so that it produces a comfortable, even level of sound from front to back.
- Video conferencing equipment – Video conferencing allows companies to connect their branches together, allows companies to discuss joint initiatives with partners, and allows companies to interface directly with their clients, promoting a mutually productive relationship. Video conferencing requires video and audio outputs and inputs to work in concert to create a smooth experience on both sides. Polycom is among the most respected brands in the video conferencing market, and can offer everything from desktop and mobile conferencing, to total immersive systems, which integrate the technology and its controls into the room’s elements.
- Digital presenters or document cameras – Although many companies rely completely on digital media to present material, there is still a need for technology that can better display physical media. Document cameras are an easy fix for this, and they can even display things stereoscopically for everyone in the room, preserving all three dimensions for improved presentation quality.
- CleverTouch displays – Companies and educators have long used interactive displays and boards to deliver concepts in a fresh, engaging way. The current pinnacle of this technology is the CleverTouch, which streamlines presentation methods in several meaningful ways. For example, the CleverTouch has an onboard processor and hard drive, so no device needs to be connected to it to function. Also, the CleverTouch is designed with an underlying operating system that is mirrored after mobile operating systems. This allows presenters to get used to the display immediately and get the most out of it.
- Intuitive control systems – A modern conference room is one that allows for precise control of all of these elements, typically from a single portal. That portal usually takes the form of a touch panel that allows for easy component calibration and setting. Controls can be personalized to each user, and can even be set to respond to voice, allowing presenters to move about the room without being tied to a control panel.
Those are the underlying aims and features of a fully outfitted conference room. They won’t all be relevant to every meeting space, but it’s the job of a skilled integrator to determine how the company’s needs intersect with available equipment. In this way, it’s best to think of an integrator as an expert advisor and partner – just one with access to an incredible array of technology.