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CONFERENCE SYSTEMS ARE MORE THAN JUST A MIC

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Systems such as Listen Technologies’ Digital Conferencing DC 6990 P touchscreen solution help ensure that all are heard in meeting rooms featuring reflective surfaces.

Integrators can build business if they stop, look, and listen. That’s the word on microphone conference systems from manufacturers and those integrators who have installed these systems in the U.S.

“These are actually full sound systems; they’re more than a microphone,” said Cory Schaeffer, VP of sales and marketing worldwide for Listen Technologies. Listen distributes Danish Interpretation Systems (DIS) in North America. “In many ways, the term ‘microphone’ suggests one-way communication, and with conferencing it’s about powerful effective communication—hear and be heard. A simple out-of-the-box portable sound system has the scalability to do voting, control, language interpretation,mmeeting management, and more.”

The learning curve for integrators is not difficult, as push-to-talk systems are easy to install, said Kees Geerts, product marketing manager for Bosch Conferencing Systems. “But because traditional systems are so embedded in the integrator marketplace, there is a need to educate them about the availability of proven, sophisticated, easy to use and install products for all kinds of conferences ranging from small corporate applications to 6,000 systems in place for international events like the 2009 Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Demark.”

For years, U.S.-based designers have specified systems with automatic mic mixers, partly because that’s what end-users have continued to ask for, partly because they themselves have been unaware of the wide range of push-to-talk options available. “There is a learning curve here,” Geerts added, “but the benefits of an aesthetically pleasing, technologically flexible system quickly become clear. We make systems for all budgets and for applications of all sizes, with no compromises in terms of form or function. There’s no need to settle for a traditional ‘mix-minus’ system any more, and we need to educate our customers about what’s available to make their day-to-day conferencing easier and more efficient.”

For Listen Technologies, the product category, which includes its DC 6990 touchscreen mic, has added significant growth for the company. “Our biggest growth has been in the higher education application,” Schaeffer said. “These systems can add so much to an auditorium-style classroom; they allow for a large classroom setting to become more of a collaborative space and they allow for the instructor to see and hear all who are talking, as well as to integrate testing or audience response. Installation and integration is so easy, as we use a single shielded Cat-5 cable. So one unit connects to the next unit and so on, and then one cable connects to the main CU (control unit), which has inputs and outputs to integrate to other equipment should the integrator decide to do so.”

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The Audio Video Company (AVCO) in Aiea, HI, has integrated Bosch DCN Next Generation conference systems in the Hawaii County Council Chambers and the East West Center Conference facility (pictured).

The Audio Video Company (AVCO) in Aiea, HI, has integrated Bosch DCN Conference systems in the Hawaii County Council Chambers and the East West Center Conference facility, said project manager, Warren Miyake. “The East West system supports a diverse international delegate conference requirement with translation capability for three Asian languages but can be configured for up to 10 different languages. This 64-seat system provides the East West Center with a modern digital discussion system that provides clear and intelligible audio.”

The Council Chamber renovation includes a system providing the community with televised cable broadcast and digitally recorded County Council meeting sessions. The conference system allows the County Clerk and staff to support the Council during meetings with an integrated audiovisual system. “Bosch DCN Conference System discussion units provide each council member with microphone and speaker, and the chairperson can preside and manage the session,” Miyake explained. “Guest speakers have a microphone at the testimony/witness table. The council meeting includes parliamentary voting, which can be tallied by the system’s software, and the digital recording of the council meeting is transcribed for posting on the County of Hawaii Council website.”

The majority of Bosch conferencing systems sales are for such government clients. “We see a lot corporate projects, but our number-one conferencing system market is in meeting rooms, conference centers, and courtrooms on international, state, regional, and city levels, and in private or semi-private entities such as municipal parks and recreation boards,” Geerts said. “What has driven innovation in conferencing technology is the desire for efficiency for meetings, the fact that people need to speak in turn and there needs to be someone in control of proceedings. That’s where features such as priority buttons are useful to manage who’s waiting to speak, who’s next in line, and who they may want to override.”

Traditional systems with a roomful of live gooseneck mics rend the system less effective and run the risk of picking up conversation not meant to be overheard, he continued. “Although our DCN Next Generation systems can also be voice controlled, the majority of our clients prefer the managed mode, where the chairman or operator defines the maximum number of open mics on hand. As soon as the maximum number of active mics is reached, the next delegates wishing to speak can press the mic button to go in queue, as indicated by a green indicator on the mic. The first one in queue will see a blinking green indicator, a Bosch patent, whereas all active microphones are red, to comply with the ISO 2603 and IEC 60914 standards.”

Schaeffer said Listen Tech’s greatest success comes with integrators who are looking for a competitive edge. “Our projects include law schools, large corporate training rooms, and several rooms in universities. Often the client doesn’t ask the integrator for many of the features that these systems offer, such as language interpretation, because they aren’t aware that the features exist. Many universities and corporations have multilingual participants, and are worldwide. Many integrators could increase their margins and client satisfaction by just mentioning this feature.”

In addition, many companies and schools are using multipurpose rooms to hold meetings. “Tables and chairs are set to accommodate different meeting styles,” Schaeffer said. “Hard surfaces such as marble, granite, and glass are beautiful to look at but nearly impossible for good audio and productive meetings. We’re seeing these conferencing microphone/speaker units put into boardrooms so all can hear. Clients with historical buildings often select this solution. Clients are requesting a sleeker, smaller capsule, especially if what they’re saying is being streamed. This new microphone design allows for users to focus on what they are saying rather than what they are speaking into.”

Margin Builder
“Our greatest challenge with these systems is getting the integrator to understand how they can be used,” noted Cory Schaeffer of Listen Technologies. “Integrators need to think outside the box, beyond just what is being asked of them. They can improve margins by collaborating more with manufacturers to help them present a better solution than what is being requested. Collaboration with manufacturers can give them a competitive advantage and help them close the sale.”

Is This Thing On?
Integrators offering digital recording, video displays, and other systems would be wise to add a conferencing system as well. “In systems like ours, mic activity is flagged in digital recording, making transcription afterwards far easier and more accurate,” observed Bosch’s Kees Geerts. “Besides that, every city council chamber has moving cameras, and what is so beautiful about a Bosch conferencing system is that we can control the Bosch PTZ cameras, or any other brand, automatically as a mic becomes active. This means the same integrator putting in cameras can partner with us to install an AV whole project, adding onto a conferencing system with a seamless, soup-to-nuts, single-source solution.”

Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO.

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