Today’s workforce is global, there’s no getting around it, and the modern workplace must suit the needs of doing business virtually. Companies are investing countless hours and millions of dollars updating and building meeting rooms with technology and visual elements to create an environment that improves communications between teams, fosters productivity, and inspires new ideas.
Luckily, technology has come a long way and allowed companies to easily implement solutions—such as software-based AV&C and beamforming microphones—to help create highly productive rooms.
However, this room upgrade process has given rise to creating aesthetically pleasing room—complete with high ceilings, glass walls, and many windows to bring in that natural light. The assumption is “Well, if I’m gonna do a technology upgrade, I might as well get a cool-looking place to work and take customers!”
The problem is, although very appealing to the eye, many of these elements add unforeseen acoustical challenges that work against the room’s primary function. They actually make it harder to effectively communicate. On top of that, designers make the incorrect assumption that technology will always be able to overcome poor room design and human negligence.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
Not All About the Look
As you may know, there is an optimal distance between your microphone and the talker in a conference room setting. The general rule is: the closer the better. In recent years, ceiling microphones and other AV technology have given rise to more placement options. The expectations that the technology in that microphone will allow you to put that microphone anywhere you want is a recipe for disappointment.
I recently walked through a large enterprise with the end user and I saw ceiling microphones installed in rooms with extremely high ceilings, right next to the HVAC duct. In terms of footprint, this seemed to be the best available spot. The facilities team thought it looked good, too. Unfortunately, proximity to the duct was too great for the technology to overcome.
As a result, these rooms have caused lots of trouble for participants on the far end of the conference call. It’s difficult to hear the meeting room participants, therefore making it difficult to be a part of the collaboration, which can be frustrating when so much money went into the room upgrades.
We see the same problem with user controls for these rooms. The programmer might feel compelled to include features of the system controls without taking the end user experience into account. The end user needs intuitive and simple controls on the graphical user interface (GUI). Less is more!
I often hear how great the room sounds, yet remote participants complain that it’s difficult to hear and the client points to faulty equipment. These beamforming microphones and processors are amazing and because of this, users are expecting the equipment to defy the laws of physics.
With the rise of people working remotely and the investments companies are making in technology it’s more important than ever to address the issues.
Here's the Deal
So much time, effort and money goes into technology deployments, but during deployment, we often forget the end goal of the project; below are six things to keep in mind during your deployments.
1. Involve the facilities team, the installation team, the design team, and the equipment manufacturers prior to deployment to get input on room options and anticipate potential challenges.
2. If time allows, do a Proof of Concept (PoC) and get input from remote parties on the quality of the room sound.
3. Create a document of technology standards.
4. Standardize on the user Interface controls.
5. Review acoustic treatment options—they can be attractive, cost effective, and—most importantly—make a huge difference to improving the sound quality coming from the room.
6. Keep microphones as close to the meeting room participants as possible.
Upgrading technology is a great first step to ensure you provide the best connected meeting room environment, however do a full review of all the steps to ensure success.