There you are, making the big pitch to a new client, video conferencing on Teams or Zoom; when, suddenly, everything’s frozen. You’re no longer in control of the pitch and you need to reboot, loosing valuable meeting time.
We’ve all been there. At best, its an inconvenience; at worse, it can loose you that important new client. It’s easy to blame technology and move on, but it shouldn’t be that way.
These embarrassing moments have become an all too common part of remote meetings and video conferences. From an accidental share of your cluttered desktop to complete meetings with an out of focus camera; these annoyances subtly detract from your delivery.
You wouldn’t go to an in-person meeting with a scruffy notebook or coffee stained documents, so why commit such infractions in the virtual domain?
It may seem as if improving your video conferencing technology is paramount to broadcasting the Olympics. It doesn’t have to be this way though. A few simple tweaks are all it takes to take your video conferencing performance to the next level.
In this two part series, looking at the meeting environment and then meeting technology. We explore the challenges faced in delivering high quality integrated video conferencing and unified communications systems to our clients. These simple steps are something everyone should consider when partnering with an AV integrator on their meeting space experience.
Video Conferencing as an Experience
When we think about video conferencing, it’s easy to just think of two or more people sat at their laptops. This one to one style is excellent for isolation but less optimal for discussion formats. A new trend is emerging, where hybrid meetings are taking place. Multiple people congregate in their local office and others join from remote locations, perhaps another office, or from their laptop at home.
These hybrid meetings will only become more common as some but not all people return to the workplace. Research has shown that a lot of people want to continue working remotely once offices re-open. Ensuring that these hybrid meetings can happen is a key part of many businesses’ strategies to recover at the resumption of normal business activity.
Location, Location, Location
Wait a second, I thought this post was about technology? Well, it is, but no amount of technology will correct the problems in the rooms we occupy.
It’s easy to forget, but video conferencing still needs a room at either end for you and your counterparts to sit in. Between them, these spaces can be considered in the same way as your meeting room in the office.
When we partner with clients to design and implement their new meeting room technology, we first look at the space we’ll be working in. We consider lighting, shading, environmental controls and acoustics before we start thinking about any audio visual systems.
It’s no different in the virtual meeting space. Take a look at where you are working and ask the questions:
- Is my lighting out of the camera shot & can I control the light coming into the room?
- Are there too many reverberations in the room & can the heating/cooling system be heard?
- How do I let people outside of the room know that I’m in a meeting?
These all apply whether you’re in a home office, a dedicated small video conference space or a large meeting room. Getting your working environment right is the first step to a great video conferencing setup.
It is always best to have a dedicated space for video conferencing. Hosting a video conference in an open plan office is akin to trying to hold a meeting in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Sure, you can have a conversation; but the background is full of distractions over which you have no control. Getting a dedicated space, whether a meeting room, spare room in the house or a dedicated huddle space, is key. Having a dedicated space allows you to make adaptations to ensure it meets your needs.
First up is lighting. The human eye is extremely good at adjusting to various light levels in a room. Your camera, on the other hand, is not so adept. Your face needs to be well lit, from more than one angle, whilst keeping sources of light out of the shot.
With few exceptions, which can be designed around in fully integrated systems, there should never be a window or artificial light source visible within the camera’s viewport. Control of these factors should be part of your meeting plan, every time; whether automated into your routine, or manually adjusted.
We design our video conferencing solutions to mitigate lighting challenges to deliver the optimal meeting room experience.
Next, audio. This is arguably the most important, yet often overlooked, aspect of the meeting experience; whether in person, virtual or hybrid. This is more than just having a mic and a pair of speakers. The entire room contributes to good, or poor, audio for your video conferencing experience.
Understanding the effect the room acoustics have on your video conference is key to your presentation. If you clap your hands in your space and can still hear the sound after about half a second, you need to think about the room acoustics. Absorbing excess sound is key here, using soft furnishings, thicker carpet, specialist acoustic ceiling tiles or a combination of all of this will reduce unwanted reflected sound in the space and improve the quality of audio you hear.
Designing a well tuned, aesthetically subtle, acoustic for a space is a challenge we deliver on using our range of acoustic treatment solutions.
Finally, you’ve chosen the perfect space; optimised the lighting and tuned the acoustics. That’s it right? Not at all. Last but not least, in your ideal meeting room, you want to ensure that you’re not interrupted by people who don’t know you’re even in a meeting.
The ultimate low-tech way to achieve this is a sticky note on the door saying when you’ll be done. It’s easily forgotten or ignored though. We already know you’re in a meeting though, you’ve booked the space in your calendar, you’re physically in the room and you’ve got a call in progress on Teams or Zoom. Lets use this information to power signage and indicators that you’re in a meeting. A simple red/green door sign can indicate availability based on these metrics. Expanding with a room booking display lets other users know when you’ll be done and even lets people book the room for when you’re done.
We integrate room booking solutions with major calendar platforms including O365, Exchange and G-Suite to let you concentrate on your meeting and not the meeting room.
Onwards and Upwards
We’ve sorted our ideal meeting space. You can be seen, heard and aren’t going to get interrupted. But you’re still sat at your laptop using the in-built camera, speakers and mic. You’ve not got enough screen real-estate to see the people you’re talking to alongside your content and you can’t bring anyone into the room with you for them to contribute too.
In part two. We will look at the unified communications technology and audio visual systems necessary to complete your virtual meeting experience.