Before we get trendy about conference room technology, here's some wider context for what’s driving the conferencing technology trends we'll be discussing.
Let’s begin with three obvious post-pandemic realities that all workplaces, as well as all IT managers and facilities managers, confront daily in supporting people’s productivity via technology:
(1) Covid-19 has greatly accelerated hybrid work, making geographically distributed teams the norm
(2) In a workplace environment and where some people are in-office inside meeting rooms and others connect to work remotely, workplace technology (including the conference room technologies detailed here) bridges the gap between physical and virtual spaces in order to facilitate human connection and collaboration;
(3) The factors described in (1) and (2) above have a direct impact on how meetings in conference rooms happen and how conference rooms need to be equipped in order to support more productive meetings and connect team members, no matter where they sit.
This post will provide IT and facilities managers with a comprehensive list of what they should be considering when it comes to their conference room equipment and technologies. It will also explain why those investments in legacy conference room systems matter for supporting people’s productivity.
Why Investing in Conference Room Technology Matters
When it comes to investing in modern conference room technology, it all comes down to supporting three mission-critical goals that get driven within meeting spaces:
1. The Productivity of Your People
What happens when team members working from home can’t connect remotely to that all-important team meeting happening in the office? First, both the people sitting in the conference room and the team members working remotely will lose productivity because they can’t access the value of shared feedback and collaboration.
Your distributed team (and by extent, your business) is working with one hand tied behind its back. When your people can’t be productive and connect from anywhere, you don’t actually offer an effective flexible work option.
2. Equitable Collaboration
Far more common than not offering flexible work is offering hybrid that's bad: some companies will "officially" offer remote and hybrid work, but allow the experiences of workers collaborating in the office to be far superior to the experiences of those who connect digitally. That creates inequitable collaboration.
Let’s look at an example of not having the right conference room equipment or conference room design. If people connect remotely via their home offices to the big meeting and can’t see the other attendees in the meeting space because of insufficient cameras or can’t hear them very well because of second-rate microphones in the conference room, they're getting a second-class experience.
The productivity of everyone gets disrupted because of insufficient conference room equipment and technologies for virtual meetings. The idea of “equitable” collaboration means that every meeting attendee, whether they’re sitting in the conference room or connecting to video meetings from home, should have the same opportunity to meaningfully participate and contribute in productive meetings. Collaboration platforms are intended to boost productivity, not damage it.
Without equitable collaboration, you’re basically forcing the virtual meeting attendees to either come into the office or accept a second-rate status that diminishes team productivity. No business should ask their people to choose between two bad options.
3. Engagement and Retention of Talent
Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, when you don’t support your people in being productive you’re setting them, and your organization, up for failure.
Talented people, those with the most skill and experience relevant for your business, will either pick up and leave for competitors or, even worse, remain with you and give you limited effort.
To bottom line it, people tend to give back what they’re given. When an organization fails to support its people, people reciprocate by leaving or coasting. Instead, give high-quality support by investing in meeting room technologies, and get a high return on your investment.
The Latest Conference Room Technology
Let’s move from the why of conference room technologies to the what. What other conference room technology trends should your organization be investing in to best support people’s productivity and equitable collaboration? Here are the must-haves:
1. Conference Room Booking Systems
You can have the best video conferencing technology and conference room setup in the world, but if your people can’t easily book meeting space, you’re wasting valuable resources.
Many businesses experience daily chaos in today's conference rooms -- some meeting rooms are woefully underutilized while others are constantly booked up and highly in-demand. In order to get the balance right, organizations must understand the needs of their people and then accommodate those needs with an easy-to-use solution. An effective meeting room booking system enables exactly that.
Instead of booking conference rooms on outdated Excel spreadsheets or Google Docs, implement a meeting room booking system that manages your inventory of rooms in real-time and can make sure meeting organizers can see what rooms are available and when, so bookings can happen smoothly, accurately, and without the chaos or time-consuming drudgery.
In addition, workplace analytics data, offered by providers such as Robin and butlr, helps keep your leadership updated on meeting room utilization metrics and enables them to make appropriate adjustments to your technology and conference room equipment. You can’t fix problems or plan improvements if you have no visibility into what’s happening, making workplace analytics vital.
2. Wireless Connectivity
Wireless connectivity and personal devices, even wireless presentation systems, have emerged as game-changers in meeting room technology, eliminating tangled cables and messy connections. You need a good Wi-Fi connection, period. Whether your employees are connecting from the 3rd floor conference room or their home office space, a secure and reliable network is mission-critical for meeting success.
Wireless technology makes collaboration in hybrid meetings and among distributed teams truly equitable, facilitating information sharing/exchange and enhancing the overall meeting experience for everyone.
3. Meeting Room Displays
Meeting room displays show each room’s availability and agenda in real-time, while allowing people to reserve meeting rooms on the spot. For example, Logitech's Tap Scheduler makes it easy to see meeting details on a room display screen and reserve the room for ad hoc or future meetings.
Meeting attendees, including outside visitors (such as vendors or potential investors) can look at the interactive display and see immediately that they’re in the right (or wrong) place, making these displays great for wayfinding within corporate environments and buildings.
4. Digital Whiteboards and Interactive Displays
Interactive whiteboards and digital displays allow all meeting participants, no matter where they sit, to interact with each other in real-time. Teams can use their digital whiteboard and interactive displays or screens to brainstorm, ideate, visualize, and develop ideas collaboratively.
People can also make sure they have a record of what they’ve done and share the work later on.
5. High-Quality Webcams
Today, businesses have a ton of great options, many of which come with advanced features like 4k HD cameras capable of high-quality, wide-angle, adjustable viewpoints for heightened interactions, video walls, and real-life, immersive video meeting and experiences.
Some camera solutions also combine audio visual solutions with video walls. For example, the Meeting Owl 3 creates an immersive hybrid audio visual meeting experience in any space with its intelligent 360° video conference camera that also includes a microphone and speaker. Any audio-visual solution should also have a meeting recording feature.
6. Speakers and Microphones
Sound quality is clearly critical for people’s productivity and effective collaboration, no matter the room layout. Whether they're collaborating in a large conference room or a smaller zoom room, nothing kills a meeting faster than bad sound for remote participants when someone has to deliver presentations or lead video conferences.
Some large conference rooms and call rooms would benefit from ceiling-mounted microphones and speakers that create a more immersive experience, while other (perhaps smaller) conference rooms should be prioritizing smaller, on-the-desk speakers (such as those from Logitech), as well as noise-canceling technologies.
Win by Supporting People’s Productivity and Collaboration
When you invest in people and in the meeting rooms they work in, they’ll reward you by investing their talents, time, and energy into collaboratively driving your organization’s success.
Investments in the best conference room technology matter because supporting your people and providing a modern workplace matter. Robin’s workplace experience platform empowers you to manage your office so you can give your teams engaging and vibrant workplace experiences.
Reach out to our team to learn how we can help you support your workplace.