By James Ward, managing director at Electric String
Company X has a meeting with one of its biggest clients to discuss investment for the following year. Everyone is seated around the table, anxious to see the all-important documents and financial figures that could sway how the partnership pans out. Company X has created a brilliant all-singing, all-dancing video presentation to clinch the deal. But there’s a problem.
Company X is primarily Mac-based, but its client has Windows machines and no one can find a HDMI or DisplayPort adapter. After several minutes of frantic running around and phone calls to the IT department, executives from both companies huddle round a 12-inch laptop instead, tilting the screen back and forth to stop the light reflecting from the bright sunshine beaming through the windows, and peering over each other to squint at the small screen’s display.
This may sound far-fetched or a scenario from days of yore, but it’s a situation we witness in today’s meeting rooms on a regular basis. Despite the proliferation of devices, such as tablets and smartphones, and a shift from hardcopy to digital for nearly every type of media, too many business meeting rooms are ill-equipped to deal with the equipment staff use on a day-to-day basis, making meetings an often frustrating experience for everyone involved.
Whether it’s the boardroom, conference rooms, meeting rooms or reception areas, an effective working space allows for better communication, brainstorming, idea creation and decision-making. Making an impression in the areas where external visitors and clients spend most of their time while in your premises, can also enhance the way you are presented to the outside world.
Sumptuous leather chairs, solid cherry wood boardroom tables and dry-wipe whiteboards are no longer enough to furnish a boardroom; the latest technology is essential for the creation of a fully functional workplace.
Modern meetings connect increasingly global teams and remote workers from anywhere and everywhere, with a growing focus on video-centric collaboration. Reports suggest 25 per cent of meetings have at least one mobile video participant on the call, with 78 per cent of mobile video meetings taking place via Apple devices.
The explosion of bring your own device (BYOD), where company employees work on the device and software of their choice, has also changed how many businesses operate. Researchers at IT analyst firm Gartner estimate that four in 10 organisations will rely exclusively on BYOD by the end of this year, as employees increasingly use their favourite device to instantly access corporate portals and apps, calendars, productivity tools, and back-end systems, irrespective of whether it is Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android.
“There is so much technology out there that it can become tempting to put as much tech into a boardroom as possible; however this is rarely needed, nor wanted, and the key is to understand how the space can be used”
Many companies are using board portals – collaborative software that allows the board of directors to securely access board documents and collaborate with other board members electronically – in meetings and often they will want to hook up to a large screen to share data visually.
And, of course, with all this new technology, there’s also increasing demand for wireless connections to avoid both connector issues and unsightly cables.
What technology can do
In fast-moving global corporations, technology is an enabler. With an increase in board duties and growing regulatory scrutiny, a quickening in the pace can help organisations achieve their business objectives with minimum disruption. Technology available today allows virtually anything to be controlled, automated and integrated in sequence with everything else. Automating a meeting room also enables anyone to get the most out of technology without really needing to know how everything works.
Typically, the average boardroom member is not a technology expert so it is essential to offer an intuitive experience. If it is done correctly then meetings can be more productive and allow the individual benefits associated with personal devices to be meshed together for a group. With devices connected, it is also essential to allow control of the audio, video and environment in a simple manner.
Individual technologies should be transparent so that multiple technologies working together are in harmony. For example, a company could bring in moving walls and dividers; sensors on the moving panels to allow a system to know what the room configuration is and the option to reconfigure the audio, video, lighting and blinds – all of which can be controlled by one device, such as a touchscreen tablet.
Brainstorming sessions can be recorded and referred back to, people can collaborate on designs together and even collaboration outside of the meeting circle can be achieved via multiple meeting rooms or a remote worker connecting in from home.
Automated boardroom control systems can use devices, such as an iPad, to control a screen, projector, hoist, sound, lights, curtains and switching equipment, ensuring a boardroom could be set up to watch video or screen a presentation in seconds, rather than minutes, with the touch of a button.
HD video conferencing and collaboration solutions specifically designed for any meeting space ensures board members can enjoy face-to-face interaction and share knowledge with others without wasting valuable time travelling.
Take this feature’s opening scenario. Company X needed an automated system that delivered perfect sound and picture quality that would enable it to showcase its work at its best. And, because its boardroom is also a meeting room that is used by a multitude of company users, as well as guests, it needed flexibility in connectivity.
The simple installation of a beautiful 84-inch LED screen into the main boardroom, alongside device-independent, wireless connectivity, would have saved Company X the embarrassment and frustrating
What you need to consider
Every company is different and each set of requirements is too. The main thing that needs to be kept in mind is what the company really needs.
There is so much technology out there that it can become tempting to put as much tech into a boardroom as possible; however this is rarely needed, nor wanted, and the key is to understand how the space can be used optimally.
Consider whether you need to communicate with other offices, external companies or home workers and how you need to communicate with them? Do you need visual collaboration? Do you need to share data or work on documents at the same time?
In addition to AV equipment, a good boardroom automation system can include lighting, air-conditioning, blinds and curtains, video-conferencing, motorised screen mechanisms, the list goes on. At my company Electric String, we once installed a motorised lectern that could go up and down, depending on whether the speaker was on the tall or short side. The key is not how much technology is used but what is appropriate for the company and how it is integrated together.
Choosing the right provider
A good installation company is not necessarily one that has all the right badges and accreditations. While these are never a bad thing to have, it is much more useful to find an installation company that has experience in your sector, can demonstrate systems in recent installs and can supply good testimony from existing clients.
The ability to remotely monitor installations is a good indicator that a company knows what they are doing as they will typically be able to spot issues as quickly as, if not quicker than, you.
Providing the most dependable, streamlined and innovative systems can help your employees stay focussed on their work and ensures better collaboration.
About the Author:
James Ward is an entrepreneur, company director and a technical expert in AV custom install, with a passion for technology and gadgets. At Electric String, he has developed a company that is now established as one of the leading AV companies in the UK and Europe with expertise in luxury marine, commercial and high residential audio visual projects. After earning a master’s degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, James began his career as a R&D Engineer and worked his way up to senior management, helping to produce stunning systems for some of the world’s most prestigious superyachts and residencies.