By Tom Cowan, Director of Operations with Nexus 5 Group
I have been in many conference room meetings over the years. I firmly believe that the meeting prep, content, and delivery are 90% of what makes or breaks meetings. The room itself has impact on the flow and the mood of the meeting in addition to good content and value.
This is not an “I know it all” article where I list out the top 10 best features of a conference room or the best equipment for specific uses. Honestly, I have gotten it wrong most of the time I’ve been tasked with setting them up. This article is for those researching tech for their own conference rooms. I wanted to share what is currently working for us and maybe help someone cross a concern or two off their list.
I’ve always liked options and accessories when it comes to these rooms.
The right mix of tech feels right and allows us to adapt to any type of meeting and mood. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, projectors, speakers, lighting, microphones, combining remotes, OK Google or Siri, tablets, refrigerators, plug ins, etc.
There are a lot of things to buy and set up, but mostly just a lot of things that could go wrong. Let’s face it, it will all work while you’re doing your trial run and informal internal meetings, but as soon as you have something important… Bam! So, my advice is to keep it simple and don’t go cheap on the equipment.
You can see where the Zoom Room will split screens so you can have your participants view on one, and the shared content on the other.
It can be challenging to get a conference setup correctly.
Knowing what to buy can be difficult, especially when you integrate so many features. Of course, it can be easier, and costlier, if you pay a company to do this and set it up for you. But in our case, our budget strategy was to research on our own so we could afford better equipment. Keep in mind that each set up has pros and cons, so finding that sweet spot that fits most of your meetings is key.
With our current conference room, we kept it simple.
We use large TVs instead of projectors. Never thought this would be a big deal, but projectors come with too many challenges and quite frankly, with the low cost of big TVs these days, just get TVs. Less wires and confusion.
Our warehouse training room has a projector. However, we needed an 11-foot screen (Big room, lots of people!) and we just use it for informal internal stuff.
I’m very impressed with the Zoom Room.
I am no IT person, so I will not get into the tech specs. I appreciate how it has a meeting calendar and a next meeting greeting. All of the meeting controls are on the center tablet. It’s just easy. It’s great for those that aren’t every day meeting people to operate. What’s best is, with the Zoom app opened, you can share your screen without any log in or passwords. It somehow just knows you’re in the room. I don’t know how… Magic? I think so!
Having a good camera, AC power on the conference table and microphone/speakers can be the difference between people focusing on the content of the meeting or the train wreck of a bad setup right in front of them.
The Owl Pro sit on its perch looking for all attendees and always focusing on who is speaking. Under it is a conference call device (which we rarely use anymore) and beside it is the Zoom Room tablet.
The Owl Pro
We’ve been using the Owl Pro for a while now. It just works, every time! It has a great speaker and microphone built in with good range and feedback. It looks cool and makes a good ice breaking talking point. The best part is that it has a 360-degree camera that displays everyone at the table onto the screen and focuses on the current speaker, giving them a bigger portion of the TV screen. It switches focus as it detects someone else talking, and I have to say it does a very good job.
One con for the Owl is that when it’s in the middle of the table, it will seem weird, to the non-room participants, that the room people are looking away from the camera because the TV screens are in the front of the conference room and the camera is in the middle. We found the better way is to put it at the front of the table, but then you really don’t need 360-degree tech. The 180-degree cameras cost about the same and why not have the flexibility. And hey, the darn thing is cool looking!
Owl Pro by OwlLabs (Owllabs.com).
The Meeting Owl Pro is our premium 360-degree camera, mic, and speaker combined into one easy-to-use device. It creates the experience of in-person participation for hybrid teams and integrates seamlessly with the conferencing platforms you already use.
So, like I said, there are many setups. All have pros and cons. So far, this one works the best for us and at a relatively low initial cost. TVs are cheap, the PC that runs the show can be one you had sitting around your office. Ours is hidden under the table since it’s small. Who doesn’t have an old tablet collecting dust?
Or better yet, just go out and buy new modern stuff. Priceless for the room that can positively or negatively impact your staff and clients the most.