Say what you will about your home office, but it beats the heck out of a cubicle. It’s faster to get to, easier to decorate, closer to the coffee maker. (And don’t even get us started on how much cleaner the kitchen is!)
But there is one office space no room in your house can touch.
The conference room.
It’s almost a cliche to say “the pandemic changed everything.” But it’s true. (That’s probably how it became a cliche.) First, people adjusted their working styles, learning how to be productive from anywhere, anytime. And then companies adjusted their bandwidth to match, allowing for more video conferencing, faster streaming, bigger file transfers, and tighter cybersecurity to protect it all.
So now, conference rooms aren’t just a place employees go to review status reports. They’re no longer stale, undecorated, echo-filled chambers where everyone files in five minutes late, cradling their coffees, making small talk about the latest movies and sports scores.
The modern conference room is a communication center, a hive for brainstorming sessions and sales calls. In fact, sometimes it’s the only reason people head to the office at all.
So here are three ways to make sure yours measures up.
1. Plan for the right tech
The modern office is 100% wireless, right?
In the case of the conference room, not so much. For most businesses, it makes sense to wire non-moving parts like wall-mounted TVs. That way, you have dedicated, high-quality, secure bandwidth.
Having a separate SSID for conference room equipment can cause issues with wireless broadcasting. And more and more technology is going to AVOIP (Audio Video Over IP). So a well-planned network is the key to conference room success. Hardware can get costly, and we understand the temptation to make your largest conference room cutting edge, and then fit out all the other rooms with whatever spare parts are left over. But if you go that direction, be prepared for frequent calls to IT. (And frequent arguments over whose meeting is most important!)
2. Start with your camera and work backward
It’s human nature to think about your TV first. After all, that’s what you’ll spend a lot of your time watching. But it may be better to begin with your camera. There are a few options:
- Putting the camera at eye-level. This is often best for rooms that have frequent one-on-one video meetings.
- Placing the camera above the TV. This works well when you want to make sure participants have a view of the whole room.
- Planning for multiple cameras. Modern conference room cameras can detect who’s talking, so you might have one camera that pivots to the speaker, a camera with a view of the whole room, or a combination of the two!
Finally, think about how your team likes to work, collaborate and brainstorm. Some may like the feeling of standing up and whiteboarding together. If that’s the case, consider capture devices that automatically upload information to the video conference. Agile or distributed teams often feel more productive when they have access to a smart TV with a smart board technology built in, so there’s no analog equipment – or dry erase markers – required!
3. Train your employees
When you send out an invite with the subject line “Conference Room Training,” be prepared for a whole lot of people to hit the decline button.
Too many employees choose to skip training sessions. They feel like they can figure it out on the fly. (Or that they’ll just call IT when they have free time.) But that causes confusion at critical moments. And it robs you of the chance to get everyone excited about the room’s capabilities. So try to keep training fun… but mandatory. And make sure to record the session, too, so new employees can watch it when they have time between onboardings.
But the secret of a modern conference room is that it can sort of train employees for you! A touch screen interface walks users through setup step-by-step, so they get the right result every time.
The same goes for scheduling: the right technology makes it easy. Most professional email systems allow you to add conference rooms as users and then reserve them. Depending on the size of your business, you can also have digital signage with every room’s daily schedule displayed.
It’s not just a conference room. It’s a culture center.
At the risk of being sappy, a conference room represents what your business stands for. It brings people together. It gets employees focused on a common goal. And with seamless technology and comfortable design, it can be a space they feel good about visiting every day.
Even if they have to leave their clean kitchen and pajama pants behind.