What can I do to make a conference room user-friendly?

One of the many lasting changes of recent technology innovations will be how we use conference rooms.

Most will have to have some kind of screen and probably a camera for connecting people who aren’t physically in the same space. People are using their conference rooms for the familiar face-to-face meetings, but also for webinars, training, sales demos, and working remotely. When choosing the right technology partner for your conference rooms, whether it’s Zoom, Teams, Lifesize, Google Meets, or Polycom, think about how your conference room will be used. For example, if you’ll need a visual collaboration tool, the whiteboard capability in Microsoft Teams could make your short list. Beyond that, here a few things you can do to make everyone comfortable and confident when using your conference room.

Choose a consistent setup for all your conference rooms

Most offices have more than one room where people meet, such as a conference room or a larger individual office. Make life easier for everyone by choosing the same brand and generation for all your meeting spaces. It may be less expensive to buy them separately, but that will most likely mean people will need to spend time and energy remembering which room requires which cord, remote, camera, etc.

Buying a full kit from an approved reseller reduces the chances of time being wasted trying to adapt to the room. This means you’ll get a system that is already set up to work together rather than needing someone on your team to spend time integrating disparate pieces and troubleshooting when issues arise later. Conference rooms should accommodate and facilitate your work, not the other way around. Another reason to buy an integrated kit is to simplify its maintenance. When every room follows the same process, your team needs to know only one process and won’t use time adjusting to a different setup. That’s also helpful when hiring new staff or when external pros are needed to resolve an issue.

 The one problem with all your rooms using the same pieces of equipment means the pieces of equipment could be in any of your rooms. Reduce the chances of key pieces going missing by labeling the pieces according to the room where they belong or having a clear policy about how you’ll ensure each room is maintained. Support this with a clear and effective process for replacing or repairing pieces so people won’t be tempted to avoid the process or leave it for someone else to deal with.

If these strategies don’t stop pieces from traveling between rooms and people can’t rely on the equipment being there as expected, look at where the pieces are going and why. Then work with your team to find a solution that will work for everyone.

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Equip your spaces to have the bandwidth your teams need

Take a high-level look at your network and all the devices that need to use it. Be realistic about how much bandwidth it’ll all really need in order to work as expected. If your team members decide the technology is problematic, they’ll figure out a workaround that may or may not be what you wanted. Here are a few ways to improve bandwidth management:

  • Connect all your conference rooms with a wired network, such as with ethernet cords. This will allow other devices, such as laptops and tablets, to use the wireless network reliably without delay or frustration. It will also ensure that your multimedia meetings are always on the best possible connection.
  • If you do decide to keep your web conferencing equipment on the wireless network, consider creating a separate SSID for it to reduce the load placed on the network. That will mean each device or component will have less competition for the resources it needs.
  • Choose a dual-band router with 2.4 GHz and 5GHz capability. This will allow you to reserve one band for heavier traffic, such as streaming video, and the other for lighter traffic like mobile devices.

Simplify conference room technology and its use

Eliminate confusion by choosing clear solutions for reserving rooms and communicating what the schedule is. This could be built into the email software you already use, like Google or Outlook. There are also room management options like iOffice, Robin, and Flowscape.

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Streamline the process:

of communicating the schedule too. Depending on the size of your office, an electronic display or a printed daily schedule outside each room may be the way to go. Think about how your team currently works and choose a solution that fits.

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Stock each room:

with spares of the most common equipment, like cords to connect devices. This will save your team time and frustration, which will save your organization money. It will also improve the experience everyone has with your organization.

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choose the right level of technology:

for your organization and make sure everyone knows how to use it. Rather than having several remotes that confuse people, choose one that can do everything your team will need it to do. If there’s only one person in the meeting you knows how to turn on the video call, that’s a sign that either your equipment is too complex or your team needs clearer instructions about how to use it.

As you work… 

to select the technology solutions for your organization, include people who will be using them every day. Get their input on which solutions should be on the short list and what are the most important features. After the new solution has been installed, provide training on how to use it most effectively and efficiently. This training could come in many forms:

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Demonstrations

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formal training classes

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clearly documented standard operating procedures.

These procedures should include every step from reserving a room to holding valuable meetings, and troubleshooting the most common issues. Checklists work well for ensuring consistency in how the procedures are followed.

Next Steps…

After you and your team have lived with the new solution for a while, check in and get feedback from your team. Is it performing as expected? What needs to be improved? What questions do they still have about how to use it all? Keeping this dialogue open could also help you see and prevent larger issues before they happen.

Being intentional about what your organization needs and how the technology will fit with how they work and selecting a knowledgeable partner to help you set it all up will ensure your new solution is the right one for the job. 

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 They understand what my concerns are as far as buying new equipment and budget. They'll recommend something that's appropriate.

IT Director, ViaMobility September 21, 2020

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