Conference rooms in firms across the country are getting makeovers. Is your meeting space up-to-date with the latest technology to ensure effective meetings? As more and more firms are either renovating their existing office space or moving altogether, the conference room seems to be a focal point for installing the latest and greatest technology.
Lose the Projector & Screen
Although projector and screen setups are still quite prevalent in conference rooms across the country, we are seeing an increasing number of flat panel displays taking the place of this arrangement. Even though HD projectors are increasing in functionality and decreasing in price, the same is happening with flat panels. Why not consolidate the points of failure and number of connections required? This is an easy way to impress your clients, employees and recruits.
A few firms are looking to take it even a step further with smart collaboration screens such as the Microsoft Surface Hub (shipping January 2016) or the Mondopad from InFocus. These touch-enabled screens offer smart and easy video conferencing, white boarding, data sharing and more.
Lose the Wires
Whether it’s an office or a meeting room, wires have been an eyesore and significant effort has been dedicated toward hiding them as much as possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could eliminate at least some of these wires? Now you can with wireless presentation technologies like ClickShare by BARCO, Miracast and Steelcase Virtual Puck. These solutions allow you to connect a USB dongle to a computer or multiple computers and share a screen at the push of a button. No more unplugging, passing the cable and plugging back in. We saw the BARCO system in action at ClarkNuber earlier this year and it was very impressive – not to mention easy.
Add some Video
I’ve been beating the video conferencing drum for some time now but too many firms still haven’t given it a try. While there are certainly circumstances that call for a true face-to-face meeting, most can be just as effective through video conferencing. Even those firms that have invested in video conferencing in their conference rooms are seeing limited use because the setup is too complex or the remote attendees can’t see people’s faces.
Robots Join the Meeting
If you find talking to a stationary display isn’t satisfactorily replicating a face-to-face discussion, you can always add the ability for remote employees to move around the room. This is being done through telepresence robots which essentially put a video display on wheels. Tools such as the BeamPro and Beam+ from Suitable Technologies or the Double from Double Robotics provide a physical presence to those that can’t be there in person. I’ll admit, I found this one a little weird at first but after hearing first-hand accounts of the benefits, it makes more sense. With static displays you are dependent on the angle of the camera but with these technologies you can turn and face the person you are interacting with, thus replicating the experience of face-to-face conversation much better. These technologies are still in the early adopter stage but will likely grow in acceptance alongside the expansion of the remote workforce.
Now imagine the demand you’ll create for your meeting spaces if you adopt even one of the technologies, let alone all of them. You’ll surely need to manage reservations in an orderly manner and once again, there are technologies for that. Providers like Condeco, Steelcase and Asure offer workspace scheduling solutions that seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Exchange and/or Google Calendar. These providers also offer a solution for the ever growing challenge of effective utilization of overall office space through hoteling kiosks and software. While hoteling has been the norm in the Big Four for years, it’s finally starting to gain interest in all sizes of firms.
Your conference room is the primary meeting spot for your team as well as a sought after location for client meetings. Doesn’t it deserve a little investment to make sure it’s the best it can be? Plenty of firms across the country think so and I’d encourage you to adopt the same mentality.
Jim Boomer, CPA.CITP, MBA is a shareholder and the CIO for Boomer Consulting, Inc. He is the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Producer Circle, The CIO Advantage and an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He also serves as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country.
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