Audio/Video Installation: Setting Up Your Conference Room Right

 

Here’s a true story.  It didn’t happen to a client or stranger.  It happened to yours truly.

We spent weeks preparing for a guest presentation on Internet Security at a prominent law organization.  We practiced all day, prepared a top-notch power point presentation and suited up for the show. When we arrived on site with our laptop and spare HDMI cable, the site rep guided us to the projector and screen in the conference room.  

Houston, we have a problem.  The HDMI input on the projector wasn’t working.  No video was appearing–the on-site projector and our laptop couldn’t communicate.  What’s more, the room was bigger than we anticipated with no microphone.  So we had no video and many of the conference participants were unable to hear.  We stumbled over the hurdles as best we could and eventually crossed the finish line.

You may be bringing in a guest presenter or, more likely, holding regular physical and/or virtual meetings in your conference room.  You want to create the ideal experience for all parties involved–you work hard enough without unexpected technical glitches throwing off your game.  Proper audio/video installation for a conference room is very important, for the benefit of the presenter, the participants in the room and for the participants who may be videoconferencing.  A/V design, equipment, and network considerations can help you configure a winning conference space.
 

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Designing The Room

When designing your conference room, you have to first ask yourself what the aim of the room is. This will determine the layout of the room, not the least of which is the chair and table configuration. For example, if your conferences mostly revolve around informational presentations, a classroom style setup, with all of the chairs facing the presenter, will be more useful than a U-shape setup, which allows for conversation between the audience and the presenter. What this boils down to is that you have to consider where to place the screen for presentations will be so that everyone can best view it and hear it.

The room acoustics are another important factor. Sound absorbing materials are a great addition because they will prevent against reverberation or echoes from microphones and speakers. The aim is to eliminate distractions.

Buying The Right Equipment

Once you’ve designed your conference room, you have to make sure you’ve got the right equipment and software to really hit the ball out of the park.

For the visuals, consider whether you would rather use a projector or a flat screen.

  • A projector can cover a large area while also costing you less. Projectors are, however, more subject to problems with glare and bright lights. Models with very high lumens can counteract this, but then the prices go up and you may not be saving money any more. If you do choose to use a projector, make sure that you have the right cable to hook it up to the computer. You don’t want to find yourself trying to hook up an HDMI cable to a projector that only takes DVI in the middle of a conference.  
  • The other option is to use LCD or plasma flat screens, large enough so that they can be comfortably viewed from the back of the room. The other benefit of using TVs is that you can have dual monitors. One screen can display your video chat with colleagues while the other displays a slideshow, or whatever else you need.

    Hint:  You might try having a stationary computer permanently connected to your projector or flat screen.  Guest presenters or employees can email their presentation files, so you can avoid incompatibility issues altogether.  This could have prevented the SGU law society debacle!   

Don’t forget to amp up the audio as well as the visual! There are special video conference microphones that are very sensitive, great for picking up every detail of the conversation. Depending on how large the conference room is, you can either have a microphone placed in the middle of the room to pick up everyone around it, or, for larger rooms, have microphones placed in several locations.

The number of people virtually signing into a conference will influence what kind of software you need. If one or two people are videoconferencing, Skype may be just the program you need, for example. It never hurts to test out a couple of different programs to see which one best suits your needs.

Once you’ve designed the room, chosen your equipment and software, there’s still one more integral step: make sure you have the proper internet bandwidth. We often only look at the download speed, because this is all that matters when streaming videos and music, but upload speed is just as important for videoconferences. To give you an idea of what you should be looking at, Skype’s minimum requirements for bandwidth are 1.5 Mbps/1.5 Mbps, or, 1.5 Mbps for download and upload. This is only for one person, so these requirements will change depending on how many users they are.

Making This A Reality

SGU Consulting can help you will all aspects of audio/video installation, from designing your conference room setup, to recommending equipment and the software you’ll need for videoconferencing. SGU will also install these devices for you, turning an idea into an actuality.  Take advantage of our FREE SITE SURVEY–we come to your office, assess your setup, and provide an estimate completely free of charge.  Schedule now!

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