What Conferencing Technologies Should be Available in Our Meeting Rooms?
We recently received an honest attempt by an organization to better understand the conferencing technology solutions available in today’s marketplace via a Request For Information (RFI). Interestingly enough, it was a relatively blank canvas asking for:
- Inventive solutions to provide high quality teleconferencing abilities for meetings and
- The ability to offer interactive webinars as an educational tool.
This is a great opportunity for us to educate and share the collaborative solutions the organization has available to them. And in this case, the blank canvas allows us to provide a multitude of solutions.
The Organization and Their Business Problem
The organization currently has meeting rooms across the province that hold over 30 people. Each room is equipped with a poor quality audio solution and they are unable to effectively connect their internal and external stakeholders using these rooms via teleconference today. They would also like to be able to do remote training. Today that can only be done through self-study materials.
The Organization’s Requirements:
- To conduct training remotely using leading edge collaborative technologies
- The only room specification provided is that a round table seats up to 35 people
- They are interested in “teleconferencing,” “webinars” and it would be nice to have distance education
This approach could result in a wide variety of responses.
Will the solutions presented meet their needs? Do they really know what they want and do they know what technology is available?
I think the answer to each of these questions is “No”.
The focus will likely be low cost approaches to upgrade their audio phones in the rooms and offerings such as WebEx or GoToMeeting. But do these solutions really give the organization the high quality teleconferencing experience they are seeking?
The Risk of Using an RFI to Educate
This organization is trying to use a purchasing vehicle to educate themselves on the products available. This method is really a “hit and miss” approach because it depends on who in the marketplace takes the time to educate them on their choices by responding to their RFI. Typically, the best price wins in an RFI unless your proposal stands out for other reasons. To make your proposal stand out, you need to really understand your buyer’s needs.
You also need a buyer who is open to suggestions and has a good understanding of their needs.
But if the organization doesn’t know what they are looking for, how will they know when a really good solution is offered?
Finding a Solution for Connecting People
Using technology to connect people is a common-place activity however the sheer number of options available to do this is absolutely mind-boggling and getting clarity on a solution is difficult to achieve.
At a high level, organizations are looking to connect room systems and individuals together over distance for real-time communication.
3 possible combinations are:
- Room system to Room system(s)
- Room system to Individual(s)
- Individual to Individual(s)
Deciding which of these conferencing technologies are required for connecting over distance is critical in determining the level of collaboration that can be achieved.
The Velocity of Collaboration
Each of these different conferencing technologies brings a different dimension of richness to the collaborative experience. Frost & Sullivan wrote a very insightful whitepaper a few years ago about the “Velocity of Collaboration”. It was a sponsored whitepaper so it had some biases in it but the conceptual model was eye opening. They spoke about 6 different real-time conferencing modalities (if you boil it down there are really only the 4 above – unless you add in virtual world collaboration, which is only used at the fringes).
Never-the-less, the Velocity of Collaboration model is very useful and we have adapted it to consider the four conferencing modalities. Part II of this blog will detail this adapted Velocity of Collaboration model.
Once requirements for user based collaboration capability are determined, you can select the meeting room technologies and the individuals connecting into conferences. This process is critical. It avoids wasted effort and brings a cohesive approach to the technology roadmap your organization requires. By turning the patchwork of technology found in most organizations into a tapestry of technology, you’ve created an enabler to greater collaboration within the organization.
The ET Group has helped many organizations through this process. Please contact us if we can be of assistance to your organization.
Screen Real Estate – a Critical Factor in Making Video Calls As Good As “Being There”
I would like to share an interesting conversation I had with our Montreal location manager, Real Desmarais, on a recent trip to our Montreal office. The conversation was revealing of just how powerful screen real estate is when you are deploying collaborative solutions between locations.
First, I do use collaboration tools to bridge many of the discussions with our Montreal office, but there are still times where being there is important:
When It’s Better to Be in Person Vs. Video Call
- When you have to meet with customers
- When you want to spend a lot of time “soaking in” the environment to get a better feel for an operation
- Spending time with people when you are not “On” in a conversation
Got It? Now Back to the Main Story…
Over lunch Real and I were talking about the bi-weekly Sales meetings that we hold. Real is a remote participant in those meetings which are held in our boardroom in Toronto.
Real’s words merit repeating – “I can feel the room react.” Wow! I have always underscored with our customers the critical need to invest in screen real estate in their meeting rooms but his response really brought home that point.
I told him, “You know, I have to say that when we hold the Sales Meetings you have a very big presence in the meetings. Your face is bigger than life in those meetings [projected, full screen, on an 87” SMART Board] and everyone in the meeting is very keenly aware of your presence and what you have to say.”
Real responded, “Yes, I know. I feel it.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
Real replied, ”Even though I am sitting in my office in Montreal at my desktop, every time I move or do anything, I can feel the room react. So I am very engaged and concentrating on what is going on in the meeting.”
Screen Real Estate in Video Calls
Screen real estate has always been compromised in video conferencing designs and installations and I believe it is one of the biggest mistakes people make when deploying video conferencing in their organizations.
Screen real estate is a great investment that is often not only overlooked, but can become the first point of focus when trying to pare down the cost of a video conferencing implementation. The cost of LCD screens 5 or 6 years ago may have contributed to this problem and if so it is somewhat understandable. But with today’s much lower screen costs and available alternatives, saving on screen real estate in a video conferencing room is like preparing for a race and then shooting yourself in the foot before running the race.
What I mean by that is that video conferencing deployments within an organization can mean a sizable investment in network, equipment, deployment, training, etc. If you try to save money by limiting the screen real estate you are crippling the results you are trying to achieve before you even get started. That sizable investment also has an even more sizable ROI if the video conferencing facilities are used. The better the experience, the more the video conferencing equipment will be used. More screen real estate, means a better user experience.
If you can make the remote participants bigger than life in your meeting, then they will truly feel like they are part of the meeting. I can’t tell you how many times I hear that remote participants on audio only conferences are either forgotten on the conference call, or want to be forgotten. When you are using audio only, it is very easy to have the remote participant drift into the background of the meeting.
The same is true with a very small image of video. If the image is too small, it might as well not be there! And in fact, many people turn it off because it doesn’t add much to the meeting.
Being remote can be “better” than being there for the participants on both sides of the video conference. And to do that you have to make the experience, Bigger Than Life – see my previous blog What the Movies Can Teach Us About Real Time Collaboration.
Invest in screen real estate in your video conferencing deployments. This goes for room systems as well as for desktop/laptop usage. Screen real estate is actually one of the cheapest investments you can make to greatly excel the velocity of collaboration in your organization.
Follow this blog for one of my upcoming and related blogs – “The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Determining Screen Real Estate in a Video Conferencing Room.”