Size: Take a display’s diagonal length and multiply it by two… That’s how far away people can comfortably sit from your display. (Less if you’re analyzing spreadsheets. An additional display across the room can be used to supplement.)
Type: For sizes under 84″ a flat panel almost always makes the most sense. Above 84″ and projectors often make more sense (though ambient light, sight lines and placement of both projector and screen are all challenges.)
Some flat panels offer touch overlay. These are pricey and your back is kept to the room while using it. Companies that frequently annotate and manipulate images in real time find them valuable, but we see them mostly in educational environments. For larger screens direct view LED (think Times Square) is also popular, but far more expensive than a projector solution.
Ideally a conduit should be run from your conference room display to your rack so that anything can be pulled through later. At minimum, a few category cables (cat5a or cat6a) should be run to your display, which can run any signal with a balun at both ends. To future-proof for 4K content, fiber is also recommended for its increased bandwidth.
Beyond a PC or Mac, if you need your conference room to be BYOD (bring your own device) friendly, there are two ways to accomplish it:
- A physical plugin that comes out of the table.
- A wireless solution. While Chromecast and Apple TV will let you cast your device onto the big screen, performance is somewhat spotty and they’re not compatible with all devices / operating systems. We like ClickShare for its reliability, ease of setup, and brand-agnostic approach. Where it under-performs is when sharing a lot of video content, in which case a PC or Mac with a hardwired internet connection is needed.
If the space is also being used to entertain, a cable or satellite box is good, though an Apple TV with its various Apps is often sufficient.
Audio (for video)
Volume drops by 50% every three feet. A soundbar under the TV can suffice for small rooms, but longer conference rooms should have in-ceiling or in-wall speakers to deliver more even sound across the room.
The two main options are proprietary systems and soft codecs:
Proprietary systems are dedicated boxes that talk to other dedicated boxes (think Polycom, Cisco.) They’re great for companies with multiple locations that constantly communicate.
Soft codecs (Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting) can run on a PC or Mac, and will work with webcams that run the gamut of quality. Some webcams see wider, some narrower, some move (pan/tilt/zoom) and some automatically point to the current speaker.
Audio (for conferencing)
This is the most complex (and usually poorly-executed) aspect of any conference room. Sound on a conference call needs to blend people in the room with those calling in, and anyone attending via web portal… It also needs real-time echo cancellation. For entry-level USB solutions, we like RevoLabs. For higher-end solutions, Extron and Polycom both pull this balancing act off beautifully.
For mic placement, we prefer ceiling mics hung every six to eight feet, and at a height low enough to capture great detail yet high enough to be out of the way. Some mics have multiple mic elements inside them, and will focus in real time on the mic closest to the speaker, while muting the other mics in the room.
Any room with more than two sources, and any room that needs to divide into two separate spaces needs a control system that manages these changes. Our preference is Savant for its reliability and intuitive interface.
Lighting needs to be tied into the system, allowing enough light to keep people awake and engaged, but not so much that it interferes with image quality (this is particularly challenging with projectors.) Shading also needs to be tied in, both to ensure privacy and to prevent direct sunlight from hitting anyone.
Outlook can handle room scheduling but does not work well for on-the-fly meetings. We prefer a small touchscreen mounted outside of each conference room, with a green light or red light to show availability status. Scheduling system will let you easily send out invites from your phone, grab a room on the fly, and even report on who frequently books without actually using the room.
Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.