When a company needs their commercial property designed (or redesigned) they hire a professional team of interior designers and architects to construct spaces catering to the needs of that business.  RI-GROUP can provide those valuable professionals.  One of the major top categories of projects for these tasks is Conference Rooms.

Conference Rooms:

                You want to encourage people to use conference rooms and for them to have a positive experience.   That being said its design can be broken down into 3 major subsections:

                Acoustic principles that impact conference rooms.

                The basic conference room types and room design.

                Selection of equipment for your application and environment.

Acoustics:

                The properties or qualities of a room determine how sound is transmitted in it.  Glass conference rooms are very popular today because they provide transparency in the workplace.  However acoustically they are terrible.   Because of its hard reflective surfaces the more echoes you are going to have.  As an example take an empty house.   An empty house that has hardwood floors and concrete will have a lot of echo in it but as soon as you add carpet, furniture and people the echo goes away.  It’s the same principle in conference rooms.   Two subjects that come into play here are noise level and reverberation time. 

                We all are familiar with typical conference room noises such as air conditioning noise, office noise and passing traffic past the doorway.   For conferencing we want to make sure that the noise level inside the conference room is low enough so that the conversation speech isn’t degraded.  But how low is low enough?   An appropriate range for conference room noise level is between 35-45 dba (decibel A Weighting).  To measure the noise level you will need some sort of sound level meter.  There are phone apps that measure this as well as physical devices.    As a small observation example, with the air conditioning running the dBA would be 45.  With the air conditioning off it would be 39.  Using a table microphone the difference between the 2 noise levels would hardly be noticeable while using a ceiling microphone the difference between the 2 noise levels would be very noticeable. 

                Reverberation time in small rooms is a measurement of how long it takes the multiple reflections of sound to die away to inaudibility.   Spaces with long reverberation times are often described as echoey.  These would be places like cavernous stone churches, road tunnels or even school gymnasiums.  Here reflected sounds persist far long enough that they overlap each other making it difficult to understand one another.  By contrast for conferencing spaces we want short reverberation times so reflected sounds decay quickly. Therefore the size of the conference room will affect the reverberation time. 

Conference Room Types and room designs:

Theater Style- This room type features seats facing the stage or podium normally with an aisle running down the middle as in a theater.   The layout can accommodate the most people for a given size of room. 

Classroom Style- This room layout features desks or tables and chairs arranged in rows in front of a whiteboard, screen or podium. 

V Shaped Style-  Similar to the classroom style but in this arrangement the tables and the chairs are tilted with an upward or inward angle so that even the person on the farthest end of each row can see the speaker or observe what is happening without much trouble. 

Boardroom Style- This room features a circular, oval or rectangular table with chairs on all sides and ins.  The layout works well if the group is reasonably small or listening to one or two speakers who may not be using a screen. 

U Shaped Style- This room layout is similar to the boardroom style except that it’s favorable for giving presentations.  It also allows the speaker or presenter to walk into the hole or opening in the middle of the tables to get closer to the audience.   

Banquet Style- This room layout is where people sit in groups around tables.  This is less appropriate when there will be a lot of presentations from the front of the room but is good for workshops where each of the groups will be working independently from each other.

Selection of equipment for your application and environment:

                The traditional conference room or boardroom say has an average investment level of equipment of $50,000.  What companies are finding is that the room is used maybe 2-3 times a month for full capacity.  For the rest of the time that room is used a few times a week with maybe 4 or 5 people at the end of the table.  Rather than meet in the large conference room persons can meet in a smaller conference room.  This would be then be classified as a “huddle” room.   There are 30-50 million huddle rooms currently not outfitted with technology.  This can be a bit of a resource for the Audio-Video industry.  The nice thing about huddle rooms is that they can be outfitted with tabletop conferencing products that are more of a plug and play variety.   There is no need to mount speakers in a room or mount permanent microphones although that is another option.   An integrated audio/video solution for a large conference room is more elegant and pretty but far more expensive.  Also you have components that are far more intricate to setup the room.   However at some point you cannot stretch the tabletop solution to bigger and bigger rooms.  The primary reason is the inverse square law.  Meaning you just aren’t going to have a good conversation when people are 13-15 feet away from the microphone.  So the primary driver for deciding on what equipment to purchase for the room will be to decide if it is going to be primarily used as a huddle room or as an integrated large conference room.   Of course there is always the possibility that it will be used for both so therefore a blend of equipment would have to be purchased and installed. 

               Equipment to purchase for Huddle Rooms:

                First off to have successful video conferencing you would have to have a very wide angle lens on the camera.  You want to be able to get all the users in without moving the camera around.   Also, Real estate on a huddle room table is at a premium.  Laptop screens for example get in the way and papers get piled on top of them.  It is much easier to put it all in the video conferencing environment than a separate device. 

                Secondly an audio system in a huddle room is far better as part of the solution built in the wall for example than it is on the table although tabletop equipment can work nearly as well.

                Thirdly users need the same tools in that room that they have at their desk.  So whether it is arrive with your laptop, plug in your USB, and start working with the applications that you already have…. Or have something like an Intel NUC and allow the users to login and use the application they are already familiar with.

                Lastly this technology needs to be priced at a point to which it’s a no brainer to put it everywhere. 

Various Huddle Room Technologies

                The Yamaha CS-700 is one system that combines HD video capture with ultra-wideband audio to fulfill video, audio, and collaboration requirements all in one simple, remotely monitored wall-mounted system.  You can address all your communication and collaboration requirements for the huddle room with one easy to install and operate device.   It retails for about $1000.

                The Logitech Meetup is also another huddle room equipment option.  Meetup is Logitech’s premiere conference camera for huddle and small conference rooms.  Its super wide 120 degree field of view ensures that everyone in the room can be easily seen and its high definition 4X lens with pan tilt and zoom capabilities  allows you to quickly change focus if needed.  An optional mount attaches Meetup to a flat panel monitor or TV so you can make the best use of tight spaces.  Meetings can sound as great as they look with Meetup.   Its compact all-in-one design includes three beam forming mics and a custom tune speaker.  For larger rooms you can add the expansion mic from the unit to extend the voice pickup range up to 14 feet.   Starting a meeting with Meetup is simple.  Just connect it to the USB port in your computer and start your preferred video conferencing application.   It retails between $900 to $3000 depending on which add on devices you purchase.

 Alternative Huddle Room Technologies

Go To Conference

                Going one step further than Go To Meeting, Go To Conference Room takes the complicated out of the conference or huddle room.  It connects audio and video in just one tool.  With Go To Conference it has a Chrome box that’s running Go To Conference 24/7 and that’s placed on the back of the TV.  Then when you walk into the conference room all you do is enter the code on the screen and instantly, you are in a meeting.  Included in the package are the microphone speaker, a wireless keyboard and a camera.  So the intent of the product is that you can just walk into a conference room, enter the code on the screen and instantly go to the meeting that was scheduled into the system.   The cost is $999 for a standard setup and a $99/month license fee.

Making the Conference or Huddle Room a Positive place to Be

                You want to make sure that you have the proper screen size.  Since it is a main integral part of the meeting you want it positioned so that no one will have to stretch their neck to see it.  Most boardrooms have an LCD screen in the 50-55inch to 70 inch display range.  If users complain that they are unable to read the text on the screen try changing the resolution.   The text will actually look larger because the pixels will be larger. 

                You want to make sure that you have the proper mounting height.  The best practice for this is that the bottom of the LCD should be either equal or higher than the conference room table.   Make sure that the mount is centered properly in regards to the room.  

                Do not purchase audio and video equipment that no one knows how to use.  Unless there will be training for all employees it could turn into a technological nightmare.

                Make sure that the conference room has storage compartments.  This will allow to the room to remain neat and clean when it is not being used.

                Wrong lighting can cause a conference room to be uninviting.  Draw lighting ideas from external sources such as getting ideas from libraries or college auditoriums.  You may even draw ideas from restaurants and stores.  If you see a lighting setup that you like ask the owner who designed it and for contact info.  Multiple types of lighting sources should be used including desk lamps and floor lighting. 

                When drawing up the initial blueprints for the conference room keep in mind how many people will be using it.    A room too large can make people feel dwarfed and a room too small will make people feel like they are sardines in a can.

                Purchase chairs that are adjustable in size since people of different heights will be using the conference room. 

                Keep in mind the ultimate use of this conference room.  Ask yourself will it be a large to mid-sized conference room or will it be used primarily as a huddle room?   All the major design attributes will be created based on the answer to that question. 

                Make sure the room is constructed at a location at the business that will give it its ultimate use traffic.  Building a conference room 300 feet away from the executive offices will not serve its purpose very well. 

                Add some artwork or wall mural to add flavor to the room.   Not doing so will make the room feel dull and not energizing. 

                Conclusion

                Designing a conference or huddle room requires the attention of many different aspects.  Audio/ Video equipment.   The basic design of the room.   The placement of the furniture.  Acoustic challenges.   But with proper attention and execution of the project the outcome will be a room that the business will be very satisfied with.   RI-GROUP can help you meet this goal. 

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