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Conference Room Confidence: Updating for a Hybrid Future

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Conference room outfitted for video
Image: peshkov -
Like everything with the pandemic, no one knows for certain what the new workplace normal will look like. But one thing’s for certain: Many employees will be continuing working from home, which means more virtual than ever, and it’s up to company leaders to adapt. That’s why the hybrid conference room isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a must.
Now, this is more than a laptop camera, Zoom, and a string of other technologies. Planning for a hybrid conference room must center on making employees feel like they’re in the room together, no matter the distance.
Does the hybrid conference room sound too good to be true? Sure, but it’s not. Here’s how to build one, quickly.
1. Smart meetings start with a strong and secure network
The most important piece of advice is to invest in a solid network. If you’re going to do higher bandwidth video — which is a trend we’re seeing now — you need to upgrade your network from a bandwidth and security perspective.
It may not be flashy, but security is by and large one of the biggest considerations for a hybrid conference room. Just look at Zoom in the early days of the pandemic, when privacy professionals and even the FBI cautioned about Zoom’s lackluster security settings — a prediction that proved itself true all too quickly when “Zoombombers” started hacking into Zoom calls to prank users with explicit content.
If you don’t have a correct network with a nice router, and an access point with built-in security, change it. Security is really important, especially from the standpoint of competitive advantage when leaks could be detrimental to your business.
2. For lifelike virtual meetings, invest in quality cameras and microphones
Your organization isn’t maintaining meeting space for the fun of it. Rather, meeting space brings employees together for brainstorming, collaborative working, team building, presentations, and more. To replicate face-to-face meetings, consider two simple gear updates: high-quality cameras and microphones.
A lot of companies now use higher-resolution cameras that have better low-light capability. You can even use pan-tilt-zoom tracking cameras that follow a person as they’re conversing. Beyond that, you can have multiple cameras working together, which is critical since people are going to be situated throughout the room. These switch from camera to camera as people speak, similar to microphones on Zoom calls.
Speaking of microphones, be sure to space the tech out across the room, particularly as social distancing remains paramount. Companies with larger conference rooms will need to space people out, and when you do that, you either need more microphones or better microphones distributed across the room.
3. Cure “technical difficulties” once and for all with employee training
Nothing kills the vibe of a new-business or all-staff meeting like technical difficulties, and with today’s virtual office, tech headaches abound. Nine times out of 10 the issue has something to do with the network. That’s why a companywide tech-training program should happen as soon as office updates are in place.
Once the network, gear, and applications are set up, it’s time for a quick training, because technology skills vary across companies. A lot of employers assume once you have the equipment, your teams can log in and go. But something always pops up — you have to download a specific file, or you need to configure it with new wireless settings. Testing is key.
Many conference-room enhancements are surprisingly affordable, not to mention scalable. That means you can future-proof your meetings and overall business livelihood while weathering the brutal storm that is Covid-19.
And the investment goes beyond a couple meetings per week. Unlike pre-pandemic conference rooms, the hybrid conference room can double as a content hub, with the proper technically-sound equipment. Tech investments, including high-quality cameras and powerful microphones can be repurposed for content creation, whether that’s launching a company podcast, creating a niche YouTube series, or hosting thought leadership livestreams to attract potential clients.