With everybody joining calls remotely through Zoom and other conferencing platforms, the priority for the conference room has changed. It used to be that employees would have to come to the office and be in a conference room to have the best experience and be the most effective in a meeting.
The tables have turned on that. Now, if you’re in the conference room, your experience may not be as good if the majority of the users are joining virtually through their laptop or phone. The individual experience through the conferencing platform is giving them better exposure and better interaction than those in the conference room.
If everyone is calling in remotely, they’re all on equal footing. If everyone is in the conference room, they’re on equal footing. It’s when some people are calling in and some people in a conference room that there’s a distinction between the two groups in terms of an experience.
Why is that? There are things like having your name beside your face or your icon so that people can identify who’s talking. There’s screen sharing that’s just a click away rather than having to associate your laptop with the room you’re in. The audio can be better for people who are using headsets or at least an individual speaker and microphone.
When people calling in remotely are not speaking, they can mute themselves. In the conference room, people often have sidebar conversations, thinking that their whispers are not going to be heard on the call. The ability for people to mute individually rather than having to be a part of every pickup in the room enhances the experience for the remote user.
However, joining a call from a laptop or phone while in the conference room is not a good solution. It can create an acoustic loop that causes echoes.
There are two schools of thought on how to resolve this disparity. Facebook just announced a virtual reality (VR) solution that makes it appear as if everybody is in the same conference room. That’s a huge technical challenge to replicate and perhaps isn’t the best solution. The fact that people are sitting in a room together isn’t the determining factor of an effective meeting.
The alternative is to make the conference room more technically similar to the remote experience. This can be accomplished through cameras that can pick up individual faces and associate them with the person’s name, audio pickups that are constrained to individual participants, and screen sharing that’s easier to engage. The technology is not quite there yet to accomplish that, but it can be done.
The Rahi A/V team is following these and other developments closely. In the meantime, we are here to help your team have the best conferencing experience whether they join remotely or in the conference room.