by Christopher Coleman
More than ten years ago, we remodeled and upgraded the presentation technologies of our training facility to allow more effective learning experiences for both internal training of employees and training done for clients. And it was great…at the time.
Technologies have advanced, and the company has grown to almost 200 employees spread across the Southeast. We have two large offices, Lakeland, FL, and Texarkana, TX, and two smaller offices supporting remote engineering and project management personnel in Chattanooga, TN, and Charlotte, NC. We needed better video and audio capabilities. Now we have them.
Two Rooms Upgraded
We recently completed a multi-month project to upgrade both our Training Room and the Board Room. The training room is our primary education and large meeting space, able to seat 40 people comfortably in a classroom tables-and-chairs arrangement. Removing tables allows more than double that capacity for town-hall employee meetings. The Board Room is a more intimate work space, seating a dozen comfortably.
The Board Room received two 65” TVs. One is for displaying content; the other allows enabled remote participants to be displayed. Skype for Business integration allows our employees to connect to Board Room meetings from their remote locations. A Polycom Video Teleconference (VTC) system provides a clear picture of the room’s participants. Users without Skype capability can still connect to the room’s VTC using their browser.
In the Training Room, we replaced the overhead projector and motorized drop-down screen with a 90” flat screen TV that provides great visibility to the entire room regardless of lighting conditions. On the side of the room are two side-by-side 55” TVs, for viewing remote locations and/or content. Another 55” TV is located in the back of the room for displaying content, allowing the presenter to be able to view the material being presented while continuing to face the audience. High quality cameras are located at the rear and side of the room to allow recording presentations for future viewing and for display to remote participants in real time.
Audio and Single-Point Controls
The A in AV is for audio, and we experienced numerous shortcomings in the old sound system, both in terms of remote participants being able to hear clearly and of local participants being able to understand what remote people were saying. Over-the-ear wireless microphones now provide clear audio to participants and for recordings. Four wireless puck microphones can be placed anywhere in the room to allow everyone in the room to participate without shouting, and overhead speakers with an EQ-adjusted sound system allow everyone in the room to hear the presenter and remote participants with ease.
A complicated, multi-unit control system was replaced with a single-point, wall-mounted touch-screen system that allows configuring all aspects of the AV equipment, from selecting what content to display on each of the four screens, to connecting audio or video calls, to initiating recording of the presenter or content. A motion sensor automatically wakes up the screen when an operator stands in front of it, and set up is very intuitively implemented. Content may be retrieved from our local network, including internet access, or presenters may use a flash drive or their own laptop.
Our offices in Lakeland and Texarkana have conference rooms equipped with compatible systems that allow those employees to participate in meetings with much clearer audio and video, and all remotely participating employees can be more engaged with the clearer communications. Recording capabilities permit later viewing of presentations by employees unable to attend during the live time slot, so no one has to miss out on important material because of schedule conflicts.
An unrelated project completed more than a year ago, also upgraded the conference room scheduling capabilities to be fully on-line, accessed through Outlook’s meeting scheduler. Every conference room, including the training and board rooms, has a wall mounted touch screen outside the door that displays current and future room status. It also allows direct reservations to be made for a room’s schedule. As a result of this system, scheduling conflicts for meeting space have been minimized.
The upgrades have greatly improved our ability to provide training and other information flow throughout our network of remote offices and employees, with a much higher level of satisfaction and engagement by all participants. The same applies when we are performing training for, or meeting with, clients and prospects. And as we look to the future, we see the potential to expand that flow of content through web casts that clients may participate in. Keeping up with technology is important, but improving communications of content with our different audiences is even more important.