It’s Time for the Meeting Room Revolution

Much of the talk in the last year about video conferencing environments has been about huddle rooms. That’s hardly surprising as there’s presently so much growth in that space. However full sized meeting rooms are incredibly important for many organisations, and a market ripe for disruption.

The form factor of full-sized meeting rooms has not changed much for 20 years. The devices have of course improved dramatically, but they are almost always dedicated, specialist devices that people have to learn how to use. Herein lies a problem.

Many employees use these devices only occasionally as a result they forget how. Couple that with the opportunity to be shown up in front of colleagues for not knowing how to operate the technology, and you end up with a culture that avoids using them at all, or relies on IT support to make the bigger conferences work. Neither of these scenarios is conducive to mass adoption. The growth rates (or lack thereof) for dedicated room systems appear to bare that out. As such, sales of traditional video conferencing systems continue to decline.

At the same time, the rise of huddle rooms within organizations, combined with video-friendly millennials in the workplace has  driven an increase in demand for video collaboration. Video calling from our desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices, has become as simple as a touch of the finger or a click of the mouse. And yet when we enter these large conference rooms or huddle rooms, the video system is either too complex to use, or there’s no video at all. Considering that business video more or less started in the conference room, it’s rather mind-boggling that it’s now the last place we want to go to connect virtually because it’s the most cumbersome.

We are on the cusp of change

The good news is that something new and interesting is emerging. Simpler solutions for conference rooms are on the rise. Complex, legacy systems are being replaced by conference room add-on devices like Logitech GROUP. This approach works great in a BYOPC environment, but IT isn’t always willing to give up control of meeting room technology, especially in larger conference rooms.

Microsoft teamed with partners like Crestron, Polycom and SMART in an attempt to simplify the Skype meeting room experience. The results were mixed. The dedicated Skype meeting room systems were clunky and expensive. And then Microsoft joined in with its introduction of Surface Hub – definitely an intuitive and full-featured approach to meeting rooms, but also more than feature-rich and pricier than many people need. And ultimately, familiarity is more important than a flashy User Interface in a demo. I wrote about our industry solving the wrong problem in the past here.

Give me ONE button

Some companies have been trying to solve the one-touch join problem using elaborate touch panels. A touch panel enables a customized user interface, so if desired the only button on the panel might be as simple as join the meeting. It might not surprise you to know that’s a more common request than first imagined.

Couple these new-generation of touch panels with the modern 70-inch plus displays available for the video call, and it becomes a transformative experience. Neither a desktop PC client on a massive screen, nor one engineers idea of an “intuitive user interface” which very few users feels is either intuitive, nor friendly.

An integrated tablet, able to produce the full high-definition images, with a familiar user interface could well be the new success criteria for meeting rooms. After all what’s not to like about a familiar tablet experience, with a familiar user interface, running at the full quality of a dedicated old school meeting room? I would argue that perhaps we’re seeing the emergence of something utterly new. A video collaboration experience that actually works the way users want it to.

What do you think? Is video conferencing in the meeting room still too complex? Let us know your thoughts – and if you’ll be at Microsoft Ignite next week, let’s connect. Logitech will be in booth no. 1818. We hope to see you there!

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