Meetings Technology: We Need to Talk
We look at how corporate users can stay abreast of the latest meetings tech developments
Workplace technology has the capability to enhance an environment by improving collaboration, communication and efficiency.
Where once there were just flipcharts and overhead projectors, we now have an array of audiovisual platforms that have transformed the meeting experience. Making meetings more effective and more enjoyable has been one of the AV industry’s biggest achievements.
“We see tremendous customer interest in meeting solutions,” says Michael Helmbrecht, chief operating officer at Lifesize. “We’ve observed, talked to and strategised with organisations of all sizes that are trying to empower and scale an increasingly mobile, distributed workforce through solutions that better arm employees to conduct effective, efficient business and enrich their contributions to the company.”
“We see demand for conferencing and collaboration hardware and software growing exponentially, with growth comfortably sitting in the double digits,”
…echoes Anne Marie Ginn, head of video collaboration EMEA at Logitech. And, as with any technology following the typical adoption curve, collaboration systems are breaching new markets.
“We’re seeing a filtering down from Fortune 500 to smaller corporate entities,” says Andy Fliss, VP of sales and marketing at tvONE. “A lot of small to medium enterprises are now adopting technologies like remote meeting room and collaboration spaces that you’d previously only have seen in the very largest businesses. This is partly because the ‘fear’ is being removed from these technologies as comprehension grows, and also because they are becoming more affordable.”
It’s not just about confidence and cost, however. Ease of use and ease of deployment have also played a key role in the accelerating deployment of collaboration and unified communications (UC) solutions.
“In Unified Communications technology, user experience is becoming a priority,” says Nic Milani, executive director, commercial product marketing at Crestron. “Where it used to feel like starting a new puzzle every time you moved to a different meeting space, there is now hardware available in several forms, for different types of spaces, that all bring a consistent user experience – and that natively support the most popular third-party UC applications. Revolutionary IoT-based deployment and management platforms reduce installation time substantially, simplify and speed up configuration and updates, allow remote monitoring and gather data to optimise space and technology. As a result, the workplace technology supports how people work instead of the other way around.”
Tony Leedham, commercial director at Ashton Bentley, sees a similar situation.
“Change is driving business,” he acknowledges. “The use of soft codecs such as Zoom and Teams is on the increase, mainly due to the lower costs and flexibility of portable and easy to connect devices. This will change the way people view the industry; I believe that it will make AV solutions more approachable, especially with remote working on the rise.”
Martin Payne, chief marketing and services officer at Mersive, remarks that:
“AV can now be said to be a competitive differentiator in the corporate environment”
What’s interesting is that successful deployment of collaboration and communication platforms isn’t just about gaining an advantage over other companies: it’s also a key weapon in the struggle to recruit, and retain, the best talent.
“Today,” notes Milani, “millennials make up more than half of the workforce – and that is expected to be 75% by 2025. Research shows that 82% of them say that workplace technology would influence them when deciding to accept a new job.”
Millennials are known for their preference for collaborative, relationship-based working – and value flexibility in terms of hours and location. Today’s meeting systems deliver on both counts.
Another development in the collaboration word is – collaboration. While some vendors will claim the advantage of single-source, others acknowledge that that doesn’t always deliver what’s required.
“We have seen an increasing trend for brands working together to showcase new innovations,” says Lilian Bores, VP marketing, Oblong Industries.
“The solutions must be integrated with one another. When the end user needs to use several collaboration products, the experience has to be seamless”
“The corporate world is telling us loudly that they have neither the time, desire nor budget to train their workforce on how to use several tools that don’t work well with one another. In coordination with Cisco, Oblong demonstrated how organisations can improve workflows for distributed teams.”
Payne sees something similar.
“Software is becoming more pervasive in meeting spaces to include tighter integration among meeting room technology providers, both hardware and software,” he believes, “to provide a more seamless and productive user experience for meeting-goers.”
But, as with all things technology, the world is not standing still. The competitive advantage to which Payne refers can be quickly lost as others leverage the capabilities of newer platforms. The trick, as always, is to stay abreast of – and, even better, ahead of – the latest developments.
Which, for many corporate users, will involve being in Amsterdam at the RAI Exhibition Centre for ISE – the world’s largest audiovisual exhibition that plays host to over 1,300 exhibitors and attracts more than 80,000 visitors. From 11-14 February 2020, attendees will have the opportunity to be among the first to hear about the audiovisual technologies that will change the game in the months and years to come.
Hall 11 will be home to the Unified Communications Technology Zone, making it easier for visitors to head straight for their area of interest. However, the big attraction of ISE is the opportunity it provides to find out what’s going on in a host of other areas that impact the corporate environment – from the latest developments in AVoIP to digital signage, from smart building technology to paging and evacuation systems, and from projectors to displays. Audiovisual manufacturers habitually save their most important new product announcements for ISE – giving those who are there the opportunity to get ahead of the curve.
“ISE also presents an opportunity for corporate users to meet with existing and new vendors and get a sneak peek of what’s coming,” notes Ginn.
“It’s also a chance to ask questions about their planned investments, and make sure they are going down the right path. IT and AV professionals also use the event to learn from their peers, so they can deliver a better experience for their own customers”
“At ISE, corporate users learn more about the future of technology and discover solutions that have the potential to make their lives easier,” adds Milani. “It is the ultimate opportunity to see all the technologies currently available – as well as those still in development – in one place.”
A much-valued feature of ISE has always been the emphasis it puts on training and education, with formal classes as well as conferences and seminars. ISE’s co-owners – industry organisations AVIXA and CEDIA – curate an exciting array of opportunities for visitors to explore a broad range of topics in depth, as well as to network with peers and share experiences.
The Smart Building Conference, which takes place on 10 February 2020 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam will provide a comprehensive overview of the deployment of smart technology within buildings and offices. Each year the full day conference provides attendees with the opportunity to gain unique business insight one day before the ISE show. The theme for the 2020 conference is ‘5G, IoT and the Intelligent Edge’.
Furthermore, the AVIXA Enterprise AV Conference will highlight the growing opportunities presented by data and analytics in workplace design. Supported by the AV User Group, the conference will be hosted at the RAI on 12 February.
As business interaction changes and professionals expect enhanced collaborations and user centric workspaces, businesses need to use the latest technology to stay relevant. ISE 2020 is positioned as the ideal event to ensure a meeting room is fit for purpose for today, as well as tomorrow.