Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Communications Businesses Technology

Creating a High-Tech Meeting/Conference Room? 313

papaia asks: "As the network geek in my company, I have been tasked with defining a high-end, fully connected and extremely easy to use conference room, for our CEO, who is your classic non-computer-using person. The requirements are to accommodate 'local' (to the conference room) meetings, as well as interactive sessions with people in other locations, allowing him to discuss/debate various product solutions, on files being opened and available to him to pinpoint issues, without the knowledge of the underlying software used to create them (e.g. CAD drawings where he could make annotations, etc). Do any of you have recommendations for building the 'meeting room of the 21st century'?"
"The solutions I have been looking into, so far, range from various types of whiteboards (Panasonic's interactive whiteboard, or SMART board one), to interactive displays, and software such as Netmeeting, or Cisco's meeting place.

I obviously need to combine any or all of the above with some capability of video (of course), thus I am looking into various webcams, and conferencing capabilities in some equipment - the latter is yet another challenge (VoIP or not?!?). I have also looked at meeting room suggestions, and I cannot really make up my mind."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Creating a High-Tech Meeting/Conference Room?

Comments Filter:
  • Tandberg (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scott Lockwood ( 218839 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:04PM (#12648406) Homepage Journal
    Yes. First, make sure that he's willing to actually spend money on this. Once you're past that hurdle, order something like a Tandberg 6000, and a dedicated T-1 line. Install the Tandberg in the conference room, and install either two large projection screens, or large plasma display units along with it. This will allow you to have the main conference on one screen, and a presentation on the other. Make sure that you have equipment at the remote end that is simmilar, or appropriate to the remote end, I.E. for a small office with 10 or so people, a portable Tandberg 1000 should suffice. For a large office, you'd need another 6000. The small remote officess can likely get by with a fractional T-1, or multiple ISDN lines, since each video connection only needs like 384k symetrical to work. YOU need the T-1 has the hub, and if that becomes insufficient, you can upgrade that to a DS-3/OC-3 type link pretty easily.
    • Re:Tandberg (Score:4, Informative)

      by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:49PM (#12648864) Homepage Journal
      One thing that can help tremendously, while not costing a ton, is to build in power and network access into the conference room table. Ours here has tabs that flip up, providing easy access for laptop-toting meeting attendees.
    • Re:Tandberg (Score:4, Informative)

      by josh3736 ( 745265 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @05:23PM (#12649188) Homepage
      Seconded. I recently took some university courses through a teleconfrencing system ("Distance Learning"), so I can share my experiences:

      Avoid NetMeeting like the plague. That software hasn't been updated since Windows 98, and as a result it is completely unreliable. The university is now using TANDBERG's [] See & Share software. It allows the presenter to share his desktop and (assuming you are using SMART boards) remote sites can draw on the presenter's screen. I highly recommend the SMART board/See & Share setup. It was easy enough for the professors and students to use, so it should be easy enough for your executives.

      To control the whole setup, they had an AMX [] panel. The panel had a simple tabbed interface that let you turn the system on/off, adjust cameras, select inputs, change the volume, etc.

      The video confrencing side is powered by some TANDBERG equipment. I'm not sure what specific box they used, but I can go look at it if you'd like. The cameras were some motorized SONY cams.

      The room was set up with a dual display--one big screen TV to see the presenter/far sites and one SMART board. Overall, the system worked very well and was rather seamless. I'd recommend getting in touch with a local university and talking with them. If they have a DL setup, I'm sure they can give you some valuable insight. You can also take a look at this page about DL [] from the university I took my classes from (and a picture of a DL room []).

    • I think a dedicated T-1 for a conference room is overkill. We have four T-1's in our company (just under 60 people in the office, with another 40 supported outside the office). We do web conferencing, voice over ip, heavy document transfers (via VPN), etc. To put a T-1 just in a conference room is a waste.
    • Ditto on the Tandberg. I had looked at the smart whiteboards, tandberg 6000s, etc, etc. We wound up getting Fractional T-1s and the "standalone" Tandberg (the 1000, I believe) - it fits in a large briefcase, you send it to whomever, they plug it into their network, it picks up DHCP, you get their IT people to allow it through the firewall, and you're done. It even does wireless, though it has issues.
    • Re:Tandberg (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shitdrummer ( 523404 )
      I am currently working on this exact project at work. We are setting up a dedicated Video Conferencing Room with a total budget of about AU$120K. This included building the room from scratch and buying all the equipment. The tech component has a budget of AU$35K.

      We've gone for 2 x 50" XGA Plasmas with a Logitech all in one video conferencing solution. Buying a seperate DVD/VHS, installing a PC permanenantly in a locked cupboard with wireless mouse and keyboard. We also have XGA and audio inputs on the
  • by 0kComputer ( 872064 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:06PM (#12648414)
    skype [] A nice, free VOIP solution that plays nice with firewalls and is easy to set up.
    • Is Skype fairly reliable/stable? How often does it drop calls?
      • Is Skype fairly reliable/stable? How often does it drop calls?

        I've never had a problem with Skype. I only have a cell phone and Skype at home so when I'm out my wife has to use Skype as the primary phone. Neither of us prefer to use it though because of the slight delay in voice (which is common with voip.) Never had it drop a call on me though. Overall Skype is pretty good with great quality voice and never dropped calls. Purchasing a phone for it [] would probably make us more inclined to use it.
      • I've been using Skype for a few months and never had a dropped call (some times it might take a couple seconds to synch up). The quality is actually better than many of the landline calls I make (I do a lot of over-seas calls).

        That said, I don't think I'd be crazy about it in this situation. For just VOIP, yes in a heart-beat. But since he wants to do so much more and its for a boss who isn't very tech savy, I'd say Skype may not really be called for. Skype is dead simple don't get me wrong, but any v
    • skype A nice, free VOIP solution that plays nice with firewalls and is easy to set up.

      This is a corporation. You don't need to go free, and in fact, don't want to go free. In many corporate board rooms, open source or "free" software still raises eyebrows... especially if you have a non-computer using CEO.

      Get a full teleconferencing solution from a phone company. Hook up a camera to a plasma screen that tracks and zooms in to the sound of a voice, but make sure it's not set too sensitive. We had a m
    • Skype requires headphones and a mike, which means it isn't designed to be used by more than one person on one machine. EG fine for your office PC, not fine for a conference room where multiple people will be speaking/listening. You're better off with a good speakerphone.

      I suspect there are workarounds to this though...
  • by antiaktiv ( 848995 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:06PM (#12648419)
    Talk to the guy who did this for the Jedi Council. That guy did one hell of a job
    • as long as he's not the one who did Darth Vader's op center, it's not good to have your boss able to throttle you to death remotely.
    • they don't even have a table!

      how am i supposed to hide my annoyance with that annoying Greg guy by flicking him off under the table?
    • by gcalvin ( 325380 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:35PM (#12648735) Homepage
      The remote voice quality was surprisingly bad in the Jedi Council conference room. You'd think if they had the technology and bandwidth to do holographic video, then surely the sound shouldn't be as thin and tinny as it was. Then again, it was long, long ago, wasn't it?
      • Re:jedi council (Score:5, Insightful)

        by doormat ( 63648 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @05:55PM (#12649409) Homepage Journal
        Yea, but you have to remember the distance required. They were chatting in real time, with no noticable lag over a very long distance (from the near center of the galaxy to planets on the outer rim). I suppose that they had to sacrafice high-resolution holographic images to get them to transmit with such low latency.
      • Well it turns out that Fraunhofer had patents on their original audio codec, so they had to go with the 'free' version for the Death Star conferencing system. I suspect the Emprorer would be most pleased if someone familiar with GNU/OSS technologies came on board.
      • Re:jedi council (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Knara ( 9377 )
        I never really understood (yes, I understand it was ultimately a stylistic choice to retain the FX that were in place 20 years ago) why a galactic society would have such a problem with video and audio quality in their communications.
  • Simple (Score:3, Informative)

    by stecoop ( 759508 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:06PM (#12648420) Journal
    A computer at each end, a phone and a overhead projector. Share your desktop with the other end, connect via telephone and what with the projector. If you want to see everyone then use a simple camera and share that.

    KISS ~~~~
    • "high-end".

      These particular words are like gold dust and as such are to be worshipped. They are essentially a blank cheque to play with whatever expensive toys you think you can get your grubby mitts on.

    • I would go the other direction. Right now, we know that we can provide individuals with extra-sensory input via electrodes on the tongue, and read unused parts of the brain in order to provide people with additional methods to transmit commands. (source [], other source []. It should be perfectly obvious to anyone who's understood the implications of both that virtual reality is a reality today, if someone would just get on with it.

      What the guy needs to do for his "High-Tech Meeting/Conference Room" is create

  • polycom (Score:2, Informative)

    by jus10 ( 763137 )
    we have had really good luck with polycom products...
  • Polycom (Score:5, Informative)

    by maotx ( 765127 ) <> on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:07PM (#12648428)
    I highly recommend using Polycom's line of webcams. []
    They feature video auto-tracking (camera follows you) as well as PC integration. Using the H.323 standard, these webcams can connect with Netmeeting, Gnome Meeting, other webcams, and much more allowing you to offer conferencing to a wide range of people. With the PC integration you can share your desktop with your client while holding a steady conversation. H.323 also transmits voice as well elimating the need for phones. In our experiences, however, the clarity of voice is not as nice as a standard telephone call over a speakerphone. The unit will plug into either a monitor or television and can be connected directly into an ISDN line or assigned an IP address to receive phone calls.
    • Seconded.

      We use a Polycom video conference system here at work and while it can be flakey at times, if it's set up and not "fooled with" (people turning it off while its busy, ISDN lines getting unplugged, etc.) it works great. Easily operated with a remote and a nice graphical menu on the TV, without a PC necessary, or you can use the PC integration features as the parent mentioned.
      • The Polycom system is pretty good (and a huge improvement over whatever it was that we had before). But it still regularly fails beyond the ability of a room full of scientists and programmers to restart it. It definitely hasn't reached the ease of use level suitable for the CEO mentioned in the request, although the CEO's admin should be able to master it with time.

        In general, I find videoconferencing a huge waste. You can't see anything, anyway, and the added breakdowns more than exceed any benefits over

      • Re:Polycom (Score:4, Interesting)

        by calambrac ( 722059 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:36PM (#12648748)
        if it's set up and not "fooled with" (people turning it off while its busy, ISDN lines getting unplugged, etc.) This cannot be a criterion for success if multiple people are going to be using it without supervision. If you're willing to have a someone hired to babysit the conference room, it's fine, but otherwise people will turn it off while its busy, people will unplug the ISDN lines, etc. At my old job we had AV racks that could be rolled around to different rooms. On these racks were large, clearly visible signs that read "DO NOT MOVE UNLESS ALL CABLES ARE UNPLUGGED FROM THE WALL SOCKETS". So, of course, people would move the whole rack with all the cables plugged in, all the time. It got to the point where we had to pick permanent AV rooms, but there was no money in the budget to get new equipment racks. So we just removed the wheels from the ones we had. We thought, "surely no one will try to move these huge heavy carts without any wheels and big signs saying 'Do Not Move'" but humans are remarkably adaptive in their stupidity. Not one day went by after the switch before we got a call, saying the AV system wasn't working. When we asked for the room number, it was a room that shouldn't have had a system in it - the professor had gotten the pair of football players in his class to carry the whole cart from the room down the hall...
      • A nice thing about the Polycoms is that you can lock them down tight so no one can mess them up. I also find them overall easier on the users than Tandberg, though they tend to have overall less features and tweaks than say a Tandberg. YMMV
    • I second the Polycom - I have actually used one for a presentation that was given to a large number of people. We had three Polycom devices, one standalone at our site, one standalone at the remote site, and one in an office nearby connected to a PC. The voice/video performance was pretty decent over a T1.

      Another cool addition to that setup was a digital projector. We displayed the video at our site using the digital projector, which made the folks life-size... it felt like they were in the room!

      Have f
    • We have the Polycom system over ISDN, and really, it hardly gets used. The novelty wore off after the first couple of meetings and now it sits unused; guess you really don't want the other side watching you twiddle your thumbs, roll your eyes, or whisper to each other.

      Nowadays they just use Netmeeting and share the application. The best thing about this is that while some people may be in the conference rooms, those not fully participating but might need to see it (like techs) can just hook into the netme
  • Skip it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HillaryWBush ( 882804 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:08PM (#12648438)
    Just get a big whiteboard. Those computerized canvas devices are expensive toys, like buying a tablet PC when you need a notepad and pencil...they steal productivity, not enhance it. If you really want to get the whiteboard online, then point a very good digital camera at the whiteboard, hooked up to an iBook. Then you can output the shot to an AIM window, or whatever you want! I challenge you to find a "custom solution" that will have less problems.
    • by Chyeburashka ( 122715 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:30PM (#12648687) Homepage
      Make the entire wall a whiteboard. Here is [] the first thing I found on Google. I'm sure there are more. When I visited Emerson Process Controls recently, they used something like this in their training center. The instructor could draw anywhere, as long as it was on the correct wall.
      • Seconded, our offices have several walls that are entirely whiteboard, including the one across from my cube along the hallway. Makes for quick and easy meetings in our area without having to go track down the whiteboard or something to draw on (though making sure the markers dont walk off is another issue). All the meeting rooms have at least one wall that is 100% whiteboard, including the boardroom.

        As for the topic, make sure the table has network jacks for the presenter and all attendees that can connect

  • Webex (Score:2, Informative)

    I think Webex [] is expensive but it works. You can share applications across a presentation. You can accomodate dial-in capabilities. It takes a little bit to learn how to host a presentation but it's easy for participants.
  • In my college (not entire university), we have every classroom equipped with the following:

    PC with gyromouse []
    Touchscreen input control panel (this controls light levels, projector screen, input devices [computer, dvd, vcr, aux, doc cam {audio and video}])
    racks of input devices (dvd, vcr, tape, aux inputs [such as vga, rca, etc])

    along with a university internet connection and general software, this has served all purposes just fine. given this setup, you only need to ensure you have software for r
    • along with a university internet connection

      Bandwidth is going to be the showstopper here; just a little bitty image in streaming video eats up the pipe and one that's large enough to represent someone in virtual meeting mode is really going to cost. The CEO isn't thinking a 2 inch square of someone sitting six feet back from their webcam on his screen, he's thinking taking up fullscreen ala Max Headroom. I'd say drop the video and go for good quality voice and whatever is on the presenter's screen/proj
  • Write up a paper with 3-4 options and schedule time to explain it to him. He'll have so many comments that he'll understand why you need more time to investigate.

    Continue investigating until a real emergency comes up and distracts you. He'll understand.

    Continue getting distracted and occationally researching more options until he either calls the whole thing off, finds a similar new stupid task for you, or decides he really does need a conference room and settles on the quickest easiest solution from th
  • A real suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:15PM (#12648522)
    Hire a bloody contractor with EXPERIENCE in this area!!!!

    You're going to be spending a LOT of money. Don't base those spending decisions on "what sounded good to folks on Slashdot."

    There are experts in this area. Find them. Hire them.

    If that's too expensive, with due respect, then this isn't a project you should be contemplating....
  • I have been tasked with defining a high-end, fully connected and extremely easy to use conference room, for our CEO, who is your classic non-computer-using person [...] without the knowledge of the underlying software used to create them (e.g. CAD drawings where he could make annotations, etc). Do any of you have recommendations for building the 'meeting room of the 21st century'?"

    Other people can make recommendations about what is or is not good hardware/software for conference room use, none of it will

  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:19PM (#12648560) Homepage Journal
    I've got a cousin who does this, works exclusively for big companies, puts in meeting rooms for teleconferencing.

    It's a pretty complex process involving getting all of the wiring in, the lighting rigged, cameras speced & set, sound adjusted, matching conferencing systems, etc. There's a lot of art to it, figuring out room layout & microphone placement so folks sound natural, nobody has to shout or whisper, noisy equipment is muffled, lighting works for cameras while not leaving everyone dazzled, etc.

    Could you do it? Sure, with lots of trial & error.

    However hire someone who does this all of the time & they'll keep you from going down dead-ends, give you real numbers to work with, know the vendors and their offerings. Almost none of this overlaps with networking, nor with consumer product experience you might have had, so really a pro is probably best.

  • by stinkwinkerton ( 609110 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:19PM (#12648563)
    Your CEO doesn't want to learn the technology, but wants the best technology.

    What he needs is not only a room, but someone to facilitate it's operation. You can get the best equipment in the world, but if he from the get go has basically said he doesn't want to know how to operate it (which I interpret from the original post,) Then it is just going to be dead weight to him and a waste of money.

    Long story short: Remember when you were the AV guy in high school? Welcome back.
  • I've been involved in many meetings involving two or more sites spread around the country. These are either working meetings or presentations, but any graphics were always presented via PowerPoint or some other on-screen way, no whiteboard or posters or anything. We use PC's with netmeeting. Each conference room needs to have a high res digital projector for the PC display. Ideally the resolutions of the projectors will match. This way you know that all parties are seeing the same stuff.

    MS netmeeting
    • The cool thing with NetMeeting, actually, is that it isn't "proprietary MS-only," but rather uses more standard protocols.

      I've been able to talk to NetMeeting from SunForum on a Solaris machine. (wouldn't surprise me if GnomeMeeting also worked for this)
  • ichat a/v (Score:2, Informative)

    G5 + ichat a/v apple cinema display.
    • Do you know how to use this if your firewall filters out trafic it thinks is on the wrong port. i.e. the firewall checks the protocol and if it doesn't match it's lookup (from before VOIP and video conferencing/AIM)?
  • Answer 1)

    Wait 10 years, and all of the problems facing you to do this today will be solved... unfortunately, a new batch of problems will have arisen.


    I think that we've just settled that your position is one in which you can't really hope to satisfy certain clients... lets hope your CEO is a very cool guy... here's what you do.

    Answer 2)
    1) KVM via IP. Everyone who wants to click into your system gets linked into KVM via IP over a VPN running connecting your virtual conference room. Too ba
  • The company I'm working for is using Interwise [] for all netmeetings. The software provides shared documents and desktops, VoIP calls, etc. and performs pretty well, IMHO. It also provides support for using regular phone for conference calls as an alternative method for audio.
  • Do you need it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by barzok ( 26681 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:22PM (#12648594)
    Execs want all this stuff to impress people with their high-tech toys and the "he must be important, look at this stuff" factor. Will he ever understand how to use it (both the operation of the equipment, and effective application of it)? Likely not.

    I think I've been in maybe 2 video conferences over the span of 6 years that were better than a plain telephone conference call. The video usually adds nothing, or even detracts. We don't even attempt to integrate computers into the process, it'd just be more confusion (we tried to add a VGA feed once to a video conference, it did not end well, we ended up having the remote site refere to paper handouts of the PPT I'd made).

    Keep it real simple. Wasting 30 minutes of an hour-long meeting making the electronics work right is no way to run things.
  • don't mess around (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:23PM (#12648612)
    I do this for a living. Don't screw around with netmeeting or skype or any of that stuff. If you want the meeting room of the 21st century - it's going to cost you. I suggest you get demos of Polycom (the VSX series, not the iPower that's PC based) and Tandberg systems and decide which one is best for you. Polycom offers particularly good microphone and echo cancelling technologies. These systems also offer dual stream technology for sending video and high res content pictures at the same time. For that you need two indepenent front screen projectors with independent control systems from someone like Extron - or control them both with AMX or Crestron - but keep them logically separated in the menus for the user.

    Document camera, DVD/VCR and good audio reinforcement.
    • Re:don't mess around (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shokk ( 187512 )
      I second his comment. As tempted as some might be, do not skimp anything, especially microphones or mixing equipment. The Polycom VSX systems are nice and powerful for multipoint conferencing and The Polycom stuff should be used for conference phones, too, if you have any other conference rooms that are likely to talk to this one. If it sounds crappy from the source, not even Crestron is going to be able to dress up that pig. And yes, the Crestron displays are going to be expensive, but that's what it's
  • How does one go about managing LAN cables? Specifically those needed for demo machines and laptops? We used the Deskspool [] by Teleadapt but, they are not very rebust. We've had to replace all 16. Wireless is not always the ideal solution either.
  • I liked how the Jedi Council would conduct virtual meetings across distant planets. There would be real people and holographic members. You'd need some near instanteous communication system to operate across the light years.

    I did see some prototypes of this at SIGGRAPH where you use CAVES (a room with 3 or 4 television walls) mixing real and television people. Small TV screen arent as effective.
  • Don't bother (Score:3, Insightful)

    by under_score ( 65824 ) <{moc.gietreb} {ta} {nikhsim}> on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:33PM (#12648711) Homepage

    You might want to point out to your CEO that face-to-face meetings are far better and that the expense of using the high-tech "airplane". Will be more than offset by the cost of a high-tech meeting room and the costs associated with poor communication.

    Getting people physically into the same room for meetings should always be considered close to non-negotiable. The exceptions? People who truly have nothing to contribute, or those who due to emergencies or other serious physical limitations cannot travel to be in the same room.

    • Tricky when you have sites seperated by thousands of miles (UK and India) and in each country, several sites hundreds of miles apart, and oh yeah, daily progress meetings...

      face to face is great but not practicle in today's global village working environment
  • Yup (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dynoman7 ( 188589 )
    "Do any of you have recommendations for building the 'meeting room of the 21st century'?"

    Yeah. Hire someone else (it sounds like you are in over your head).
  • as well as interactive sessions with people in other locations

    I guess conference room babes would be out of the question then.

  • Raindance [] has a new product that just can download and try it for free [].
  • by xactuary ( 746078 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @04:51PM (#12648877)
    I'll need the name of your company so I can short the stock.
  • My group moved into a new furnished building just a year ago.

    I'm sure whoever bought the conference room table thought they were doing a great job putting 4 power outlets and 4 network ports into the surface of the conference table, but I have to say it's a disaster. It has no facility for additional cabling.

    In weekly meetings, we typically see 8-10 laptops on the table. So, we have an ethernet switch on the table as well. Naturally, 4 power outlets is far too few, so we have power strips on the table
  • Don't get a webcam. Get a real video camera and use a capture device. The sound and video produced will be way better than any webcam, and you won't really have to worry about drivers and such. They are very adaptable in varying light and motion conditions and cheap dv camera will be so much cheaper.
  • So you can receive ransom notices from megalomaniacal supervillains. That's how all the high-tech conference rooms are in movies, so they must be emulated. After all, if someone hijacks a nuclear warhead and is holding your company ransom, how else are you going to know, unless you have a huge live feed of them on the wall?

    ("Hey Butt-head, this chick has three boobs." "How many butts does she have?" "Huhuhuh.")
  • To make this work well, you need a conference room and a control room, with a window between them. In the control room is an experienced operator to run all the gear. Preferably someone with theatrical (not music) experience.
  • I'm building an infrastructure to support something similar. We have a 'dirty traffic' VLAN for the meeting rooms and publically accessible Kiosks. That VLAN has an ISA box handling routing. WiFi is broadcast, we haven't decided if it'll be free n clear, or just have a WPA password posted in all of the meetign rooms. The intent was to have a setup where a Sales droid could open his laptop, get a dhcp address, get DNS, and could access HTTP(S) to anywhere BUT our network. P2P, IM, etc, would be punted.

    All t
  • If you plan on using projectors- the pro's will recommend you pick the projector, then design the room around it- screen/ projector placement, seating, etc. Nobody wants to have sit through the meeting of the future with 3000 lumens in their eye or the shadow of your PHB's assistant's hairdo blocking the lower left of the screen.

    Also talk to a lighting designer (theater or architectural) for good ideas to light the tables & video subjects subtly.
  • Whatever you do make sure yo uorder big plasma screens for the room that way even though the rest of the equipment goes t waste yo uhave an awesome room for a LAN party.
  • by Johnboi Waltune ( 462501 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @05:24PM (#12649189)
    The building I work in is full of very bright engineers, IT folks, and PhDs. For our main conference room, we just outsourced everything to a professional design firm. For a substantial fee, they did a bang-up job.

    It sounds like we would have been able to leverage some of the technical genius we have around here, but putting together a world-class conference room is much, much more about usability and interior design than technology. So much so, that Slashdot isn't even the right place to be asking about it.

    First part of the problem is usability. Engineers do not typically understand how to make things easy to use, because they have a much higher tolerance for complexity than the average person. An engineer figures stuff out and gets the job done no matter what. They hardly even notice when something is hard to use or a user interface is clunky. A difficulty that would be a showstopper for a regular user is just background static to an engineer.

    Then there is the other side of the problem: the interior design and looks. The average engineer has a superior IQ, but can barely match his belt with his shoes. There is no way they could pick out a color scheme, lighting, furniture, chairs, podiums, desks, etc., and have it all look professional and attractive. People go to school for years to learn how to do that successfully; it is such an intricate and intuitive discipline that most of us cannot even appreciate how difficult it is. We tend to think of interior designers as non-essential and trivial people, but they are very skilled and valuable when needed. I know people who are so technologically inept they cannot send an email even with extensive coaching, yet their house looks straight out of an interior design magazine.

    If you want a good conference room, you do need nerds for the equipment selection, installation, and configuration, but they must be kept on a tight leash, subordinate to the interior designers. Engineers are a curious, helpful folk and probably won't be able to understand why they're a liability to the rest of the project.

  • 1 - a big budget approval.

    2 - A conference table that is network cable friendly (you will also want a switch that can accomodate each possible computer, and a wireless hub)

    3 - Clearly labeled instructions for those who want to get onto the wireless or the wired network (so you do not have to run in EVERY two seconds, which you will anyhow.

    5 - A high quality conference camera

    6 - A high quality conference room phone

    7 - A nice projecter or plasma TV for presentations

    8 - Wetboard so he can write on

  • One of the companies I work for have a product labled Session [] by wave 3 software.

    It is a conference applicaton, as well as desktop sharing/controling and a very powerful whiteboard, sounds like it would work well with what you are looking for. It should cover most everything you would need.
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @06:11PM (#12649509) Homepage
    I would first off like to "second" the opinions of those here who say "hire someone", but I would also like to throw my ideas out as well...

    First off, plan for the number and type of users: how many (maximum) and whether these will be meeting attendees, training attendees, roundtable discussion attendees, etc. Knowing this information is vital to determining which room you will be situating the system in, the size of the room, the size of the table(s), the layout of everything, and the audio/visual/network requirements.

    If you are planning on running meetings or rountables, mainly, then a standard long "boardroom" approach might work, but consider other options which might be more flexible. At one place I worked at, we had a room that worked well for training and large meetings which was set up as a "stadium" style raised platform workstations (that is, four tiered rows of "tables") with a rear-projected screen and surround sound system. It worked rather well for both meetings and training. There were identically configured PCs for all of the users (ghosted systems), and the trainer could "take over" one or all the machines for training purposes. With the raised platforms, everybody could see the screen without people's heads blocking it, and rear projection eliminated the "hairdo" blocking problem as well. Wires were hidden, and everything looked nice. However, it wasn't conducive to a "roundtable" meeting, because of the "straight" layout (you need a more circular layout for this) - the best compromise, if you have the space, then, is to use a "horseshoe" shaped, tiered layout for the users, with a central (or off to the side, or moveable) presentation podium/dais for the presenter, and a rear projected screen or large plasma screen.

    Audio needs also should be thought of - for most uses, I would say ditch the idea of a stereo or surround system, and go for a clear sounding monophonic PA system, with wireless microphones (handheld, lapel, and perhaps headset). Mount several speakers in the ceiling and up front (near or behind the screen) so that everyone can hear equally well.

    If you must use a front projection system, keep colors in mind, as well as the brightness of the projector. If the projector is overly bright, and you use light wall coloring, there might be glare issues. Perhaps, use a darker paint for the wall surrounding the screen...

    Remember to have adjustable (dimmable) lights for the general room, perhaps with a spotlight or two for the front (to illuminate the presenter), as well as perhaps lights on the podium, and maybe individual lights for each user.

    Give users enough room to be comfortable and actually work. In a "working meeting" this is doubly important. For network access, provide wireless connectivity. Try to eliminate wires as much as is practical and possible. Where it isn't, try to hide the wires. Also note that for video conferencing, you may want to have the PC grabbing the video be on a dedicated wired connection. You may also want this machine to be wholly separate from the machine doing the presentation (not always necessary, though - and sometimes, you will want both integrated together for collaboration).

    Remember to set up for a wireless presentation mouse, and train your users how to use it. Get one with an integrated laser pointer. Something that I thought of, but I haven't seen (and I have too many projects to try to build one) is the idea of a "laser marker" for the screen - how often have you seen someone use a laser pointer to "circle" or "draw" around areas on a powerpoint presentation? Imagine if you could actually leave a "line" on the screen (a virtual marker)? A laser pointer, with the mouse button, with a camera focused on the screen and software tracking the dot of light...this kind of application has to already exist - if it doesn't, think of the possibilities...?

    Provide comfortable chairs (they don't have to be expensive, but they should be fairly nice looking and comfortable to sit in and work in for 1-2 hour periods),

  • Firstly, I work for Alias and our professional services group works with several large companies that are doing exactly what you a describing.

    I have seen several companies that throw money at the problem and end up with a bunch of cool software and hardware but the room and experience sucks. Crappy room layout and a clumbsy user experience are very easy to accidentally build. Cable management, convienent connectivity for participants, projector location, screen placement, seating arrangement, etc. are al
  • He will find himself ahead if he can rent it rather than building it first.

    As infrastructure, these things aren't used often enough at most sites to justify the cost of installation, equipment, network QOS, and support.

    So if possible, go down the street and use a videoconference facility run by someone else. They're not cheap once the hours really start to add up, but for the cost of a few initial test rides, and zero effort except that of showing up, they are an excellent way to assess the technology

  • Just invent the holodeck.

    Speech interfaces, project data on any wall. Don't have a wall? Ask it to create a wall. Project any graph. Don't have a graph? Ask it to create a graph. Not enough seating locally? Ask it to create some new seats. Problem solved.

    Let me know when it's done. I'll pay you to install one where I work too.
  • My company blew the budget and installed one of these puppies []
  • "without the knowledge of the underlying software used to create them (e.g. CAD drawings where he could make annotations, etc)"

    All the advice in this thread will probably be all well and good. But grow some balls and tell your boss that what I quoted above is just not gonna happen. He needs to know the tech his company is using, because even face to face he can't function without that knowledge. Building him a nice teleconferencing unit isn't gonna solve that lack of knowledge. Even worse, telepresence is

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer