Clutter is a condition of modern life and has found its way onto the tables of corporate conference rooms. The clutter level is such that contemporary conference desks are designed to accommodate the electronic farrago of modern meetings, with recessed raceways for cables and integrated power and connectivity solutions. Participants will also bring a certain amount of their own technology to the table for meetings, such as smart speakers, phones, and tablets.
But the problem is the table should be left for actual work, not the technology. A combination of integrated in ceiling speakers and ceiling-mounted microphone arrays managed by the right system processor will fix that.
Desk-mounted microphones and teleconferencing units used to take up valuable desk real estate. They also either allowed extraneous sound in the room to leak into videoconferences or required manual management of multiple microphones during meetings.
Instead, a ceiling-mounted microphone array can be zoned, via digital signal processor (DSP), to pick up sound only from specific areas of the room (i.e. directly over the conference table) and used to "zone out" unwanted sound from other areas. A prime example of this type of integrated microphone and speaker arrangement is the Bose Professional ES1 Ceiling Audio Solution, consisting of the EdgeMax EM180 in-ceiling loudspeaker and matching PowerSpace P2600A amplifier; the ControlSpace EX-440C conferencing signal processor; and the Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 microphone. Both the microphones and speaker are ceiling mounted, while the DSP unit and amplifier are discreetly stored in a nearby tech closet.
Aside from eliminating messy cables, ceiling microphones offer other benefits: consistent coverage and speech intelligibility for every participant in the meeting as well as rejection of user-created noise like shuffling papers, typing, or vibrations from an HVAC unit or nearby fan. The number of speakers used in an in-ceiling audio system depends upon the size of the room and the number of seats. But the bottom line is that an array of overhead microphones and multiple speakers in a large conference room will evenly capture and distribute sound from and to all participants. It creates a balanced soundfield over a greater area that results in lower total volume levels since all speakers are close to participants. With evenly distributed sound, you can avoid needing preferred seating in your conference room, ensuring everyone can hear and be heard, no matter their location.
Cables and wires are the circulatory system of the office body, but in meeting spaces, they can get in the way. That's why those environments are well-suited for implementing networked AV solutions, which can put the load of multiple cables onto a single strand, using a protocol such as Dante or AVB, for instance, and allowing the workflow to be networked from start to finish. A typical networked workflow for a meeting would see input from laptops or media players connected to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) encoders that then connect — via a managed-network switch — to displays and audio-playback devices such as the ES1 system or Bose Videobar VB1 (both of which are Dante-compatible).
It's a digital roadmap that enables every participant to access all of the room's systems, including presentation systems and control systems like room scheduling, streamlining the meeting process. A finishing touch on some network models is Power over Ethernet (POE) that allows a single cable to provide both data and electric power to IP-enabled devices, reducing room wiring requirements even further.
Videobar devices integrate AV functionality into a single, cost-effective unit with simple USB connectivity. The need for that kind of efficiency has never been greater: Videoconferencing has proliferated throughout the office environment and moved into a variety of spaces — from huddle spaces to boardroom — so that multiple videoconferencing system solutions are needed throughout a corporate-communications infrastructure. Finally, videobar devices need to be compatible with major teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. This combination of high-definition video and audio, as well as its near-universal connectivity and easy set-up, means IT managers receive significantly fewer help calls, freeing up themselves and their staff for other important tasks.
Wireless connectivity is another way to keep conference rooms more streamlined. For starters, it's the most efficient way to create a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) collaboration environment, with Bluetooth breaking down many OS and other system-format barriers. Smaller spaces, such as huddle and even last-minute ad hoc spaces that rely mainly on participants' devices, can especially benefit from Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
A Harvard Business Review study confirms that clutter can negatively influence key elements of meetings, including cognition, emotions, and behavior that affect decision-making and interpersonal relationships as well as the ability to focus. With tools like in-ceiling speakers and microphones and related products and technologies, you can make a clutter-free conference space more easily attainable and meetings that much more productive.