Your Conference Rooms Are So Trendy!

How Monitoring Your Conference Rooms Usage Can Help You Build Better Meeting Spaces In The Future

by Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Imagine you are the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at a pharmaceutical company, one that is growing rapidly, and you need dozens of new conference rooms and huddle spaces. It is your job to figure out how big the meeting rooms should be, and what sort of technology should be installed in them. Open areas promote collaboration, but there is also a need for privacy, and respect for others who are working nearby. Where should you begin?

You might start by looking at trends in the industry. For instance, sitting is trending down. Standing during meetings is becoming more common, so taller tables with stools should be considered for a portion of your rooms. This will also affect your display wall elevation and camera mounting height. Video collaboration is essential, whether it is a classic hardware codec from Cisco or Polycom, or a software codec like Zoom; you should plan to outfit at least 50% of your rooms with some form of video chat and/or or web conference capability. You can also budget to “scale into” these conference rooms.

The hard question is, how many small, how many medium, and how many large conference rooms do you need? No one wants a big boardroom that only gets used four or fives times a year. Divide/combine/divisible/dividable spaces look good on paper, but often fall short when it comes to day-to-day activities of various lines of business. Should you build two small conference rooms for every one larger conference room? That’s one approach, but…

Wouldn’t it be great to have real statistical data on your meeting rooms, and reports that showed exactly how often the rooms get used, and how much a given room’s technology was actually utilized? Wouldn’t that be great?

Like the Keystone commercials, “Bottled beer taste in a can, wouldn’t that be great!”

Well, just like Keystone utilizes a specially lined can, AV integration experts have the technology to provide these types of usage reports to clients. How they go about it can depend on the technology being installed, a discussion which I will save for future blog post; for this post, let’s keep the discussion to who, what, where, and why.

Who: Although one might think of monitoring and asset management in a corporate environment, there are other environments that can benefit. For instance, K-12 schools and higher education campuses can forecast projector bulb burnouts based on usage. Technology usage might vary from grade to grade, or from teacher to teacher.

What: Getting back to the corporate conference room example, the main piece of data you need to monitor is: when the rooms are occupied or not. This can be accomplished using motion detectors if other audiovisual technology is not available. If there is a touch panel in the room, it may have a motion detector built in, and you can harness that data through the control system using proprietary software.

You can also monitor how much the different components of the technology get used, but that is secondary to the rooms being occupied or not. If you base your room usage reports solely on the technology, your data will be incorrect from the start, because some groups use tech more than others. Its great to know what tech gets used and what does not, but its almost more important to know what rooms get used, and which do not. Then, compare the rooms’ technology, versus the size of the room, and the location.

Where: As you start to amass the data, you will notice trends in the conference rooms. Some of these trends will show up in the numbers, but it is also important to look at the location and physical characteristics of each meeting space. For example, you may have two equal 8-person conference rooms on the same floor, with the only difference between the rooms is that one has windows, the other is internal with no windows. You may notice that one of the two rooms gets used more often, and you might assume it is because of the sunlight. This is a good theory, but you should also consider acoustics. Or, one department may be utilizing the same conference room every day, while another department only meets once a week in the other conference room. So it is important to compare the numbers but also to look at the location within the building, the departments that are nearby, and then spend some time thinking about the why.

Why: You might notice that the smaller rooms are getting booked up for about 4 hours each day, while the larger conference room is booked all day, almost every day. This might suggest you need another large conference room. How you interpret the numbers depends on the situation, but it is always best to work with real data rather than verbal anecdotes like “that second video camera never gets used”. That is great feedback, but is that really true? What if the CTO uses it once a month? What if more training is needed? It is much easier to start the decision making process with real data, but like any metric, you need some time to establish a baseline, so for your first year, you might just collect the data, use it as a baseline, and then compare the following years to the first year.

In the end, you are looking for trends in your conference rooms. You might notice that the collaborative touch displays are getting used more this year than last year, and sub-sequentially, you might anticipate needing more touch displays next year. You will also see what is not so trendy, and you might be able to avoid buying things you don’t need. Over time, the monitoring of the rooms and technology will “pay for itself” because you will be more efficient and accurate in planning for your future meeting spaces.

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AVaaS = Audio/Video as a Service

By now, most readers have heard the term SaaS, or Software as a Service, a new trend in the business of software.  Instead of investing large sums every time you upgrade, you pay as you go, by the month. Some common examples include Dropbox or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Some readers may have heard of XaaS, which stands for everything as a service.  So what about AVaaS? Audio/Video or Audiovisual as a Service, delivering software (DSP, videoconferencing, collaboration, and control code), professional services, monitoring, for a monthly fee. That’s right, I said a monthly fee for AV.

I am not the first blogger to write about AV as a Service.  My online colleague Nermina Miller attacked the subject way back in July 2015 when she worked for Infocomm, in her article Redefining AV as a Service.  More recently, rAVepubs blog squad writer Mark Coxon defined three areas to start selling AV as a Service: video conferencing, engineering, and digital signage.  Gary Kayye suggested audiovisual integrators start selling digital signage content years ago.  Some followed his advice, and the money, while others stuck with the traditional model, sell the equipment and installation, and then watched their flat panel margins shrink as the displays got thinner and thinner.

rAVepubs also recently interviewed the CEO of ZOOM, who has quietly snuck into the AV industry under the guise of videoconferencing Software as a Service.  But ZOOM is more than just SaaS, ZOOM has a professional services department, providing engineering and installation services.  If you are worried about ZOOM taking your business clients, Gary Kayye of rAVepubs asked the CEO directly about their policy:

If an AV integrator has an existing client relationship, all they need to do is register that client and ZOOM will not go or talk directly to the client without the integrator’s assistance. But, if ZOOM establishes the relationship directly, they will potentially sell the ZOOM system directly….But customers will purchase hardware by themselves […]

But customers will purchase hardware by themselves?  You heard right, the leading collaboration software company will sell them the AV system, but minus the hardware. The clients purchase the hardware directly from CDW,  or Amazon, and ZOOM does the installation, commissioning, training, and then charges a monthly fee for the ZOOM software.  Boom, ZOOM! That is how AVaaS is done, people.  Readers, take notes.

AVaaS is the OPPOSITE of what most AV companies call “Service”.  Say the word “service” to most integrators, and they will think “some old client called, they must have broke something, or they are otherwise unhappy, now someone has to drive over there and see what needs to be repaired, replaced, or just rebooted”

I try to explain AV as a Service using the cell phone model.  The average American cell phone user often spends a few hundred dollars on their phone, plus a monthly fee for service. Ok, I know, they mean cell service, aka coverage, but it’s the same model.

You need cell service or wifi to use your mobile devices, right?  You need the calling or chatting software, plus the other apps, to run on your phone, or it is worthless, right?  Some of those apps are free, some are a one time fee, others you might pay monthly.  Some SaaS sales models will offer the first month free, then a monthly fee, or a discount if you pay annually.  This is how you need to structure you AVaaS business.

OLD WAY: Integrator sells client conference room hardware, installation, and one time programming fee for the DSP and Control System.  Annual service plan is optional.

NEW WAY: Integrator sells the client the hardware once, or leases it to them. For the hardware to work, the client pays the integrator a monthly fee, which includes all service calls and software upgrades.  The client pay a monthly fee per room, just like you pay a monthly fee for your cell phone.  In return, they get free reports because you are now monitoring their AV systems for bulb life, energy usage, and downtime.

Savvy programmers will figure out a way to lock the AV systems if the client misses payment, just imagine the touchscreen and wall-mounted flat panel display saying…

PLEASE ENTER YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION TO ENABLE AV SYSTEM

But most importantly, please remember that AV as a Service, is just that, a service! We are now in a service industry, not a sales industry. Customers can buy AV gear with a click of a mouse; what we offer our clients is our professional services. Keep that in mind the next time you get a “service call”. Instead of being annoyed, be glad your services are still needed. -pk

Like this post?  You also may enjoy “We Used To Be Heroes” by Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

My Do’s And Don’ts Of LinkedIn Profile Photos

If you are between the ages of 25 and 55, then chances are, you probably already have a LinkedIn Profile.  And chances are, you probably don’t think about it very often, unless you are job hunting (in which case, you may be updating your profile almost daily.)

Most people only update their work experience or skills when they revise their LinkedIn profile. More savvy B2B folks find ways to optimize their LinkedIn profile so that they rank higher in the LinkedIn Search results.  Others may ask for recommendations from former coworkers or clients.  But how much time and thought did they put into their LinkedIn profile photo?  My guess is most people have not thought about their photo since the day they uploaded it. How many times have you changed your photo?

LinkedIn has published guidelines for profile photos, but unless you are posting your company logo, your tagline, your favorite animal, or landscape, they will pretty much accept any photo as long as you are in it. If you break their easy-to-meet guidelines three times, they supposedly will not let you upload any more profile photos. However, I have seen some profiles of people who somehow got around this rule, and have a pet as their profile photo.  My guess is they uploaded the photo before the rules were created or enforced, and now they are essentially ‘grandfathered in’ (or would it be, ‘grandfather-Linked-In’?)

Remember that the FIRST thing someone sees when you show up in a LinkedIn search, or “People You May Know”, is your photo, and those first impressions count!  Yet for most people, the profile photo is the LAST thing they worry about!  So what kind of photo makes a good LinkedIn profile photo?  What makes for a bad one?

Here is my short list of Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn profile photos:

1. DON’T use your wedding photo, or a photo someone took of you while you were attending someone else’s wedding.  These are far too common and very easy to spot. Will you be wearing that tuxedo or strapless dress to your next interview?  Dapper!

Black and white professional headshot
My professional headshot in black and white

2. DO yourself a favor and get a professional headshot taken at least once every 5 years. No one likes meeting an older version of you after they saw the younger you online. Request a full color headshot and a black and white version of the same photo.  Beyond your LinkedIn profile, its good to have “your best face” on hand for other reasons like company newsletters, bylined articles, online dating sites, obituaries … “you never know when you are going to go” is my motto.  Might as well be ready for it.

3. DON’T use a photo that is obviously a cropped photo of you and someone else.  This is just as common as the wedding photos and drives me berserk!  Just because you were wearing a tie that day does not mean you look professional.  You look sweaty! And if you are going to crop out other people, you should also crop out that drink in your hand.

Example of cropped photo taken at a wedding
Cropped photo taken at a wedding

4. DO make sure to smile in your LinkedIn profile photo. Just like dating sites, people on LinkedIn want to work with happy people. Save your Resting Bitch Face for after you get the gig.

#LMRBFO = Laughing My Resting Bitch Face Off
#LMRBFO = Laughing My Resting Bitch Face Off

5. DON’T keep your profile photo blank.  If you don’t have a profile photo yet, then you probably should not have a public profile yet either.  No one wants to work with a ghost.  Plus, without a photo, how can the people you have previously worked with know that its actually you, and not someone pretending to be you?

6. DO include other items in your profile photo that are relevant to your career.  For example, if you are an audio engineer who typically works at concerts, then a photo of you standing next to a huge audio mixing console certainly adds value to your online resume.  It says “yes, I have done this before, so I am qualified”.  Or if you are a bowling coach, its okay to have bowling ball in hand.

7. DON’T wear sunglasses. Hey, I understand where you are coming from: I think I look better in sunglasses too, but its not appropriate on a professional networking site. Your eyes are the window to your soul, and by wearing sunglasses, you just closed the shades. The one exception to this would be if the person was visually impaired, or if they wear prescription glasses that transition to sunglasses in sunlight.  Also, if you use a photo taken outdoors, make sure your face is clearly visible.  Oftentimes, outdoor photos have too much contrast between the sunlight and shadows.

Sunglasses and Dreadlocks
Would you hire this shady dude?  I sure wouldn’t.

8. DO wear something that resembles what you would typically wear to your job on a day to day basis.  No wedding dresses, no hats, no tie-dyed shirts, no sports attire.  I don’t care how much you love your team; there are people on LinkedIn who do not.  Why jeopardize your career just because you are still bitter that the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997, and left Connecticut without any major sports team?  Not cool, Whalers!

9. DON’T have a coworker, friend, or family member take a photo of you using their mobile phone camera, standing in front of a wall or a tree.  Unless you are the photogenic type, these types of photos will never be as good as a professional headshot.  AND NO SELFIES. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Photo taken on Easter
Photo taken by my friend on Easter

10. DO make yourself stand out, but be careful: this can be a double-edged sword.  You may be wearing a t-shirt that says something funny in your photo, but others may not get the joke.  Better to use a photo from that time you went sky diving, or snorkeling.  These types of “adventure photos” will create instant conversation when you connect with someone new on LinkedIn. Photos of you receiving an award also show you are valuable.

Hopefully by now, you ‘get the picture’.  By putting a little extra time, effort, and yes, a little money into your LinkedIn profile, you will be sure to be putting your best business face forward, and your online resume will be much more professional. First impressions are everything, and online, that impression is limited to your profile photos.

Additional advice on LinkedIn:

https://pkaudiovisual.com/2014/02/05/social-media-networking/

If we are not yet connected on LinkedIn, here is my profile:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/pkaudiovisual/