A lot goes into organizing and running a successful conference or similar event. Especially when participants might be coming from widespread locations, or even engaging virtually, success requires more than booking a conference room, inviting attendees, and hoping for the best.
So, how do you create the perfect conference room? How do you ensure that’s not only good enough to run successful meetings and conferences, but actively add value to the space and what you can do with it?
In this blog, we’re diving into what a conference room should have, beyond just the conference tables themselves. We’re looking at conference room accessories, including things like webcams, wireless keyboards and mice, and more. We’re also going to provide a checklist you can reference in planning your next conference, so that you can cover all the bases and ensure success.
What Are the Characteristics of the Best Conference Venues and Rooms?
By choosing an optimal venue, you can effectively minimize how many conference room accessories you’ll need in order to conduct the event. Depending on if you’re planning a live, remote/virtual, or hybrid event, there are a few things you should look for in a conference venue.
What Are the Best Venues for Live Events?
● Are in locations that are convenient and accessible for attendees.
● Are appropriately-sized for the expected number of attendees and planned activities (including things like keynote speakers and breakout/work sessions).
● Are set up with reliable internet and suitable (and fully-operational!) presentation and video conferencing equipment including conference tables, sound systems, projectors, and whiteboards.
● Offer comfortable seating, where participants can all see and hear everything that’s going on.
● May provide dedicated technical support and general A/V assistance.
How Can I Improve My Conference Room for Virtual and Hybrid
For remote/virtual and hybrid events, there’s less emphasis on physical items like conference tables and more emphasis on the best practices and tools that will engage participants and enable effective collaboration.
Especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing shift toward hybrid and virtual events, the last thing you’ll want is for preventable technical difficulties to get in the way of your event’s success.
For a fully-virtual conference, the venue would be a digital, not physical space. Instead of choosing a concrete location, you’ll instead need to evaluate different conference room technology providers in order to find a reliable and high-performing platform to do the heavy lifting. Virtual event platforms offer customizable, scalable solutions that accommodate anything from a quarterly all-hands meeting to annual, extensive conferences. Many of these platforms offer invaluable benefits for virtual events, including:
● Mobile engagement and support
● Event organization and agenda-building tools
● Communication and networking tools
● Real-time analytics and reporting
● Integrations with other technologies and audio/visual elements
Hybrid events can be a little trickier, but the same general principles apply. When planning a hybrid event and selecting a “venue”, here are a few best practices:
1. Develop a clear vision of the event—and its priorities and objectives—before evaluating available venues and platforms. By putting the event’s objectives first, it becomes easier to focus on how specific features and capabilities can work to deliver that vision.
2. Consider, too, your expected participant breakdown. If, for example, 75% of attendees will be there in-person, start by evaluating physical spaces. If the reverse is true, and the majority of participants will be virtual, then it makes sense to evaluate the virtual platforms first.
3. Make a detailed plan and list of activities, and turn it into a checklist. Then, you can more-easily evaluate your options in a side-by-side fashion, making it easier to ensure that you cover all your bases and provide a consistent experience for all participants.
4. Consider the in-person as well as virtual experience. Another component of a consistent participant experience is ensuring that there’s equality between the in-person and virtual experience. In other words, just because people aren’t meeting face to face doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from face-to-face interactions—even if they have to be digital.
5. Keep the lines of communication open. First, communicate a clear agenda in advance of the conference, so participants can prepare. Then, make sure to establish dedicated channels for organizers to communicate and strategize with each other, for presenters and attendees to interact, and for participants to share with and ask questions of each other throughout the event.
6. Test the experience. As much as possible, test out every piece of presentation technology, as well as the different event platform features you plan to leverage throughout the conference. This final tip helps prevent nasty surprises like technology breakdowns or accessibility issues
What Is a Smart Conference Room, and Why Do I Need One?
The term “smart conference room” refers to a specific type of conference room setup in which physical hardware and diverse software are integrated into a single, dynamic experience for presenters and attendees. But do you need a smart conference room for a successful experience?
There are definitely benefits to smart conference rooms, which organizers will have to weigh against the cost. Some of these benefits include:
● Increased engagement. Even something as simple as developing a slideshow to accompany a presentation can help attendees follow along, visualize new information and concepts, and remember key points.
● Suitability for in-person, remote/virtual, and hybrid meetings. With basic AV equipment and a reliable internet connection, smart conference rooms offer flexible presentation options to help keep participants connected and engaged. Ideally, both in-person and virtual attendees should feel like their needs and experience are being prioritized and delivered on.
● Well-designed, flexible spaces that are easy to maximize. Because you can book smart conference rooms in advance, it’s easier to plan a great conference and prevent conflicts. Based on the number of in-person and virtual attendees you’re expecting, you can prepare the “room” to be accessible and engaging for everyone. And whether the conference is primarily a presentation or lecture (something like a TED Talk) or more of a working session, you can tailor the space and technology to those unique needs.
● Meeting recordings and resource downloads. In smart conference rooms, you can typically record sessions with a single click. These can then be posted online or otherwise made available to participants as well as those who were perhaps interested but unable to attend.
● A wide range of technologies. While each of these items is available as a standalone service you can leverage to enhance your conference or event, with smart conference rooms a number of technological tools come as standard inclusions. These include video conferencing equipment for the conference room, like:
○ General video conference software (like Zoom Meetings or Google Meet) that connects in-person and virtual participants in a shared environment.
○ Web cameras, including conference cameras that can capture and broadcast the in-person elements and activities in a way that unites participants across a consistent and shared experience
○ Smart whiteboards, which offer presentation tools including interactivity with a digital stylus (to annotate slides in a presentation, for example). In addition to internet connectivity and peripherals like a stylus, smart whiteboards can play different types of media as well, which can liven up any presentation.
○ Smart sensors that enable greater insight into—and control over—how resources, tools, and spaces are best-used throughout the conference. For example, some will have occupancy detectors. By simply noting how many participants are in a given space at a specific time, these sensors can automatically turn conference room lights on or off as needed.
○ Intelligent scheduling to eliminate double-bookings or other logistical conflicts.
Can an Office Conference Room Be Good Enough?
Yes, it’s always wise to work within your budget. And that might mean not immediately investing in a “smart” conference room with all the bells and whistles from wall to wall. Often, you can upgrade (or retrofit) an existing conference room with the best conference room equipment you can afford—prioritized in order of necessity and immediate ROI. You might be amazed at how something as simple as adding modern video conferencing equipment and accessories to the mix can transform the entire space.
How Do I Set Up an Office Conference Room for the Best Experience?
What’s it take to create the perfect conference room for your business? You could start with our recommended conference room setup checklist! It includes three steps, which we’ll describe next.
1. Consider Your Needs, and Find the Right Space.
Designing and investing in smart conference rooms might feel overwhelming at first, but it really represents an opportunity to build exactly what you want. Consider not just your immediate or short-term needs—one specific upcoming conference, for example—but long-term needs and future versatility as well.
At SMARTdesks, we’re happy to help with the ideation and planning stages. In fact, we offer free design consultations. Contact us to request a design consultation today.
2. Start with the Right Conference Table.
Often serving as the literal center of attention, the right conference table can make or break the experience. When evaluating different sizes and types of conference table, you’ll need to find a practical middle ground between accommodating as many participants as possible without absolutely crowding the room and creating a poor environment for productive collaboration.
We offer a number of product lines to meet your conference table needs.
Our Piatto conference tables can be custom-configured to accommodate anywhere from 6 to 30 users with easy integration of computer, laptop, audiovisual, and mobile device usage, helping to ensure secure and reliable access throughout any conference or related event. These tables also come with multiple monitor mount options including flipIt® monitor mounts, as well as keyboard shelves or trays, monitor supports, power and data units, compatible seating, and more.
● The Piano Solo conference table can be outfitted with flipIT monitor mounts or laptop safes for each participant, as well as accessories like keyboard trays, power and data units, power strips, and several different seating options.
● The Piano Duet conference table offers similar customization and accessory options as the Piano Solo line, but with the ability to accommodate double the participants.
Our Boost Collaborative Conference Table offers adaptability suited for small meeting spaces or as a component of an open-plan type conference or learning space. Customize it with a flipIT Lift Motorless Monitor Lift for added versatility.
3. Outfit the Room with Essential Conference Room Accessories.
What else does your conference room need? SMARTdesks’s offerings extend beyond personal workstations and technologically-advanced conference tables. As you visualize your ideal conference setting and round out your conference room equipment list, we can help you with office and conferencing accessories like:
● Dynamic lighting solutions including task lighting and podium/lectern lights.
● Casegoods and storage, to accommodate presentation hardware and provide movable storage solutions.
Unlock a Better Conference Room Experience
By outfitting your conference room with SMARTdesks’ conference room furniture and accessories, you can provide a more engaging and accessible experience for organizers and attendees. We’ve worked with companies all across the country to help them discover and prioritize their unique needs and tailor-build reliable, scalable solutions.
Browse our full line of products for inspiration, or reach out to us to set up your free design consultation!