First impressions count. Strangers form lasting opinions in the first seven seconds they meet. The same holds for your conference room. Clients, customers, partners and employees. They’re all influenced – positively or negatively – by your conference room’s design, layout, furnishings and more. Visible tech makes a strong initial impact. (Is it aging or up-to-date? Oversized or sleek?)

Beyond how your conference room looks, if your conference room tech lets you down when you get down to business it can seriously derail productivity and potential. Both form and function are key to maintaining a conference room that does more than provide a place to meet.

A well-equipped, well-functioning conference room helps:

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Connect Remote Participants

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Connection is critical. For one thing, more workers are in the office less often. Flexible work arrangements are at an all-time high. Work-from-home time grew 103% between 2005 and 2015. And some experts predict that half the workforce will telecommute by 2027. Beyond support for road warriors, video conferencing reduces costs, expedites decision making and boosts productivity. Fortunately, reliable cloud-based video conferencing makes it easy to convene effective video meetings from your conference room.

Appeal to Top Talent

With a talent shortage expected to last at least through 2021, this one’s a biggie too. Details like compelling design and current tech impress job-hunters with options. Tech-savvy millennials are unlikely to settle for a company with outdated tech doesn’t support their collaborative work style. That’s important, given that millennials are the largest generation in the workplace. And they’ll account for 40% of all workers by 2020.
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Boost Productivity

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Nearly two-thirds of companies use video conferencing daily. Yet setting up those calls eats up around 15% of the time in an average meeting. Background noise and video quality interrupt so often that they result in about $34 billion of lost time value every year. With between 36 and 56 million meetings per day, ineffective meetings cost the US economy between $70 to $283 billion annually.

10 Ways to Improve Your Conference Room

Think it’s time to step up your conference room’s game? If your meeting space doesn’t have the right appeal, consider ways to upgrade your conference room. Here’s a roundup of 10 overlooked ways to improve your conference room and help it rise to its potential.
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#1 Step Up Your Sound

A picture may be worth a thousand words. But a conference room meeting without strong sound can be utterly unproductive. Unfortunately, the plague of poor audio is surprisingly widespread. In the US, 67% of workers say background noise interrupts their meetings at least some of the time.
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Forty percent say audio quality issues occur frequently. Having taken a back seat to advances in video and collaboration tech, audio is making a comeback. 28% of US AV hardware budgets for large meeting rooms are being invested in audio. And demand is up for pro-grade speakers and microphones.
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#2 Reduce Reverberation

Let’s say your conference room display speakers are top notch. And you’ve invested in pro mics and speakers. Even so, the room itself may be sabotaging your sound. Conference room acoustics play a big part in whether participants can clearly hear one another. The culprit is reverberation time (RT), the time it takes for sound to fade in a closed space. Absorbent surfaces quickly squash sound.

In rooms with lots of reflective surfaces, sound lingers longer. Modern conference rooms with glass walls, hard ceilings and large displays are susceptible to high levels of RT. Sounds bounces back and forth between these surfaces. This often results in muddled-sounding speech for those on the receiving end of a call or video conference. Participants in the room can also find it difficult to clearly hear one another. Room acoustics also impact privacy. Sound leakage is a common problem that can reveal conference room conversations to those beyond the closed doors.

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Adding sound-absorbing materials is a surefire way to reduce reverb and increase sound clarity. An impressive array of attractive options let you customize the look, from subtle to sizzling. Beautifully printed sound panels even pass for artwork – including prints, photography, graphics and logos. Tackle sound leakage with sound masking tech positioned around conference rooms. Often referred to as white noise machines, these devices are discreet and inexpensive to deploy.

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#3 Get Smart

Smart film is poised to revolutionize conference room design. Also known as “switchable film,” this tech has come a long way lately, with formulations that can be easily retrofit onto existing surfaces. Glassed-in meeting rooms create a distinctive aesthetic and keep spaces open and airy. Smart film keeps the look minimalist and modern, while enabling on-demand privacy by becoming opaque with the flip of a switch. On windows, smart film filters UV rays and makes it easy to block out glare.

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#4 Get Comfortable

Go beyond good looks and great tech. Conference room guests need to be comfortable to be truly impressed – and truly productive. Comfort promotes productivity. Discomfort distracts and derails thinking and creative energy. Annoying fans, flickering lights and wobbly tables top the list of irritants. Overcrowding is another source of discomfort. Attention to detail is key to maximizing conference room comfort.

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Make a list of discomforts and distractions and check it regularly. Provide adequate seating and enough table space for personal comfort. Allow ample room for attendees to stand up and move around during lengthy meetings and to facilitate breakouts.

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#5 Stand Up

Comfort is one thing. Design for health and well-being goes deeper. It’s a growing trend backed by ample evidence and proven productivity impacts. Forward-thinking companies are incorporating it into their conference room design. Standing-height conference tables build on the popularity of sit-stand desks and address the health hazards of prolonged sitting. Beyond the health boost, studies show that standing meetings can improve focus, collaboration and creativity.

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Because not everyone can (or wants to) stand for an entire meeting, bar-height chairs, stools and “standing supports” complete the package. Another hot health-minded design trend is bringing the outdoors in, with natural light, plant walls and other natural elements have been shown to improve health and productivity.

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#6 Make a Statement

Just make sure it’s your statement. Think of your conference room as an extension of your brand. Integrated marketing is all about creating a unified and seamless experience when interacting with your brand – and that includes your conference room.

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Consult with your marketing team about incorporating branding elements like colors, logos and brand personality into your conference room design. Some choices may be obvious, like sticking with a corporate color palette. Others may be subtler, like extending your company’s personality through a quirky or formal design.

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#7 Integrate

Your conference room technology facilitates seeing, hearing and collaborating efficiently. Integrating that tech into the room design kicks things up a notch. It’s a trend that’s going gangbusters. A chief concern is concealing the masses of wires that accompany tech.

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#8 Be Agnostic

Device-agnostic that is. The last thing you want is for your conference room tech to derail meetings. For the ultimate in ease, the pieces all need to play nicely together. Whether you’re doing a complete ground-up install or want to upgrade your conference room as budget allows, choosing components that work well together is key.

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#9 Go Wireless

This one is essential to creating a top-notch conference room. Relying on cables to connect presenters to your display is becoming beyond old school. For one thing, it saps loads of valuable meeting time. For another, today’s wide range of connectivity options makes it nearly impossible to accommodate every need. Wireless presentation solutions save time and facilitate an easy flow of information. Good solutions allow multiple users to share content from any device. The best solutions enable content cast-in from around the globe, plus annotation capabilities.

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#10 Interact with Impact

The days of conference room display tech simply showing a picture are fading fast. So too have static whiteboards gone the way of the dinosaurs. In their place, sophisticated collaboration displays have evolved to deliver an array of digital and analog collaboration tools in a single platform. At their best, collaboration displays deliver a productivity-boosting (and impressive) triple play: video conferencing, wireless presentation and collaborative whiteboarding.

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Brighter and clearer than projectors, these displays let you keep the blinds open and lights on. This enables easy note-taking and collaboration-boosting eye-contact. Built-in web browsers make it easy to access virtually any content. Integrated annotation tools let presenters write atop content.

Content-sharing apps let guests cast onto the display for easy, group-wide participation. All of which are huge improvements over the days of dark rooms and static projected PowerPoints. Want your conference room to rise to its true potential for impressing, connecting, collaborating and creating? This tool is a must-have.

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(From the editor: This article was originally published on ViewSonic Library.)