Turn any room into a conference room – part 2

In my previous post about turning any room into a conference room I spoke about the Jabra Speak 510 for PC to cover the audio side of things.

Most of the time in group calls we find ourselves using audio only. The problem is that in an audio-only conference many people will revert to doing their own work such as reading emails, instant messaging, or whatever else. It’s not like a normal meeting where you look across the table at the other person and can see that you have their attention.

I must admit that I am guilty of this myself from time to time, and so to ensure that I am focusing on the conversation I will often enable my video. This is not always reciprocated however I try to do it as much as possible out of respect for the person on the other end.

While it’s handy that most tablet & notebook devices have a camera built into them, the reality is that they are often not in the position you want them to be for a video call. Which means you are often left looking up at someone’s chin while they talk, or they must strain their neck to be looking down at the device. If you happen to be sitting at a desk with external devices (eg. monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.) be it your regular desk or not – I strongly suggest putting an external webcam on top of the monitor at every desk so that you can look up and forward – and ultimately enjoy better video quality.

However, in a meeting room what should you use? The reality is that most webcams are sufficient for most meetings. Sure they don’t match a dedicated video conference rig with cameras that follow you or show you in lifesize – but those are more for comfort and ease than anything. Don’t get me wrong – I think that proper video conference rigs have their place and should be utilised in meeting rooms, however for smaller meeting rooms they can also be easily turned into conference rooms.

Just hook up something like a Microsoft LifeCam Cinema or Studio for video quality of 720p or above. Both of these cameras do a good job of following the active speaker, both work perfectly with Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync). Every Paradyne staff member is supplied one of these along with their other hardware when they start. We also have them placed at desks in our office as well as in our meeting room. Given the frequency of which we do video calls these are perfect for the task and very cost effective and only $70 and $100 RRP respectively.

While both of them have great microphones built into them I’ve found that they just aren’t enough which is why I end up using the microphone built into my headset or the Jabra Speak 510 for PC.

These pieces combined are basic building blocks of turning any room into a conference room.

Turn any room into a conference room – part 1

During my day I use Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync) quite a lot – it is our actual phone system at Paradyne so it’s something we can’t live without.

Normally I would use my Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000 headphones for most calls, however from time to time I need to either move around the room or involve others who are physically present.

Historically I have used either the microphone & speakers built into my Surface Pro 3, or if docked at the office I have a Microsoft LifeCam Cinema and external speakers. The problem with both of these setups is that as good as the microphone tries to be it still picks up a lot of background noise as well as almost requires you to talk directly at the microphone. While this isn’t always the case I’ve found more often than not people struggle to hear multiple people in the room unless they are all close and talking directly at the microphone.

Enter the Jabra Speak 510 for PC.

One of my staff suggested I get this device for our office, so at a price tag of only $150 I thought it couldn’t hurt.

In a nutshell: the quality was so clear that when I used the device the people on the remote end thought I was still using a headset.

The device is compact and comes with a carry case for easy transport – so you could easily carry it around in your device bag. It can be connected to your PC using either the integrated cable or the supplied Bluetooth dongle. Installation takes only a few seconds for drivers to load, and it charges via USB so no need to carry any additional power packs with you. The website claims a talk time of up to 15 hours which means you don’t have to worry about charging it often.

The 510 has physical buttons for easy mute, pick up, hang up, and volume control – the necessary basics. Additional benefits are that you can pair your phone to the unit and stream music as well.

Due to its compact size I will be carrying the 510 with me when I travel as well as my Bluetooth headset as between the two I have the freedom to have calls only I can hear, or include others.

In the next two blog posts I’ll cover the other two pieces I use / carry to turn any room into a conference room.