of us would refute the old adage that in business, you have to spend money to
make money. So it makes sense that if you want to hold more effective meetings,
you have to invest in them. Over the last few decades, corporations have invested
heavily in technology designed to increase individual employee efficiency. But
fewer companies have extended this investment past the desktop and into the
boardroom. Plush leather chairs and polished boardroom tables are no longer
enough to furnish a boardroom Ė meeting room tools are essential to create a
fully functional workspace.
Weíve reviewed several meeting room tools that can be used to turn your meeting
room into a highly productive collaborative environment. So read on, and decide
if you think an investment in meeting room technology would pay off for your
With the increasing reliance on computer-based presentation programs such
as Microsoft PowerPoint and the need to access up-to-date information, very
few meeting rooms can afford to ignore computers. Ideally, youíll have a networked
computer in your meeting room so that meeting participants can access their
files directly. Computer prices range tremendously, but you can pick up a decent
computer for approximately $1,000 Ė $1,500.
A data/digital projector displays your computer applications. A projector
is essential for showing presentations, spreadsheets or video clips to large
groups of people. Digital projectors (also known as LCD or DLP projectors) have
fallen dramatically in price in recent years. In-Focus, NEC, Sharp, Sony, Panasonic
and Toshiba all manufacture digital projectors, which are priced from as little
as $2,000 right through to $11,000+.
Copy boards take your traditional whiteboard one step further by
offering a means of recording your notes. The board is connected to a printer,
so any notes on the whiteboard can be printed out and distributed to participants.
Newer boards can be connected to a computer, allowing you to save notes as a
computer file. Copy boards will range in price from $1,300 to $3,000 and are
manufactured by companies such as Panasonic.
Interactive whiteboards take your whiteboard one step further again.
The board is connected to a computer and a projector, so you can actually interact
with computer-based information. Now with the information you'd have at your
desktop available to you in the meeting room, youíll never be stranded without
a crucial fact or figure. Like a copy board, an interactive whiteboard can be
used to write and save notes, but the interactivity lets you move, sort and
group your notes as well. In terms of pricing, interactive whiteboards are more
cost effective than copyboards, as you get the additional functionality for
a similar price. Interactive whiteboards range in price from $1,200 to $24,000
depending on the size and projection style (front or rear projection system).
The SMART Board and Rear Projection SMART Board interactive whiteboards
from SMART Technologies are the industry leaders in this category.
Plasma Display Panels
A plasma display panel (PDP) is a flat-panel display that offers
another alternative for viewing a computer image. A PDP is much slimmer than
a standard monitor and offers a significantly larger viewing area (42"
to 50"). The major selling point, however, is the exceptionally clear,
bright image. PDPs are still relatively new to the market and range in price
from $8,000 to $20,000. PDPs are manufactured by companies such as Pioneer,
NEC and Fujitsu.
PDP Interactive Overlay
If your organization has invested in a PDP already (or is thinking
of doing so), for less than $4,000 you can add an interactive overlay for your
panel. An overlay adds touch sensitivity and annotation capabilities to your
PDP (exactly like an interactive whiteboard). For example, SMART Board for
Plasma Displays interactive overlays from SMART Technologies is designed
to work with several popular PDPs on the market.
Conferencing equipment is essential for companies that regularly meet with people
in different geographic locations. Audio conferencing (a system of phones and
microphones) can be purchased for $250 (for a desktop model) to $1,300+ (for
a premier system). The leading audio conferencing phones are manufactured by
Polycom and Gentner.
Data conferencing lets you share text, images and data in real time. Some conferencing
packages, such as Microsoft NetMeeting software, may actually be included free
with your operating system.
Videoconferencing uses telephone or data lines to transmit audio and video.
Prices for a videoconferencing system range from $600 (for a desktop unit) to
$12,000 for a multi-site boardroom system. Leading vendors are Polycom, PictureTel,
Tandberg and VTEL.
If your office has made significant investments in multimedia equipment
such as video or DVD players, speakers, scanners, projectors, etc., you may
want to consider purchasing a multimedia cabinet to store and access your peripherals.
In many companies, multimedia equipment is under-utilized because people donít
have time to set up and configure each piece of equipment. A multimedia cabinet
comes pre-configured with the necessary wires and cables, so all you have to
do is plug it in and itís ready to go. Commercial cabinets, such as SMART Expression
mobile multimedia cabinets from SMART Technologies, range in price from $3,000
to $6,000, while a customized cabinet will cost you anywhere from $10,000+.
Room-control systems let you control a wide range of electronic equipment
(audio, video, projection, lighting, screens, blinds, security and communication)
from one central location. Prices have fallen recently, and you can now acquire
a system for under $2,000. Leading manufacturers of room-control systems are
AMX/Panja and Crestron.
So Is It Worth It?
Making the initial investment in meeting room technology can seem
like a costly endeavor. But keep in mind that an investment into more effective
meetings can have big payoffs for your company in terms of increased productivity
and more efficient group collaborations. Who isnít interested in attaining those