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Why a Huddle Room Will Make Your Next Conference Call Productive

by Jackie Davis

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Government Technology Insider and leverages insights from Brian Phillips, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Group Collaboration Solutions for Poly regarding the use of huddles in place of traditional meeting formats. The webinar referenced in this article shared essential factors to consider when selecting a conferencing system to accommodate huddles within an organization.

In academia long, planning-based meetings are inevitable but are they truly productive for today’s educators? Industry experts are quick to point out that standard, scheduled meetings aren’t always useful in bolstering productivity. That’s where huddles come into play.

A Harvard Business Review survey reported that 71% of senior managers found that traditional meetings are unproductive, 65% said meetings prevent them from completing work, and 62% said they don’t actually bring teams together. To make meetings more productive and combat these widely-held criticisms of traditional meeting formats, innovative organizations are implementing huddles. A huddle is a group of 3-6 people, holding a short, often ad hoc meeting around a highly-focused issue.

Watch the Webinar Here

But are the rooms and the tools we currently use the right ones for facilitating this new style of collaboration?

In a recent webinar, Brian Phillips of Poly explained that huddle rooms – dedicated spaces for this form of off-the-cuff gathering – are not only a response to the traditional conference room, which is larger and less conducive to these kinds of efficient meetings; they are also a reaction to open office layouts. With dozens (or hundreds) of employees sitting side by side, holding a group meeting involving a video chat at one person’s workspace impacts both the “huddlers” and the rest of the employees. “Sometimes, you need to have that private conversation,” he said, adding, “It’s really key that there’s technology in those to make sure users are productive.”

With more than 33 million huddle rooms worldwide today, according to Frost & Sullivan, fewer than 3% have video capabilities built-in; users bring their laptops when video conferencing is need. Yet, Frost & Sullivant reports, over 18% of meetings make use of video, a number they predict will grow to 73% by 2023. Needless to say, this huge expected growth has led to myriad video conferencing devices from dozens of vendors, which makes choosing the right device a confusing maze of brands, specifications and hype.

Phillips broke down the three essential factors that should be considered when selecting a video conferencing system for a growing number of huddle rooms within an organization:

  • Scalability
  • Quality of audio and video
  • Cost-effectiveness

Looking at each element in turn, Phillips explained that scalability is a concern when deploying video conferencing solutions by the dozens or hundreds, often in multiple offices across the country or globally. Therefore, the ease of installation and setup as well as ongoing management and support are crucial to avoid an IT nightmare. He suggested looking at whether or not the hardware is truly plug-and-play, using standards like USB and HDMI to connect to a PC and monitor, so that expertise isn’t needed to get started. Also, he said to look at whether the system allows remote management of IP configuration, software updates, logging and device status.

Audio and video quality is, of course, subjective. But Phillips explained that the A/V needs for a huddle room differ from the traditional conference room, which is much larger and holds more people. In those situations, the equipment needs to capture everyone in the room, which is usually set up with a long, rectangular table facing lengthwise to the camera. A huddle room is a much smaller, sometimes oddly shaped space where people may be spread out more widely, so the system needs to see and hear everyone.

Also, in a huddle, you may want to focus the video on a particular speaker, he said, so being able to zoom in automatically can help remote attendees stay engaged. Also, audio clarity is, of course important, but huddle rooms are frequently subject to office noise and traffic, so Phillips recommends looking for a system that can reduce or eliminate outside sounds.

Finally, cost is obviously a concern, whether you’re deploying a handful or hundreds of systems. Phillips said cost-effectiveness is a combination of price and the elements mentioned earlier, included ease of setup and use, manageability and scalability and quality.

To that point, consider this statistic: online meeting scheduler Doodle reports that useless meetings (poorly organized and lacking clear objectives) will cost U.S. businesses $399 billion in 2019 alone. Huddle rooms may be the practical response to that number, potentially driving greater effectiveness and more positive outcomes, including greater job satisfaction.

Click here to watch the webinar.

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