Imagine this: You walk into your booked boardroom, prepared for a meaningful and productive facilitation session with your team. Immediately, it gets uncomfortable. The technology you had requested isn’t working. You have people joining remotely who can’t connect. You’re looking for IT, but they’re nowhere to be found. The facilitator you’ve hired to guide you through the day is rolling with it, but it’s less than ideal. You’re sweating now.
Robin ranted about our frustrations with the terrible design of many meeting rooms in her last blog post. While some issues are out of our control, we also have some tips that can help prevent or manage some of the challenges we often face.
Fun fact: Many years ago, I used to work as an audiovisual technician, so if you are working with us, we’ll help you figure it out. We have the technical knowledge to work with our clients and ensure you have the right setup. But if you’re doing it on your own, here’s some advice.
It goes without saying, but take the time to work with your facilitator well in advance of your event to determine the best approach and agenda for your event. From there, you can work together to pick a venue and an audio-visual team who can check the boxes on your wishlist.
Here are important questions to discuss with your facilitator and your venue.
Are microphones necessary? If your event is in a well-designed meeting room meant for up to 40 people, you shouldn’t need microphones. Of course, there are plenty of poorly designed rooms (even in four-star hotels), so before your event, do a site visit.
Test the acoustics with another person. If they can’t hear you from the back of the room, talk to your venue about options for a sound system.
Are you showing a presentation? If your facilitation includes visual presentations, it’s not enough to check if the room has a mounted projector or a monitor. Give it a test run. Does it work? You’d be surprised how many high-tech rooms are in a state of disrepair.
Connect your computer and put up your presentation. Look at the image from where the participants will sit. Is the projector bright enough? Are the sight lines clear? Did you prepare your presentation so it’s easy to read? Remember to put just a few words on your slides.
Are you using digital facilitation tools? If you plan to use tools like Mural instead of traditional facilitation materials, arrange for the biggest and brightest projector you can afford. It’s critical that you have a bright, high resolution image so think twice before bringing that ancient projector from the supply closet.
Is it a hybrid meeting? Don’t underestimate how hard it can be to go hybrid with larger groups. If you need to, try to select a room that’s designed for virtual and hybrid meetings.
If nothing is available, engage an audiovisual professional to help well in advance of the event. Showing up with your laptop and webcam just won’t cut it, even for a small group.
We use a Meeting Owl. It’s an immersive hybrid meeting tool that works well for the committed DIY’er. However, they’re expensive, and they have their limits. We generally recommend using it with groups no larger than sixteen or eighteen people.
Are the remote participants properly equipped? There’s nothing more frustrating than investing in a lot of in-room equipment and then not being able to hear remote participants due to poor quality headsets. The earbuds from 2010 with a built-in microphone just don’t cut it.
Are the in-room laptops equipped? It’s equally frustrating when remote participants can’t be heard in a breakout session because the ancient, government-issued laptop doesn’t have quality speakers. Make sure your in-room laptops are up to the task.
What kinds of professional help is available? When you’re working with a new venue, ask about their technology and audio-visual capabilities. Better yet, meet with the team that will be supporting you.
Remember that AV companies can be like venues; some are fantastically helpful, but others can be mediocre and overly expensive. If you’re planning to go hybrid, plan well in advance and find the best professional help you can afford.
Whatever you do, take time to prepare. Don’t just show up and hope for the best. That never goes well, and will almost certainly result in a sweaty situation.
Parsons Dialogue is based in Calgary, Canada, serving clients across North America. We design and facilitate strategic processes that help teams collaborate with clarity and confidence.