It’s funny how meeting rooms are some of the last places you’ll find technology in the office. Sure, you’ll find the latest technology in the offices themselves. And, yes, every executive-level employee in the company will have a Blackberry, a slick, quick little laptop, and an office with {satellite tv}. But, in most companies, the boardroom is a technology-free island. Most conference rooms consist of a table, some chairs, overhead lights, and maybe a whiteboard. But meeting rooms are changing as technology moves forward… and no area of business will be left behind.

How many meetings have you attended where there was a scrabbling for the lights at the beginning and end of a presentation? One new addition to the meeting room technology market is interactive room-control systems. A room control system will let you control most of the electronic equipment in the conference room from a single centralized location. A room control system ends all that scrabbling to switch on the lights, complaints that the thermostat needs to be turned down, and questions about who is closest to the projector (and who knows where the button is to turn it on).

Another more basic addition to technology in meeting rooms is a dedicated computer. This is especially convenient for those that tend to spend a lot of time presiding over meetings. Instead of having to unplug and haul a laptop into the conference room (or, worse, calling the tech people to set one up in there for you), all you need to do is bring a CD of your presentation, or access the presentation via the web. This makes setting up for meetings quick and painless, and also helps with {video conferencing}, as everything is already in its place.

With the price of travel ever-increasing, {video conferencing} is becoming more and more important, especially in larger companies with nationwide (or world-wide) offices. While the old-fashioned teleconference still has its place in a meeting, and probably always will, the ability to see and speak naturally to your coworkers or clients can be invaluable. When you can meet a person’s eyes and read their body language, communication is quicker and more consistent; a one-sided telephone lecture becomes, instead, a shared meeting. This is easy to accomplish with a good {video conferencing} system. With decent bandwidth and a quality internet connection, {video conferencing} is just as simple as a telephone call, especially if the meeting room is equipped with its own computer.

Another standard in {audio visual systems} for meeting rooms is a digital projector. For those that tend to use PowerPoint presentations as a meeting tool, a projector is an absolute necessity. A digital projector will display any computer application onto a board or white screen (or even a light-colored wall), helping you to share information, presentations, even digital films or {satellite tv}. While digital projectors used to be prohibitively expensive, especially for smaller companies, their price is falling as technology improves, making them an easily obtainable addition to the meeting {audio visual system} of any company.

After a digital projector, the next step in meeting room technology is the electronic whiteboard. The standard dry erase board has been a meeting room standard for years. But it has limitations which really show when compared to some of the technology available today. For one, everything written on a dry erase board is temporary, and must be erased in order to leave room to write more. This means that, if the discussion notes will have to be referred to later, somebody will have to be assigned to take notes off the board. But this old-fashioned practice is a thing of the past. Electronic whiteboards eliminate the need to take notes by hand, as all that is written on their surface can be printed (as with Copyboards), saved as digital information (as with Peripheral boards), or even be sorted, grouped, and interacted with (Interactive Whiteboards).

A new version of the electronic white board is the PDP, or Plasma Display Panel. A plasma display panel is basically a huge, but much slimmer, flat-screen television or computer monitor. PDPs are generally 42” to 50”, and have a very clear, bright screen, making them great for video conferencing. Since PDPs are a relatively new addition to the {audio visual systems} market, they’re also very expensive, ranging from about $8,000 to $20,000. For around $4,000 more, companies can invest in an interactive overlay for the PDP. This is a relatively small investment when compared to the price of the PDP and when considering the many practical uses of a PDP with an interactive overlay. An interactive overlay will add touch sensibility and annotation abilities, allowing you to use your PDP just like an interactive whiteboard.

In the end, knowing what kind of meeting room technology you need for your company is just a matter of surveying your needs. Do you often hold important meetings with associates across the country? Do you find that most of the notes taken at meetings are incomplete or incoherent, or you don’t have anyone to take them? Then some of the options discussed here may be for you. It’s just as easy to have too much technology in the conference room as it is to have too little, so be sure not to spend more than you need. The technology you choose should make meetings run more smoothly, not slow them down while attendees spend all their time figuring out how to use these new tools.

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