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Blueprint for Success in Corporate Boardrooms

The tony corporate boardroom is a well-trod market for AV integrators, but not the most hospitable one. Some rooms are older than the oldest board members, barely wired for speakerphone, let alone stereo surround sound and high-definition plasmas. Others, the new rooms, are so image-conscious they're built without regard for the way AV and architecture must play nicely together.

Looking Good on Screen

At board meetings, people expect to hook up their laptops for power, VGA, and network connectivity. Keep the connection points within a reasonable distance and make it so they disappear.

At board meetings, people expect to hook up their laptops for power, VGA, and network connectivity. Keep the connection points within a reasonable distance and make it so they disappear.

Credit: Julie Solomon, CCS Presentation Systems

Still, the seasoned AV designer can create a boardroom experience to suit the client's needs, whether the room is already built or will be soon.

Room size dictates display choice, Tarry says. Small- to medium-size rooms might get by with an LCD monitor, but larger rooms need projection. Front projection is the most affordable but might not suit room conditions or the image the company wants to present. "The highest-end boardrooms typically end up with a rear-projection environment," he says.

Screen size, placement, and type are crucial in boardroom design, because the rectangular or oblong shape of the typical conference table ruins some viewing angles, and adding individual or shared monitors is usually not feasible for aesthetic and practical reasons, Cape says.

Videoconferencing adds its own concerns about camera sight lines. Cape says designers and integrators should discuss the issue with clients, perhaps recommending non-traditional table shapes, such as trapezoids.

Screen content is typically a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation delivered from a computer connected at a podium, if there is one, or to a data port located in the table or on a wall near the seat of the chairman or an executive assistant.

Switching hardware is needed in the closet to allow switching among content sources–most often PCs and videoconferencing systems–and usually transmitting it to the room's single display, though increasingly one that shows multiple windows, Tarry says.

"That's the chassis of the car," he says. "It better be pretty solid to last for the next 10 years." The equipment rack isn't always in a closet or even in credenzas like at Intuit; Tarry knows of one at Microsoft that is built into the pedestal of a boardroom table. "The location of that head-end equipment tends to be fairly irrelevant," he says.

As the palette of content sources broadens, the system must accommodate its variety, Tarry says, much of which comes increasingly from an Internet-connected PC. "We typically say, 'Put a PC in the room; the PC is your window to the world.'?" The computer typically goes in the closet, and users in the room control it through a wireless keyboard and mouse or, sometimes, an interactive display device such as the Smart Board from Smart Technologies.

Nonetheless, permanent interactive PCs aren't common in boardrooms, even if notebook PCs running the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation are. "A boardroom, in itself, tends not to be so much about interaction," Tarry says, "but more about presentation."

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