Every Microsoft Office 365 license includes the Teams application at no charge, supporting live and archived “anytime chat,” meetings, presentations, and file sharing – all the ingredients for collaboration on demand.
Thus, as offices reopen, many companies are considering or commissioning their first or additional Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTRs) as a means of further leveraging Teams for ongoing collaboration. A Microsoft Teams Room System enables users to enter the room and seamlessly begin or continue live and archived interaction with colleagues in the same building, or across the world, that can evolve, with everything documented in one place, over time.
This combination of audio and video equipment includes at least one high-definition camera, microphones, and speakers, all connected to a small computer that runs the Teams application. This post covers:
- Factors in selecting a system
- Finding a certified manufacturer
- Post-sale support
How Things Get Done
Imagine that you have a brilliant idea to help your firm.
Your idea shouldn’t have to wait until you can gather your colleagues in one place at the same time. Nor should it get lost in an email chain.
With an MTR system, you can walk into a room, and immediately start stress-testing your plan with a standing workgroup, or a team that you assemble on the fly, wherever they are and whenever their workday begins. If not everyone is online when you have your brainstorm, they can jump in as their schedule permits, while able to see and comment on the entire text discussion, archived video, the online chat during a live presentation, the file you uploaded, and your colleagues’ edits. Automated multilingual transcription solutions are also available.
Selecting the Equipment
All-in-One vs. Modular
Every full-featured MTR system has a touch panel displaying the Microsoft Teams interface. This gives a consistent experience whether participants join from a smartphone, laptop, or browser.
Second, every MTR system includes a video conferencing camera.
Many MTRs come as a single unit, known as a “bar,” that includes a camera, speaker, and microphones. This all-in-one system makes for a clean look above or below your display.
However, a more modular set-up provides greater flexibility than a bar. Modular systems can connect to higher-quality speakers, microphones, and multiple displays and cameras. Most of the certified MTR manufacturers below offer both modular and bar systems.
Defining the Purpose
Your MTR may focus on one of two uses: a room for presentations, or a collaboration space. Or, it can be a solid investment to accommodate both, especially given limited rooms.
Presentation-friendly MTRs usually offer traditional table seating, along with fixed room acoustics. In addition, the room layout should include a display on one end of the room that is optimized for content sharing.
Increasingly, meetings are placing emphasis on brainstorming, inking, and whiteboarding. In these less scripted meetings, often multiple people will share content and access personal files.
To focus attention, often a virtual whiteboard is used; the Microsoft Surface Hub 2 is a great option. In fact, the newest Microsoft Teams application allows an MTR and Microsoft Surface Hub to work together.
A productive meeting requires uninterrupted audio and adequate speaker amplification.
That’s why it’s important, with either tabletop or ceiling microphones, to have the correct microphone coverage and placement for your meeting space.
To ensure ample sound, make sure to account for the conference room guest farthest from the speakers, and for normal working conditions such as hall noise or machines in the vicinity.
Facial expressions, body language, and gestures are important to understanding and engagement. Especially in cross-cultural environments, words cannot always convey the full message.
Thus, each participant should have video enabled throughout the meeting. And though remote participants may be using personal devices, having a generously-sized display in the conference room helps ensure key non-verbal cues are visible. When speakers can see remote reactions, they can better adjust their presentation to the audience.
The in-room office camera and angle are also important. Most MTR cameras have Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) control. “Digital optics” also ensure that everyone in the room is captured and can be highlighted as a key participant as needed.
Lastly, a solution that includes “camera tracking” helps to keep the focus on the speaker, and thus meetings on track.
Recent research estimates that 82% of participants either share files or their entire screen during a typical meeting.
Laptop users can share content easily from the Teams app, while MTR equipment manufacturers support AirPlay (Apple’s wireless sharing protocol) and/or Miracast (built into Windows OS) for “casting” content.
As of May 2022, there are 11 hardware manufacturers deemed compatible with the MTR standards and officially certified to run meetings. These standards include:
- A high-definition camera
- 16-ft microphone pick-up range
- Speakers to amplify audio at a minimum of 30db
Certified manufacturers must also have minimum CPU requirements, including:
- 8GB RAM
- Intel Core i5 Processor
- 128 GB hard drive space
Currently, the Microsoft Teams Rooms application can run on the Windows 10, 11, and Android operating systems.
Each manufacturer below offers bundled solutions that have passed Microsoft’s testing process, with devices that are designed to run continuously. They also support back-to-back meetings with high user interaction, constant video processing, and HD content.
Microsoft’s Teams Rooms Managed Services and/or Yorktel’s Managed Services can reduce the burden on IT, with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for efficient room operations and contracted uptime.
Microsoft’s Managed Services includes Window Defender for Endpoints, as well as automated investigation and repair of potentially compromised assets. Thus, it can be a great addition to a self-managed platform.
However, mixed technology environments, such as legacy boardrooms, training rooms, multi-purpose, or divisible rooms with extensive audiovisual equipment— will need a more holistic approach to Day 2 support and room management.
Yorktel’s Managed Service includes 24/7 onsite coverage and next-day parts replacement. It can also be combined with Microsoft’s Teams Room Managed Service, for the best of both worlds.
Getting Up & Running
MTR Room systems can add great value to your Office 365/Microsoft Teams investment, providing every team member with a familiar interface, and an easily-accessible hub for consuming content and active collaboration.
For professional assistance with designing, selecting, deploying, and managing your Microsoft Teams Room system, speak with an expert.