The Visualist Blog

The Personalization of the Meeting Room

I’m fresh back from another trip to the ISE conference in Amsterdam and full of new ideas related to the important (but new) topic of ‘Bring your own Meeting’ (BYOM).  Sure, it’s a pretty dry sounding topic – and the last thing technology needs is another acronym. But, for me, this is probably one of bigger workplace trends that will play out over the next five years.  It was discussed in our breakout cocktail reception, over dinner in the backstreets of Amsterdam, and I had both end-users and technology resellers ask me about it several times at speaking events.

So what is it?  It’s certainly not simply using your laptop in a meeting room –  you could always plug a USB camera and HDMI cable into your laptop – and while a few companies at the conference seem to define it this way, that’s far too narrow of a definition.  In fact, it’s a much deeper – and more exciting – trend that will change the way we think about our workplace infrastructure.

I define BYOM as the concept that our personal technology should seamlessly integrate with our workplace infrastructure when it comes time to work with our colleagues – on demand, and at any time.  A broad vision of BYOM envisions your personal sphere of content, favorite applications, devices, and preferences that moves throughout the infrastructure with you, and when it intersects with the workplace – displays, video conferencing systems, signage, IoT devices – the two spheres work together seamlessly for a better experience.  It creates the best of both worlds. I get to use the devices I am familiar with, my own laptop – for example – is organized in a careful way that simply makes me more efficient; and, when it comes into contact with the infrastructure, I get additional value – like a big shared display, comfy seating, and a video conferencing system. I know that sounds aspirational to some people – especially if you’re used to thinking about traditional closed “room systems” – but it’s actually quite practical and we’re already headed toward this vision.  Let’s take a couple specific examples.

The Personalization of the Meeting Room

A great example of BYOM that I’ve seen in the wild is a sophisticated wayfinding infrastructure at a large pharmaceutical company.  Screens throughout this enterprise display digital signage, but as a user approaches, an app on their device alerts the display via Bluetooth.  Based on your upcoming meetings, the screen transitions to show the user a map that highlights the room where your next meeting will take place.  Now that’s cool – and a perfect example of how my schedule should be intersected with the infrastructure to give me real value – BYOM. 

Another example, from the “Smart Building” space, was shared with me as a concept when I was visiting a social media company.  The problem they had was that many of their users (especially millennials) loved to use their own phones, and ignored the fairly expensive VoIP phone infrastructure in their meeting rooms.  How to leverage that investment for better audio quality?

The solution is pretty cool.

The room recognizes when a user is in the room and a call is incoming. Using software on the phone, a prompt asks that user, “Should I forward the call to the room you’re in?”  Without having to touch a new user interface or modify their mobile-focused behavior, those users simply get the call forwarded and carried on the correct infrastructure. This is a pretty cool demonstration of what happens when you integrate – and not ignore – the user’s preference for their own technology ecosystem.

So why all the discussion at ISE on these topics?  Well, my own company, Mersive, recently introduced a BYOM solution focused on video conferencing.  Just like the examples above, we allow a laptop to enter a video-enabled room and, based on the upcoming meetings on the calendar, the room itself may ask the laptop to launch the correct video software (Teams, Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.), then pass the room camera/audio to the laptop, and finally stream the laptop display to the room screen.  This is an example of how your personal space can come into contact with an intelligent piece of the infrastructure and make something interesting happen. The user gets a simple experience using the tools they love, and the room automatically provides what it should – high-quality cameras/audio and a nice display to see your remote participants. 

Hopefully, my readers don’t think this is a self-serving definition of BYOM.  I really do think that if you work in the enterprise technology space it’s important to begin thinking about how your products, services, and meeting space design may change based on these trends.  I know end-users are excited by it, and, in the end – end-users get what they want, eventually – a one-touch experience that allows them to be free to use what they want and leverage the workplace infrastructure when it makes sense.

I’ll end with a recap of a discussion I had with a technology manager from a large AV integrator over a beer.  She was pointing out the challenges to support a clean user experience when users are free to “do whatever they want” in a room and, at the same time, lamenting the death of high-end dedicated video rooms (after all, they provided a lot of revenue to the AV/IT integrators over the past several decades). 

Here is what I told her.

Those high-end room systems were designed precisely to create a one-touch simple experience where users couldn’t get themselves into trouble. It’s a super important goal – but the world has changed – and we can achieve that goal without the dedicated hardware, single-use-case, vendor locked approach that we needed in the 90s and 2000s.  Today, by focusing on BYOM, we can deliver that experience right at the intersection of the users’ toolsets and the room infrastructure and I’d argue the result is an even better user experience than the touch panel “meeting start” approach.

Finally, when it comes to “losing” high-end dedicated video rooms, there weren’t that many of those rooms deployed in the first place – and with BYOM cost savings, shouldn’t every room be equipped with a camera/audio just in case?  I think so – and the savvy AV integrator will see that working on systems that support these use models will pay huge benefits in the end.

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