Sept. 29, 2022 - We have all been on the "far end" of a bad hybrid meeting experience.
Some examples you're likely familiar with:
Imagine you are working remotely and asked to join a high-profile meeting at the last minute. There's no way for you to travel to the meeting in time. As an important decision-maker on the team, you need to be able to participate, so you join via video conferencing.
You log into the meeting and immediately see 20-plus people seated around the room in a hollow square. Not only is it hard to see everyone in the large room, but the person who gives the report on the emergency that prompted the meeting is seated with their back to the camera. You can't see their face as they present the crucial information, preventing you from receiving the full communication.
Now, imagine you're part of a hybrid team collaborating on a new product launch. You join a meeting remotely, and several of your coworkers are at HQ, gathered around a conference table. After the initial greetings and small talk, a presenter shares their content — perhaps an agenda, a PowerPoint slide, the first cut of a new corporate video — and that dominates the screen.
Your view of your in-office coworkers is now reduced to a small box on the display, and a dozen of them occupy the same space as your remote colleagues. They're nearly impossible to see clearly — they're tiny, their facial expressions and gestures nearly unreadable, including the person leading the presentation from their seat.
One more: Imagine your company is doing its annual sales kick-off, but you are stuck at a customer's site. You know you'd learn a lot from engaging with your company leaders and co-workers, so you join the Q&A session remotely. The camera is focused on the sales leader at the front of the room.
During the session, someone in the audience asks an important question. You can't see who asked the question. You then chime in, and the sales leader directs it to the CEO in the audience — but you can't see them either. You just see the sales leader listening.
Where an employee works should not compromise their experience. Simply put, the single-camera remote experience of hybrid meetings held in traditional meeting spaces needs improvement. Whether the situation calls for learning, catching up, or brainstorming, every one of those crucial workplace tasks is enhanced by a more equitable, engaging remote video experience created with a multi-camera experience.
Increase Remote Participant Engagement with Dynamic Video
A static wide shot of the room disengages viewers because it's not stimulating visually. The participants' non-verbal cues in the room are lost to the remote worker: The images of the in-person attendees are too small, and the lack of alternating perspectives doesn't reflect the natural way people engage with a space full of people. In a traditional in-person meeting, people can shift their focus around the room based on who is talking.
Cutting cleanly between shots that show the person speaking breaks up the monotony of the static experience. Through alternating perspectives, the viewer is less likely to grow bored.
"They're able to see exactly what they need to focus on — they can see those nonverbal cues," says Cara Shannon, a senior product marketing manager at Crestron. "It gives the people on the far end more of an immersive experience, so they're able to feel like they're a part of the meeting, not just kind of viewing it from afar — like a fly on the wall."
With the Automate VX solution, primary and secondary cameras for the positions in the room allow for clean cuts between speakers. The first camera remains live on the first active speaker, the second camera moves to the position for the next speaker, and then the system switches to the second camera.
The panning, tilting, and zooming of the camera are absent from the video, providing a higher quality viewing experience for the remote participant.
Multiple cameras also allow for more than one view of the room to be shown at once. This could be a presenter and the person asking a question, a wide view of the room alongside the active speaker, or any other perspective that enhances the remote participant's ability to fully collaborate with the in-room participants.
Use More Types of Rooms for Video Conferencing
One can create a space that goes beyond the traditional video conference room by facing cameras in multiple directions. This enables the remote viewer to be more immersed in meetings held in training rooms, large multi-purpose rooms, "hollow-square meetings," and other rooms where people might be looking in different directions. A presenter-tracking camera can capture a lecturer who is facing the audience, and other cameras in the room can capture the audience. In circular or square table setups, participants in the room can interact naturally and be captured from multiple viewing points in the room, ensuring that the remote viewers can see them head-on.
"One of the great things about a solution like this is that room layout doesn't matter," says Shannon. From a traditional rectangular boardroom table to a round meeting desk to the seating arrangements one might find in a company lunchroom, with some larger tables, some single seats, and some "two-tops," the Automate VX solution can be customized to fit the bill. "The technology is designed to conform to the people using that room — in whatever manner they're using it — not the other way around," says Shannon.
The collaborative experience for the in-person participants is also improved because the Automate VX solution automates the switching. "In the physical space, there's no need to move cameras around for different meeting layouts; there's no need for a manual switching system," she continues. "Once you get beyond about a 30-foot-long room, it used to be you'd need either some sort of manual camera operation, and that really takes the experience out of the room. Placing the cameras where people are looking naturally allows them not to have to worry about where they need to look or concern themselves with the technology in the room." The meeting can proceed as it would for the in-person attendees with minimal distraction.
The dynamic switching of shots, the ability to capture people who are looking in different directions, and the means to show more than one perspective at a time allow the system to deliver the kind of production values one would associate with a network or cable telecast without the switchers and camera operators needed for such a production — and can bring those production values to an interactive, collaborative meeting.
The result is a better remote user experience that is as dynamic and engaging as sitting in a meeting room —without actually being there. It's yet another way to make the workplace seem less digital, and more human.