Conferencing has long been an essential part of business life and traditionally has taken place in large meeting or conference rooms. Nowadays the trend is towards virtual meetings, whereby there is no longer a need for physical presence. There are many obvious advantages in using a conference phone for a meeting such as the savings involved with travel, but the main way in which the traditional form of business conferencing has been disrupted is that one can arrange and start a business meeting within minutes. Choosing the right conference phone can be difficult.
It is crucial, initially, to understand the prime concerns of business telephony and the ways in which its needs differ to non business oriented communications:
(i) – time is of the essence – clear, concise communications are a necessity.
(ii) – accuracy is essential in business
(iii) – often the participants have not met so impressions count
(iv) – multi person/ group discussions increase the burden on the telephony for data transmission
(v) – long, intense phone meetings are tiring and clear sound will alleviate this.
The main attributes of a conference phone are known as B.R.A.I.N and all of this need to be considered when choosing the best conference phone for your office:
Normal telephones carry a minimum bandwidth, necessary for communications, however many conference units operate over far higher ranges and frequencies – meaning clearer speech.
This is the level of echo/ sonic bounce that is present in the area in which the conference is taking place – reverberation levels are affected by surface properties of the room, furniture and the positioning of objects.
This is defined by how loud the sound levels which reach the equipment are – intelligent conferencing phones will make allowances for this and adjust levels accordingly.
Gone are the walkie talkie days of “roger” or “over” being appended to each sentence in a conversation – modern conferences take place in real time with Duplex (two way simultaneous speech) so that multiple parties can talk and listen at once ( possibly this should be kept to a minimum ).
This refers to audio interference which can be produced by a multitude of office appliances and add to the work an agile system has to do to deliver the sound quality necessary for business meetings.
As Polycom mention in their description of the BRAIN Model (referenced above) – the separate elements of the model operate in an interactive way so that an issue with one of the areas can be compensated by an improvement in another area.
How to Choose the Best Conference Phone
When choosing a conference phone it is necessary to consider the following criteria:
Size of Room
If you will be conferencing in a larger room it may be necessary to consider the addition of satellite microphones to pick up speech from all participants – many of these microphones are directional – so cutting out on background noise if pointed correctly. Some conference phones are best suited to small meeting rooms, whereas others will have the range and audio boosting technology to cope with large conference rooms.
Number of Participants
Sometimes there is a hierarchy amongst those present at a conference, for example there may be a main leader who could require a lapel microphone or at least one in close proximity. If there are just a few people in your conference room and they are all relatively close to the main unit you may not need a large unit or additional microphones.
Type of Telephone System
The sort of telephone infrastructure present will determine your choice of conference phone. Some companies will be using VoIP/ IP networks, in which case an IP Conferencing Unit such as the Polycom SoundStation IP Phones will be ideal for most situations. Alternatively you may operate over a normal Analogue PABX system, in which case there is a great variety of ‘plug and play’ conference phones available from Polycom, Mitel, Jabra, Konftel and Avaya. Some may even allow operation via Bluetooth ™ or DECT connections from satellite speakers or even mobile phones. It should be noted that, where there is a choice in deployment, with the right equipment an IP/VoIP solution will be able to deliver a better range of sound such as Polycom’s Wideband HD Voice.
If you take into consideration the information above when choosing the best audio conference phone for your meeting you should be able to find the perfect solution for your business.
Some Conference Phone Options to Consider
Small Meeting Room
If you are planning a meeting in a small meeting room we suggest looking at the Polycom VoiceStation 500 – this model is lower end and lower priced – suitable for three or four people and with a range of about 7 feet. It can even be set up using Bluetooth
Mid Sized Meeting Room
A larger conference room with more participants may merit a model such as the Konftel 55 Conference Phone or the Polycom SoundStation 2 which has an increased audio range, with speakers clearly audible up to ten feet away as well as higher quality microphones and speakers.
Large Conference Rooms
For meetings in larger arenas, with more than 16 people a top of the range conference phone is called for. Models such as the Konftel 300 IP Phone which combined Wideband sound and a recording function and the option of additional microphones or, for the non VoIP enabled meeting room a Polycom VTX 1000.
For more information please feel free to make the most of our expertise by either contacting us, or get us on the phone on 0844 824 6664.