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Improve meeting rooms with WiFi, Hangouts, and screen-sharing

Build a culture of participation by providing WiFi, enabling wireless screen sharing, and using Google Hangouts in your meeting rooms.

Show me an organization's conference rooms and I'll tell you a bit about the organization's culture. Many meeting rooms contain furniture, art, projectors, dry erase boards, and power outlets, but none of these reveal much in the way of cultural secrets. The culture-revealing items are invisible: WiFi and screen-sharing systems. WiFi reveals who can connect; screen-sharing tools reveal who can present.

The presence - or absence - of WiFi in meeting rooms conveys much about the culture of the organization. Conference rooms with WiFi suggest that access to information is encouraged. Limited access suggests that information flows may be restricted. (Most smartphone owners bring their own Internet if WiFi isn't provided: a June 2013 survey by Ovum found that 67% of "smartphone-owning employees bring their own smartphone to work".)

Wired screen sharing

Screen-sharing is limited in most meetings rooms. Most often, a presenter connects a laptop to a projector (or other display) with a cable. Well-equipped conference rooms offer high-resolution displays and a variety of connections (HDMI, Displayport, and VGA) to which well-prepared presenters connect their device adaptors.

Wired HDMI adaptors: Slimport, Apple Lightning, and Displayport

Wireless screen sharing

Wireless screen sharing frees people to present from anywhere in the room; presenters are no longer forced to sit next to the projector. Switching from one presenter to another is faster with wireless screen sharing, since there's no need to change cabled connections. And loads lighten as people leave device adaptors at home.

iOS and Mac users share screens wirelessly via Airplay mirroring to an Apple TV connected to a projector (or other display). For Airplay to work, the Apple TV and iOS/Mac device must be on the same WiFi network. Apple TV may be configured to require an onscreen password or code for Airplay, which is useful in business settings.

Android and Windows users should look for devices that support Miracast, a wireless display standard. The source and display devices both must support Miracast for wireless screen sharing to work. Google and Microsoft have embraced Miracast: Google added support for Miracast in Android 4.2, and Microsoft will add native support for Miracast in Windows 8.1 (expected in the second half of 2013).

Miracast implementations vary by device. For example, screen mirroring works flawlessly for me from an LG Optimus G Pro to a Miracast Certified LG DWD-300 Wireless Adapter connected to a display. But forum posts and comments between various other Mircast devices indicate that interoperability is not yet flawless. Check the Miracast site to verify that your source or display device has been certified, and then test it in a "real world" situation before deploying widely.

The Apple TV and LG DWD-300 Miracast devices enable wireless display mirroring for Airplay and Miracast devices, respectively.

Hangouts for "in person" meetings

The problem with screen sharing - wired or wireless - is that a single person controls what displays on the screen. The presenter presents and hopes that listeners listen.

Presenters may encourage participation by using web meeting tools, such as Google Hangouts, during "in person" meetings. While the presenter shows a slide or document, participants comment in chat. Holding a Hangout during an "in person" meeting enables active participation from all participants - even those joining from outside the meeting room. (Note: Organizations using Google Apps may have as many as 15 participants, while standard Hangouts users are limited to 10 participants. All participants should use the audio "Mute" feature liberally when not speaking.)

Of course, for this to work the participants need to use laptops, tablets or smartphones during the meeting. And for those to work well, they'll likely want access to a solid WiFi connection, which means they need to operate in a culture that encourages access to information.

Tech folks can help shape an organization's culture by providing access to WiFi and making it easy for people to share their screens in meeting rooms. Or, even more boldly, democratize meetings by using Hangouts to enable participation and comments for everyone.

A Google Hangout enables ANY of the participants to share their screen or comment

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About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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