So you have decided that a conference system is what you need. Because you want to be able to quickly set it up and remove it from the room again, mobility is key. Therefore you’ve decided that a wireless system is the best option.
Before buying a wireless conference system
So far so good, but now comes the difficult part: what system to select out of all systems that are out there? Before buying a wireless conference system, here are a couple of critical elements you should pay attention to:
1. Does the system sound natural?
The use of a conference system should improve intelligibility in your meeting room, and reduce fatigue for the delegates. To achieve this, a conference system should produce a natural sound at a comfortable sound level. Make sure to compare, preferably side-by-side, before making a decision. Don’t forget that listening to a bad or unnatural sounding system will annoy the meeting participants, annihilating the original purpose of the system.
2. Wireless systems need batteries – good batteries
Obviously, no cables means batteries. Make sure the batteries of your conference system will last through long meetings, and preferably even more than one. It is important to understand that batteries based on older technology (like NiMH) suffer from a ‘memory effect’ and will degrade much faster over time. Li-ion is your best bet: it has little or no memory effect and can be recharged before they are fully discharged.
3. Pick the wireless technology that is right for you.
There are two major technologies in wireless conferencing: RF (Radio Frequency) and IR (Infrared). Depending on how you intend to use the system, the one or the other (or both) will best suit your needs. We’ll cover some main differences in another blog post.
4. Will it co-exist with my wireless LAN?
In most instances, RF based systems will offer the highest flexibility. However, from an IT management point of view it is important to understand how well your new system will integrate with your existing (wireless) infrastructure.
Look for a system that offers plenty of frequencies in both the 2.4GHz and the 5 GHz and facilitates your frequency planning. In this way you’ll be sure to run your meetings smoothly without limitations on your wireless LAN usage.
5. Manage during a meeting
Check what tools are offered to allow monitoring the system without interfering with the meeting. Questions to ask yourself:
- Can I see what frequency the system is on and can I migrate to another frequency during a meeting without the delegates noticing?
- Can I see the condition of each battery during the meeting?
- Can I remotely switch off a microphone that accidently has been left open?
6. Understand the minimum workable configuration
As a minimum, a wireless conference system has an access point or base station, and the wireless delegate units. Some systems however also need an additional central unit and additional software for control. Make sure you understand what the full configuration is for your needs. It will guard you from unpleasant budgetary surprises.
7. What will it not do?
Spend some time to also understand the limitations of the systems you are considering. Asking for what it can do might tell you all you need to know, but approaching it from the opposite angle might reveal things you haven’t thought of. It can prevent you from running into trouble if your needs change or if you have overlooked important aspects in your initial list of requirements.
8. How is support when you need it?
We all prefer to ignore it, but let’s be realistic: it’s electronics and it can fail. When it happens, make sure you can rely on impeccable support. Check what you can expect from your supplier.
Making the right decision
The above points don’t cover all aspects of a well thought-out selection process. They will however narrow your options upfront. This gives you more time to concentrate on the details of each offering that made it through this first selection.
In the end, don’t we all like to feel confident that we have made the right decision?