Frame Yourself Correctly for a Better Video Call Experience

Hi there! It’s David here from konnectus.

And if, like me for the last three or four weeks you have been on a lot of conference calls, you know, we’re now working from home, it’s a whole new reality. You might have been on one or two conference calls a week earlier but now, I seen it beyond two or three every single day and I’m doing it working from home and you’ll probably on the same situation if you’re watching this.

So, what I’ll like to do today is just give you three tips to improve the communication that you’re having on your video calls. Very, very simple to implement. It’ll probably take you less than 10 seconds and the best thing is, it’s absolutely free.

What we are just trying to do is to tweak our set-up a little bit. Specifically, it’s about the framing, where our head is positioned in the camera and, sort of, framing out our body inside the actual shot of the camera.

First of all, what we want to be trying to do, tip number one is, we want to try and get the camera as close as we can to our eyes or our height.

So, you’re sitting at your work station there and if it’s all set up correctly, you know, good ergonomics and all of that, you probably find that the height of the camera or the height of your eyes is around 1.2 metres. So, if you can get your camera to be at that same height, that’ll be fantastic cause that then it just gives you the impression that you’re looking at the person in the eyes when you’re on a call and then it makes some big difference.

One of the things that I’m seeing all too often at the moment, I’m afraid, is that the camera is a little bit too low and it’s, sort of, shooting up this way, sort of, up the person’s nostrils and capturing the ceiling behind them, just not a good look.

Tip number two, and this is all about head positioning. So, first of all, you want your heads to be positioned not too close to the camera, we don’t need to be that close, not too far back either, but also are centered in the shot. So, you can see, we’re on positioned at the moment. I’ve got my head centered in the shot, that means I’m the center of attention and that’s exactly what you want on a video conference call, you want to be the center of attention cause that’s what’s going on. You were the one speaking and there’s no one else around you in a work from home set-up.

Now, the other thing, this is probably tip number 3, is the actual height of your head. So, you’ll see at the shot of the moment of me, you noticed that my head is at the top 50% of the frame and that’s important because it’s now allowing the bottom 50%, high in my body, to also be involved in a whole conversation here because there’s so much body language that will be missing if it was just my head zoomed in real close like this, or if my head was way down lower like that and you couldn’t see my body cause then you know, in a face to face meeting, we get all of that information down. We get the body language, the hand gestures, and it’s a lot more powerful than just the actual facial expression by themselves.

So, those are my three tips: 1.) Get the eye line right; 2.) Get the head positioning right, not too close; 3.) Then, the top 50%. And then you’re going to be good to go.

So, implement that in the next 10 seconds or so, should be very very easy to do. Spread the words so the world is going to have much better communication on our video conference call while we’re working from home.

Have a great week! All the best!

Microsoft Teams Rooms Systems, Are They as Simple as they Appear?

David – Some of our viewers would’ve been approached at some point this year by their Microsoft account manager and would have been told how fantastic the Teams Rooms Systems are. So, what is this Teams Rooms Systems?

Jonathan – Well, Teams is Microsoft’s new generation of collaboration platform and it’s a software platform that’s used by all different staff to communicate. What Teams Rooms Systems are, is pieces of equipment that you can put into Meeting Rooms or Collaboration Spaces to enable it for Teams. And what they’ve done is, they’ve partnered with six different manufacturers to make these certified Rooms Systems kits.

David – Six different manufacturers, and of course there’s multiple different pieces of equipment that could work with those different manufacturers’ products, which sounds pretty confusing to me.

Jonathan – Yeah, you’ll think it will be as easy as choosing one and just rolling it out to all of your spaces but there’s actually a lot of nuances and differences between the systems. There’s a lot of gotchas and there’s reasons why one will work for one space and not for another space.

David – Let’s dig a little deeper and find out what some of those gotchas are and see if we can make life easier for our viewers. So, the manufacturers are Crestron, Polycom, Logitech, Lenovo, HP, and Yealink. As I understand it, there’s essentially a computer device which is running Microsoft Teams and a touch screen which has a simple interface of Microsoft Teams that’s used to control the system. Is that correct?

Jonathan – Yeah, that’s right. The core of the system across all the manufacturers is exactly that, the computer and the touch screen, and they might look a little different, but they are all doing the same thing. Where it does vary though, is the things that are attached to that, your microphones and your cameras. There is actually a wide variety of those and you can mix and match between the different manufacturers for those peripherals.

David – Oh great! So, that’s providing quite a bit of flexibility. What about the core benefits? What are they for the viewer to understand for these room systems?

Jonathan – It’s really a simplification. In previous generations of room systems, the way that you control it, or the interface has been different across different manufacturers. And for Teams, Microsoft has actually dictated exactly what that user experience and interface is like. So, across all six of the manufacturers when you look at that touch screen, it’s actually going to operate in exactly the same way, and look exactly the same.

David – Oh fantastic! So, the integration with Microsoft Teams is obviously very slick and easy. And is there an easy migration plan if you’ve currently got Skype for Business to go to these Teams Room Systems?

Jonathan – That’s definitely something that all the Microsoft account managers will be talking about, and it’s different for each organisation, but they do have different road maps for transition between Skype for Business and Teams.

David – Okay, so let’s talk about different organisations. You know I guess there’s always different manufacturers, and different products there. If you are maybe a small to medium size organisation and don’t have huge requirements for your rooms, maybe small to medium at best, is it easy then to pick and choose, and kind of almost buy off the shelf? Does it really matter who you choose?

Jonathan – This is really where Microsoft has done the hard work for smaller organisations. Because they are dictated how their systems work and the way that they look, for small organisation they can trust Microsoft and just pick one of their six vendors, use it off the shelf and away they go. It really is that simple.

David – Yeah, fantastic! But I guess things are going to change a little bit once we get to a large organisation which have larger rooms and maybe more complicated requirements shall we say. Like a sophisticated Boardroom, is maybe going to require a bit more audio sophistication in the design. Same with a large conference rooms or large training rooms which may be combined together. Are all of these six systems well-geared to handle that integration?

Jonathan – Look, this is exactly where those gotchas come in, and when you really have to look at each individual manufacturer. Some of them do it very well and some of them haven’t done it very well. For example, the Lenovo and HP solution, the touch panel and computer is right next to each other. So, it means in your meeting room, you’re going to have a computer sitting on top of your table. Which as you say in a Boardroom, is not an ideal scenario.

David – Sure, not very aesthetically pleasing. But what about the integration? Could you integrate a full sophisticated audio system with external microphones and audio mixer and amplifier to Lenovo and HP? Would that play well together or maybe not?

Jonathan – So those systems really are designed to be standalone systems. You buy the kit; you deploy it standalone and that’s everything you need. That’s why it works well for a small organisation with small meeting rooms, but once you start expanding that on the scalability, or introduce other products, that’s where you really need to be looking at the other manufacturers like Logitech and Crestron. They are actually partners with Microsoft for their first generation of rooms. And they’ve learned a lot of lessons from cable management, and scalability and flexibility from that first generation of products and now there’s much more flexibility built in. For example Crestron, you can place that touch panel anywhere and just connect it to the network and remotely locate your computer, so it doesn’t have to sit on the table.

David – Oh, ok. So, we could potentially have large rooms with central AV rack designs and have these rooms systems fit in still very nicely if we were going down a Crestron or Logitech choice.

Jonathan – Yes. Logitech have gone a similar path, and they’ve created a fibre optic cable for their touch panel which means you can locate it, again, away from the computer. And this is also important as well when you got rooms with flexible furniture. When you go to move that furniture around, you need to be able to take these panels and put somewhere other than the table.

David – We’ve recently looked at these with a couple of large organisations in Australia and we’ve chosen those two manufacturers for that very reason, haven’t we? So, I guess it’s very important for the viewer to understand that you really want to have the same manufacturer all across the board for a couple of key reasons. One being the support, Jonathan?

Jonathan – The support definitely, and then also user experience. You don’t want a person to go to Room A and see equipment from one manufacturer, and then go to Room B and be confused because it’s completely different. So, having that consistent experience across all the rooms is really actually important for user take-up.

David – Fantastic. Thanks Jonathan. So, where can the viewers go for more information about this?

Jonathan – Well, Microsoft has a fantastic web page for the Microsoft Team Rooms Systems. Of course, you can also go to the individual manufacturer’s websites as well.

David – And, of course, the team here at konnectus is available for any assistance you may need as well.

Customised User Training

David – I find so often that the training seems to be left to the very end and it sometimes just a quick run through to show people which buttons to press and there’s not really much thought that goes into it. Bit of a waste of time you might say, unfortunately, which is something we’re going to talk about today and how we can overcome that and make it a much better experience and a much better investment for the end customers. So, you’ve got three examples you’re going to run through today. Let start with the first one.

Jonathan – I’ve got three very different examples. First one I want to talk about is actually quite an interesting project that we did for a services organisation and we did this new project and it was a fit out for a floor. It was a sales type floor where they bring some of their biggest clients to try and sell to them. This was a very flexible space. There were lots of different types of technology in this space. There were large LCD screens and Interactive whiteboards, there were mobile touch screens. So, there is lots of technology and this space actually has some permanent owners and their job was to go into the different business units and advocate for this space and say “Hey, did you know we have this great space that you can use as a sales tool?”. Oh okay.

But the key thing about the training was if I were just to show them this is the buttons that you’d use, and this is how you operate it, they would have no idea how to go into their business and say this is a fantastic tool. What I needed to do was actually arm them with different scenarios and different use cases that they could use the technology and they could say “Hey, you’re in tax law or you’re in something a bit more creative, this type of application is more suitable for you.”. Maybe it’s a more static type of presentation, or maybe it’s a more creative style of presentation. It was about understanding how they intended to use the space, and then creating and tailoring the training around that use case.

David – And what’s the next example? Was that a Control Room?

Jonathan – Yeah, that’s right. This was a critical space. It was a 24/7 operation space. A Control Room, as you say. And this is an environment where there’s a lot of stress, and there’s a lot of things happening, and people need to make decisions in split seconds and be able to effectively communicate. The people that operated the space needed to be very, very familiar. So, in that high-pressure situation when lots and lots of things are going on, they need to know how to operate the system, and where to get all of their different pieces of information from so they can effectively make decisions. And, that was so important. So, I spent a lot of time with them so that they’re not fumbling around in a crisis.

David – Can you describe a little bit more about this actual Command Centre?

Jonathan – Yes. So, there was a very large video wall display where they would have live camera feeds. There were multiple information displays. They had things like bomb radar, traffic information, news feeds, and live bulletins. They also had radio system, as well, that they are able to interact with different emergency services. So, there were lots of avenues of information for them to be able to pull altogether and quickly make the decisions. But there was actually a second group of people that needed to be trained as well. So as these situations are happening, you’ve got the people operating the space. But, when things go wrong, they’ve put a support team.

David – Oh, I see. Yes, so the key decision makers can focus on the issues at hand and make those decisions. But, tell me one thing Jonathan, did you find that there was maybe three or four different scenarios that came up very often and it was very sensible, I guess, to try and be specific on those scenarios and make sure that they had those really down path like a well-oiled machine.

Jonathan – That is correct and I can give one example, a major incident and in these major incidents, they need to be situational aware and have diversions in place, being able to reroute traffic, be able to coordinate lots of different emergency services. And one of the great things that they are able to do in the space is actually use live mapping information and annotating over the top, and then being able to bring that in and distribute that to everybody in the emergency process team. That was definitely one that they’ve really appreciated going through.

David – That’s powerful. Being able to get them comfortable and really confident in that training session. Just would’ve mean so much more and they could really get the most out of that asset in that Control Room, couldn’t they? Alright, so let’s go on to a completely different type of scenario. This was a Retail Space as I understand it. Tell me a little bit more about the space and also the type of training.

Jonathan – So, this was a Specialist Retail Space and what was deployed here was a very large video wall, an LED one. Yep. And it had motion sensitivity on it as well. Now, this particular Client was actually a very creative Client and they had lots of tools to be able to create fantastic content. And in this retail environment, it was about arming them with the knowledge to be able to take that creativity and put it on to a large video wall, as the main focus and then the second focus was this small personal touch kiosks. And they could create stories to be able to be put on this touch kiosks. So, part of the training was really about making sure the creative people knew how to create the content and tailor make it for the situation in the environment of having a large video wall and the small little touch panels. What they ended up actually doing on the small touch panels was like a kind of choose your own adventure. And we worked a lot with them about being able to evaluate and quickly qualify the people that came in to the space and understand what their key motivators are and once they had that information, they could actually guide them through the story on the touch panel that the creatives had made. Confidence was really a key thing there.

David – Well, that’s great. Three very different examples but you can see that the training has been so important in each one. That run through, as we said earlier, of just pushing a few buttons just wouldn’t have been enough. I think you can say, you were there firsthand, did all of those customers get a lot out of the training that you’ve provided?

Jonathan – Absolutely. They left with confidence and enthusiasm about using their new technology equipment. Absolutely.

ISE 2019 – Part II

In the past few weeks I’ve actually set a challenge for myself, and it’s a challenge that I want to extend to not only Technology people, but also Interior Designers, Architects, and Project Managers.  The challenge I set myself was actually to think outside of the box. This was all spurred from my recent trip to ISE.

ISE is a big trade show for our industry, and here I saw a plethora of amazing technology. I saw huge LED screens, I saw touch interactive screens, flexible LCD screens, and stretched out thin displays. I even saw an LCD screen that rolled up into a cylinder and fit into a box.

But I left the show a little bit disheartened. I was thinking how do we actually use these things in our everyday work environment? Most of these technologies are not applicable. Why are we having them in the first place!

Given a few weeks of time to reflect, this is where the challenge has come in place. We’ve got to think about new ways to be able to use these technologies, in ways that we haven’t done before.

I’ll give you an example. Imagine if we replace a projection screen with the screen that rolled up into a box, wouldn’t that be amazing?! All those thin stretched displays, we could put them next to a door and have room booking information on them, instead of those tiny little tablets. Or even for way finding solutions, we could get rid of the static screens and have those stretched displays, with active information that changes on the time of day, depending on what needs are in place.

And this is the challenge that I’m going to give to you today, again not just to Technology people, but the whole project team. How can we use these new technologies in ways that we haven’t thought of before to improve people’s lives?

5 Steps to Get the Best Result out of an AV Contractor Tender Selection

Adrian – Hi! My name is Adrian Magno and I’m one of the Senior Engineers here at Konnectus. Today, we’re here to talk about Tender Management. So, you put together an AV Design and you’ve received a bunch of responses from the different AV Contractors. How do you evaluate which one is the best for you? So, Dave is it all about price?

David – Well, a lot of people do think that yes, it’s all about price. If I get the best price, then I’m set. I need to get the best deal. You know, drill everybody down until I get the best price. Get that price, and then walk away. Seriously, that’s how most people think. But if you’re doing that, that’s really selling yourself short. You’re probably not going to get a contractor that is the best fit for your project or for your company as a whole. There’s a lot more to it than that and we’ll get into that later. However, it is important to evaluate price Adrian and the way we like to do that is break a quote down into different elements. We evaluate the equipment, the software, and then the labour separately. For the equipment, we’re just trying to look at the particular models, or similar types of equipment from different manufacturers and just check that, first of all, whether the pricing is similar between different offers and also in line with competitive market rates. Then, the same thing with the software really. Its the same kind of process. And then with the labour, you just want to ensure that the allowances are not too light or too heavy. And that’s basically it. And so, once we do that evaluation of price we are left with a comparison, which is a very important step, but definitely not the only step.

Adrian – I understand. Now, if you did get your AV Design completed by an expert such as an AV Consultant, wouldn’t the price for equipment all be the same anyway?

David – I suppose if it was one of our konnectus designs where we hard specify all the equipment, and its a case of just comparing the three of four different AV Contractors for the same bit of equipment, yeah, sure it’s a very easy comparison and it’s quite quick. So, I guess, it’s one of the benefits of doing it that way. It’s very quick and easy to evaluate the price.

Adrian – What if you’ve done the things you were saying, you’ve evaluated the equipment and labour and you’ve done a bit of apples to apples comparison, but you’ve noticed that one of the tenderers is 20% cheaper than everyone else. Does that start to make you feel uneasy?

David – Oh no! It doesn’t make me uneasy. I’ve just got a job to do and that is to evaluate, dig a little deeper, and make sure that we’ve uncovered all the stones and done the proper due diligence. What that is telling me is let’s go on to the next step, which is evaluate that particular contractor for compliance with the design. Let’s say, for example, they’ve missed a system type, or a large piece of equipment somewhere, or a room type, or even a quantity of rooms or systems? These are just clerical errors and they happen all the time. So, that’s something we’re going to check. It’s the first thing actually. The other thing we might be checking, especially if it wasn’t a hard specification design, is design compliance. If it was maybe a performance specification that was given and the design is on the AV Contractor to put together, well, let’s go have a look at that design and evaluate it against the performance specification. We will check to see whether the equipment up to scratch, or in line with the performance specifications. We will check whether the design the contractor is putting forward is actually going to work. We will check whether it is going to deliver the actual user requirements that the customer is looking for. We just want to evaluate and dig a little deeper and, quite often, we’ll uncover quite a bit after completing those two steps. In fact, the contractor’s outlier price will usually change and get a lot closer to the pricing from the other competing contractors.

Adrian – So, I know with my wife, her eyes light up every time she goes to a store and sees something mislabelled with the wrong price. She’ll go right up to the clerk and say “This is the marked price so this is what I’m going to pay”. Is the same principle applicable in the Tender Environment? Can you hold an AV Contractor to any clerical errors?

David – Well for the way we document our designs, absolutely yes. We have it stated in our documentation that we’ve done a clear design and we’ve specified all the equipment. It’s then up to the AV Contractor to make sure that they have included everything to make a fully functioning and working systems as per the design intent. It does depend on the actual contract at the end of the day though. So, if they’re following our contract, then it’s written there and there are no excuses for clerical mistakes.

Adrian – I did want to ask you. If a contractor is still much cheaper, does it send alarm bells, or is there something wrong?

David – Potentially. So, we need to dig a little deeper again. So, we’ve obviously looked at the price, and then we’ve checked for compliance with the design. And now the next thing we need to look at is TEAM. So, there are many great AV Contractor companies out there and they have plenty of experience and they’ve done fantastic projects and they can show you all of those as examples and you can call up for reference and things like that. You should do that step by the way. However, what I’m more interested in is who the actual set of team members are that will work on the project. I want to see their names. I want to see their CVs. I want to see what percentage of each person’s time is allocated to the project. They have to be the right set of people for this particular project and for this particular customer. So, there is quite a bit of work involved to go through and make sure that all lines up. If it’s not the right team. Maybe, they don’t have enough experience. You’ll find that out quickly. At that point we go back to the contractor and we say “Hey, we need you to change the personnel for this reason, or that reason”. And that, therefore, may affect their price, to be honest. They may have to lift it back up again. So, very important.

Adrian – So, I have had a few tender responses in the past that have come in without the CVs of the different people being provided. What do you do in that instance?

David – I just insist and say “I want to see the CVs please”. They might not be used to giving that level of information and that’s fine. But we are quite thorough in that process because it’s very important to get the right team of people on that project for that particular customer. So, we just want to do our homework and make sure. It’s like when you hire someone to work at your organisation. You want to do your background checks and things like that. It’s the same thing when you’re hiring a contractor to do work for you.

Adrian – I understand. There’s one thing that you mentioned previously, the fit. So, you were saying the customer needs to be the right fit for the AV contractor.

David – Yes.

Adrian – Do you mean, personality wise? In other words, you don’t want to match a head strong project manager with a head strong AV contractor because they might bicker. Is that what you mean by that?

David – Look, personality can come into it. I probably don’t go that deep very often. In terms of project manager, you do want someone who’s pretty head strong who can sort of smash heads when required. That’s actually a good trait to have in a project manager because you’re going to be more likely to hit those deadlines. However, what I’m really thinking about is more the long term. Well, maybe there’s two things I should mention. The first is, what’s the approach this company has? We’ve looked at price. We’ve looked at compliance with the design. We’ve looked at the right team of people. What’s their approach, actually, to delivering the project? Quite often, there’s going to be a builder involved, and they will have a construction program. I’d like to go back to the AV Contractor and say “Hey, this is the current construction program. What’s your program to deliver this AV solution and how will it fit in with the overall program?”. This is actually a good test because they’ll come back to you with what they think is right and you can clearly see whether or not they know what they’re doing. Do they have the right approach? Have they done this before? Are they going to work well with a particular builder? So, that’s an important check to see if they’re the right fit to deliver the project. The other big thing, in terms of fit, is kind of long term.  So, yes, we’re going to get that project delivered and it’s going to be delivered well but after that, what happens? Does this company have the ability to service and maintain that equipment or that solution for the customer? This is so important, yet so often overlooked. It’s probably one of the things I feel most passionate about. In Month 1, or month 11, or year 3 down the track, if there’s an issue with the equipment or solution, and those poor people are trying to use the systems and just getting frustrated, who is the customer going to call? They need to have a plan in place, and there needs to be a reliable company providing their service.

Adrian – Just before we go, thank you so much for all the information. It’s been very informative. One of the problems I do sometimes run into is when you have three tenderers that are all priced within 1-2% of each other. I’ve called all the different qualifying bodies and made sure that all the teams put forward are all adequately qualified. The labour allowances are relatively even and the equipment pricing is also relatively even. How do you choose between three options that basically look exactly the same?

David – In all my years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen that happen. If you go and follow all of those five steps that I just talked about, you’ll find there’s going to be a clear winner. If you only do the first couple of steps, or even the first three, yeah you will have that dead heat sometimes. So then what do you do? Just flip a coin, I suppose, because you can’t go any further. That’s not really the right approach. If you cover all those five steps, you’ll always uncover a clear winner who is the best long-term fit for the customer and the specific project. So, that’s what I recommend.

Importance of Initial Technology Needs Assessment

Let me tell you a quick story about how we managed to save over a million dollars for one of our customers. They were doing an AV Technology refresh for their Brisbane office here in Australia. It was one of those large big four accounting firms with global reach. They invited me up to a vendor presentation in Brisbane. This vendor they had been talking to them for a while and they had some ideas and solutions that the customer was quite interested in.

 

So, I said sure I’ll come up. I went and attended the presentation and watched and listened. It was all very interesting. They had some great solutions. Really cutting edge. This office would be amazing with all these technology solutions in place. At the end of the presentation, my customer took me aside and said: “So, David what did you think of that? Give us your honest opinion”. I said, “It looks fantastic. That technology would be amazing in your office. It would wow everybody that came in. But let me ask you one question. Do you actually need that?”

 

And they said, “Well, we don’t know”. I said, “Well, why don’t we do this. Why don’t we just take a little bit of time to do a “Needs Assessment”. I’ll sit with you. I ask some questions. We’ll find out a little bit more about what it is you’re looking to do with the technology. Let’s find out what your customers and staff actually need from the technology. Let’s ask, what are the actual business needs? We will go through a step by step process and uncover the true requirements that you have.”

 

So, we did that, and then we also proposed some technology options for them to consider, which were more aligned with what they actually needed. So, at the end of this “Needs Assessment” process, what they had was a document, which listed their business needs, as well as, those of their people. The document also included various different options of technology that made sense and aligned with those stated requirements.

Our customer then had a real clear picture. They were able to make an informed decision on what to do next. And that really helped them. With them, we actually went on to do the design of the various AV systems and manage the installation as well. Ultimately, the investment for them was around about $600,000 dollars, which is a lot of money. But when you compare that to what the other vendor was proposing, which was in the millions of dollars, there’s a significant gap there.

 

The other thing to note is a $600,000 investment in technology which you know you need, and you know your people are going to use is a completely different prospect to spending multiple millions of dollars in technology that are not necessarily going to be used by your people. The latter is simply a bad investment.

The moral of the story is take the time to do a “Needs Assessment” prior to commencing a large AV technology project or refresh. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s not an overly large investment. But it’s definitely worth your while in the long run.