While walking around Enterprise Connect a few weeks ago, there was a lot of buzz about huddle rooms. The focus was not only on the important role that Unified Communications solutions were playing in bringing collaboration to these important meeting spaces, but also on the devices that go in these rooms and how they can make it easy for businesses to have productive, highly professional meetings both internally and with remote colleagues. One type of device that seemed to be everywhere was a new generation of speakerphones geared towards UC and small to medium conference room space. The thing that made these phones different from the big conference speakerphones we’re all used to was, 1. a focus on making them easy to connect, whether you are using your laptop and a UC client, an in-room video conferencing system or your mobile phone, and 2. superior sound quality, providing an exceptional experience in an era where we’re all becoming used to less than stellar audio fidelity in our conversations.
Expanding Use Cases For Speakerphones - Not Just For Board Rooms Anymore
For many of us it seems like not a day goes by that we don’t jump on a web or video conference with participants from multiple locations, including international colleagues and probably someone - or many people - working from home. To learn more about the growing role that speakerphones play in this environment and their various use cases, I spoke with Bjoern Ekner, the Senior Director of Global Product Marketing at Jabra. “For speakerphones, the benefit is having an experience that makes you feel like you are in the room with someone, no matter where you’re connecting from. With all the software clients, networking headaches and the various things that can lead to call quality issues on a VoIP call, having a device that delivers crystal clear audio can make all the difference.”
Desktop Speakerphones Can Make Meetings Feel More Intimate
Desktop speakerphones have been around for several years now, with Jabra holding a commanding market share lead, so I asked Bjoern where and why the devices have gained traction. We discussed three key use cases.
Call Quality for Home Workers
“This is an important group, because home workers can often feel out of the loop when collaborating with colleagues back in the office,” explained Bjoern. “If you can’t hear or be heard, you might as well make the effort to drive to the office. Work suddenly becomes a place again when you don’t have the right equipment.”
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I thought that was a great line. You have to have the right gear to collaborate remotely effectively. Having a high quality speakerphone right next to your monitor can deliver the sound quality that makes it seem as if you are there, both when listening and speaking.
Small Huddle Rooms
These small rooms, meant for a handful of people to collaborate, are popping up all over the place. The key is outfitting these rooms to take the collaboration outside the four walls. “People are walking into these rooms with their laptops, opening their UC client and connecting with colleagues or customers on a web or a video conference. Being able to easily plug into a desktop speakerphone via USB or Bluetooth and instantly have high-quality audio for your conference call experience can make an enormous difference as our research indicates that 63% of users report that technical issues impact meeting productivity,” explained Bjoern.
Road Warriors Needing Crystal Clear Audio
This was one I wasn’t expecting, but makes a lot of sense. Since desktop speakerphones are so small (often referred to as a ‘hockey puck’), salespeople and executives are bringing them along when they hit the road. “Tossing them in the laptop bag when you’re heading out the door means that when you have to jump on conference calls from your hotel room, or follow up with that important prospect, you’re not relying on the speakers in your laptop or on your smartphone.”
Medium Sized Conference Rooms
There are over 24 million mid-sized conference rooms worldwide and that number is going up fast. The interesting thing is that only 20% of these medium sized rooms have speakerphones. Bringing high-quality audio to these rooms and making it easy for employees to connect and kick-off meetings was another focus at Enterprise Connect. According to Bjoern, there are several appealing things to look for, not the least of which is a lower price point. “People are used to the old spider speakerphones for the board room that cost a fortune. With new software-driven technology, you can deliver equivalent or better sound quality for fifteen people in a room for a fraction of the cost.” We also discussed several additional considerations, including:
Easy set up
Whether you are walking into a full-fledged Skype for Business video collaboration setup, or showing up with your laptop and plugging into a projector, it needs to be easy for users to connect to a speakerphone for their web conference. Being able to choose between plugging into your laptop with a USB cable, or your mobile phone with a 3.5mm jack, or with any device with Bluetooth, connecting to the speakerphone needs to be simple and happen quickly.
Leveraging UC in a UC world.
With so many companies deploying UC or UCaaS solutions, it isn’t necessary to use cables, or even cellular connections to make phone calls. Having a speakerphone that can provide high audio quality and works natively with unified communications platforms means that it is a plug and play solution. Just set up your meeting and plug your speakerphone into your laptop, or make a call from your UC client, and your up and running.
Don’t Pull Wires - Use Wifi, or Your Cell
With so many new small and medium sized conference rooms appearing, solutions that don’t require pulling new wires make a lot of sense. They also create a lot more flexibility. For web conferences, especially those that are leveraging a UC solution, having a speakerphone that is geared to connect easily to laptops or desktops with a USB cable or Bluetooth means that you no longer need to pull dedicated cables to the room to make phone calls. And if you do need to make a call outside of your UC client, you can just use your mobile phone as the connection. “Our new Speak 810 speakerphone not only can connect to a smartphone in multiple ways, it even has a charge out option you can use to charge your mobile phone in case it is a long call,” says Bjoern.
If you haven’t recently, it’s probably time to take another look at speakerphones and how they can add value to your business. Let us know how you are leveraging speakerphones beyond the big conference room in the comment section below.