Shure Conference Manager Kevin Beazley discusses the latest trends and what to consider when choosing a discussion system.
Sound reinforcement systems are utilised universally in boardrooms, education and the corporate workplace, whilst councils and parliamentary meetings combine a rich mix of demands and limitations. The main requirement, as with any meeting, is that the people in the room are heard clearly and understood. However, problems may arise during the meetings when they are held in large rooms with poor acoustics. This is exacerbated by the fact that the same meeting space may be required to host a meeting of 10 people one day, and 100 the next. In both of these situations each participant needs to be heard clearly and understood.
As seen on any televised Parliamentary meeting, many people talk at the same time. Ideally, the chosen discussion systems provides the functionality to establish an order to the sequence of speakers in the meeting. The system should provide the operator with a choice of modes so the meetings can continue naturally (Voice operated, manual, automatic) Moreover, the speaker may need to be introduced to the group so that the meeting attendees can identify who is speaking, their political affiliation or other information. Additional features required of discussion systems include agenda management, voting and more. Added to this is the requirement for free seating topology that allows a meeting member to sit anywhere in the room and log on to the system with a card or pin that loads their unique identification and history information.
Many discussion systems fall down at the input stage. The key aspect of a system is the microphone, and the signal integrity is only as good as the microphone that the speaker is using. No matter how expensive or high-quality the speakers or amplifiers are, poor quality microphones will produce poor quality audio, and most projects fail or find problems when they choose inexpensive microphone systems. Not only is the sound quality poor, the components are also low quality and the mics often lose their integrity and begin to sag and droop. The base of the stem and the head of the microphone are frequently adjusted to cater for different speakers, this flexibility is crucial but also the Achilles heel.
In addition to microphone quality, huge advances have been made in discussion system technology in the field of interpretation, and will continue with new legislation and the demand for all nationalities to be heard. This will become a major requirement of meetings, when you consider English is not always the native language of all the meeting attendees. This is where high-quality conferencing products come into their own because interpretation desks provide several language options and its increasing! Furthermore why not consider remote interpretation, which would allow organisations to access translators remotely, which would result in a major cost savings.
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