Meeting Room Tech for Coworking Spaces
On episode 73 of the Everything Coworking podcast special guest Michael Everts, President and Co-Founder of SharedSpace, shared his insights into design and technology for coworking space meeting rooms. He shares his expertise on different tools and approaches coworking space operators can use to make sure their conference room experience stands out, both to members and guests.
Everts graduated from Auburn University in 2012 and worked in the audiovisual industry for several years before starting SharedSpace. SharedSpace is currently preparing to open its third location in Augusta after starting in an Atlanta suburb. In addition to understanding market trends, Everts also developed an understanding of audiovisual needs for businesses that he has transferred to coworking spaces.
Everts said his spaces use high-tech meeting rooms to attract guests to his spaces, not just members. Many of his clients have office buildings elsewhere in the metro area, but either their spaces aren’t designed for the type of atmosphere they want, or they’re not capable of accommodating the number of people and the formality level they need. Making meeting spaces part of your business model can be especially lucrative if alternative locations for corporate trainings or large scale meetings, like upscale hotels, are limited or expensive.
Ease of Use
Advanced technology goes a long way in setting apart your space from competitors, but only if it’s usable. Make sure whatever technology you have is easily usable for both guests and staff. Otherwise, your customers will be frustrated by failed technology, and your community manager will spend the bulk of their time trying to help guests connect (or reconnect) instead of actively managing the space and its culture. (Also, no one enjoys having to walk into a corporate meeting and have your guests waiting while you fix the technology.)
High-tech but usable, includes making sure you have an HDMI cable and a mini display port cable, even if your meeting rooms offer the option to connect wirelessly. Wireless connections aren’t familiar to all users, and you should prepare for connectivity problems at some point. Make sure to have the basic connectors available for your guests to use if they need or want to (and make sure you label them with your business name, so they don’t end up in someone’s briefcase on accident).
TV Screens and Projectors
To support wireless projection from a computer/tablet onto a tv screen, Everts recommends Apple TV. Most coworking space owners find that the majority of their members are using Macs, so connecting to an Apple TV will be easy for them. Pro Tip: Set the screen to “Enable Conference Room Display,” which will show connection instructions right on screen when someone comes in.
Although many expensive versions of the Apple TV exist, a basic one only costs around $150 on Amazon, and will handle most needs. If you have Apple TVs and they are dropping a signal, you might want to check your router, but normally, connectivity for these devices is pretty reliable.
Another option is the MiraCast adapter for Microsoft/PC users. However, Everts said he found most people were just connecting with an HDMI cable if this was their option, even though the actual tool, which enables connection from a PC or an Android phone, works just fine.
Projectors are also an option for displays, but they are more expensive, and require more maintenance (and expensive bulbs!). Unless you have a very large space or a very large budget, a projector may not be the most cost-effective choice. Everts also noted that TVs especially are going down in price, which is good news for space owners.
Another Pro Tip: Painting the wall behind whatever TV you can afford a non-white color will automatically make the display look more crisp.
How Big Should my Screen Be?
Everts pulls from his AV background for this one: In order to make sure you have the right size screen, calculate the distance from the screen to the farthest-away seat. Optimally, that distance should be no more than two and a half times the length of your display screen. This size will ensure that everyone in the space can read an Excel document or similarly small projection. However, Everts noted there are many factors to a meeting room that are more important than the screen (comfy chairs for example), so don’t worry too much if your budget won’t allow you to get a screen that is quite as large as the math says it should be.
Accessories in Meeting Rooms
Perhaps the most important accessory in a coworking space meeting room is signage explaining how to connect to your projector or display. Aside from that, you might consider some kind of box or other container for all your cables and remotes.
Other accessories to meeting room space, depending on its type, could include whiteboard walls, iPhone conference speakers, or other creativity enhancing features. Everts said it’s imperative to keep in mind the purpose of the meeting room. Most spaces don’t need many large, formal board rooms. In fact, as average meeting sizes get smaller, small, informal “huddle rooms” that are meant to be used only for a brief time by a few people are becoming popular.
Based on industry data, most coworking spaces should consider between four and five meeting rooms at different size points as their starting place in planning meeting rooms.
Room Reservation Technology
Everts also stressed the need for some kind of app or station to schedule a meeting room, that way your coworking space manager isn’t dealing with conflict between two businesses in the space who both thought they booked the room. Tablets can be stationed on the walls, and powered through either large backup batteries or Power Over Ethernet (POE) cables. Software like Robin or Teem can allow users to book through their phones—a high-end “wow factor” feature that streamlines processes while providing a great customer experience.
Everts also recommended allowing people to book via email and phone, though, and stressed the need of coworking space staff to be quick about answering both these mediums.
Attracting New Guests
If you have a great meeting room space, advertising with SEO may be a good option. However, the biggest key to converting meeting spaces to memberships is to make sure to treat guests like royalty and make them feel comfortable in your space. Showing them (and current members) that your spaces are valuable—both through what they offer and through the value you set on them with pricing—as well as showing guests that you have a variety of services to offer them can convert them from one-time visitors into recurring members who love your space.