Best Practices for Conferencing in Government

Kevin Beazley | March 25, 2019

There are a number of best practices, along with techniques, available to consider for AV requirements within committee and Council Chambers. And each has a direct impact on the end result - clear and concise audio and the ability to run meetings effectively and efficiently.

Deciding on Size

First choice is system requirement - how big or compact? The right system in place for the right audience will not only deliver the best results but will also reassure finance departments that the correct equipment is being procured against budgets.

Committee meetings tend to be smaller rooms, have one video screen, little or no voting controls and press-to-talk microphone systems. Chambers can be much larger spaces which include a public gallery, multiple projectors and screens, along with discussion systems which can be wired or wireless. 

In each case, discussing requirements with a reputable integrator or directly with the manufacturer can save money and unnecessary issues further down the project line.

A wireless system can be installed extremely quickly and can be up and running effectively with relatively little or no experience necessary. If a more sophisticated system is required, with features such as voting or data collection, then a little more time and perhaps training may be required. Good integrators and manufacturers appreciate this and will always offer technical guidance and their own support team to ensure a smooth transition process during this period.

Considering Room Acoustics

Room acoustics can play a huge part in the overall sound of the AV within a given space, especially as spaces used for council meetings can vary from rooms within building which could be hundreds of years old, through to sleek, modern office meeting rooms. Sound within older committee and council buildings, often featuring wooden ceilings and floors, can immediately be improved by adding carpets.

The sound within modern buildings, usually featuring hard, reflective services such as glass, can be improved by adding blinds, helping to soften the sound and improve the audibility of each meeting. Good AV systems will also feature DSP settings that can help streamline the audio experience for every discussion and help with any other unwanted room reflections. 

Larger Chambers and older council rooms can be very different - these spaces could be hundreds of years old, where audible speech with natural amplification was at the very forefront of architects’ minds. Within these large spaces, where sound carries, a good microphone technique is vital in communicating with fellow councilors - something which is often overlooked or forgotten in the heat of discussions.

Microphone Technique in Government Spaces

As a basic rule, a microphone will pick up the sound in front of it, so talking clearly and directly into the front of the microphone capsule will give the best results. For this reason, microphones within councils and Chambers are usually unidirectional, which are the most sensitive to sound arriving in front and less sensitive to sound from other directions. This makes them very effective at isolating unwanted sound (such as speech from another councillor or committee member, ambient room noises, etc.).

Understanding microphone technique can be a real advantage within council or Chamber meetings. A speaker who addresses the audience clearly at normal voice level can put points across and engage in discussion in a confident, calm manner. A speaker who moves away from the microphone or turns to address the audience without the microphone often has to raise his or her voice to be heard, which can be perceived as loud or aggressive. 

The added disadvantages of this are often inaudible discussion, points which are lost, along with difficulty hearing the speaker if webcasting is in operation, along with difficulty understanding conversation for those whose hearing might be partially impaired and is using the assisted hearing solution. 

Taking into consideration AV requirements, room acoustics and microphone techniques will deliver the best AV performance possible, along with a satisfactory and pleasant user experience for councillors, committee members and wider participating audience. 

Kevin Beazley

Kevin Beazley is the conferencing systems manager for Shure UK Systems Group. He specialises in the design of conferencing and discussion systems.