Huddle Rooms are great for collaborating and conferencing

Huddle Rooms Encourage Compact, Collaborative Conferencing

Peter Bean
January 6, 2016

The modern workplace is far different than its predecessor. Open-concept and collaboration focused, it facilitates human interaction in ways the cubicles of yesteryear never could.

There’s just one hitch: When a more intimate conference space is required, or when you need to bring more team members into a conversation where can it be held discreetly without disrupting your colleagues?

“When you need to work with an outside partner or have an ad-hoc small group collaboration session, and your office is in an open-space environment, you’re not going to do it at your desk, you’ll annoy 10 other people!” explains Isabelle Coste, Vice President of Marketing at Tely.

This brings us to huddle rooms.

The concept of a huddle room is simple – it’s a small space where about six people can collaborate in private, and have a video, audio, or web conference without distraction or disruption.

These huddle rooms can come pre-equipped with the necessary technology to run these conferences, offering big savings compared to their large-room counterparts.

Huddle rooms are perfect for loud conferences

Noisy coworkers should use huddle rooms. Courtesy of NotAlwaysWorking.com

The New Frontier of Conferencing

The idea of a small meeting rooms certainly isn’t new. In addition to the large boardroom, the majority of offices will also include smaller office spaces for smaller meetings. But their use as collaborative conferencing rooms is new – and growing in popularity.

“We’re seeing huddle rooms as more than a trend,” explains Shadi Baqleh, VP of Sales at Blue Jeans Network, a cloud-based video conferencing provider. “There’s an explosion of them.”

Baqleh compared huddle rooms to television sets. Remember the high-end TVs of the ‘90s? Those massive, cumbersome boxes that filled a big chunk of living room space? As technology improved, TVs became slimmer and the image got sharper.

In the same vein, video conferencing technology has become smaller and less expensive while audio and video clarity has improved, setting the perfect stage for huddle room use.

Saving Space, Saving Time

Too often, big boardrooms are used for small meetings. It’s always an odd sight to have a video conference in a large boardroom that’s seating only a few people.

Not only is this an inefficient use of space, but these smaller meetings are clogging the boardrooms that should be used for larger meetings.

We’ve all been there – two groups showing up for different meetings at the same boardroom due to a booking conflict, and essentially rock-paper-scissoring to see who gets the room.

This is further driving the adoption of huddle rooms, which are more suitable to small, impromptu meetings.
“More and more, we’re seeing huddle rooms used for those daily meetings,” says Damian Giuseffi, Account Manager at Blue Jeans. “Face-to-face becomes a priority.”

In addition to their space-saving benefits, the simplicity of a huddle room setup allows for an efficient use of your time.

“When you’re in a huddle space, – as a user you just want to get to the collaboration work as soon as possible, – Coste says. “The last thing you want is to lose ten minutes spent setting up or figuring out your system. Having it ready to go with intuitive content sharing and one-click to video call type experience is really key.”

A Cost-Effective Conferencing Solution

Outfitting a large boardroom with video conferencing equipment can become an expensive undertaking. The cameras need to have the sensitivity and zoom required to adequately display attendants in a large meeting, and this equipment isn’t cheap.

It’s a different story with huddle room design. Because they’re small, the cost is significantly lower.

“You don’t need to buy a $15,000 system for a huddle room,” Giuseffi said. “You can come in at a pretty low cost now that there are systems that are cheaper. We’re finding customers can afford multiple huddle room systems.”

Unlike the big boardroom conferencing setups, a huddle space can have very simple video technology which works great in a small setup. There’s no need for an ultra-high resolution camera with 15x zoom in a room that only seats six people.

“The cost factor has come down so much that it makes sense to outfit huddle rooms,” Baqleh said. “It’s just cheap and easy to build.”

Huddle rooms can be useful for a private moment.

Huddle rooms can be a private oasis. Courtesy of Voa.com

Hardware for Huddle Rooms

Huddle rooms are a bit of a gold mine for conferencing providers. For years, conferencing technology providers like Polycom and Microsoft have focused their efforts on equipping large, conventional boardrooms. Now, however, with the rise of open-space offices, companies are rushing to supply hardware tailored for huddle rooms.

For example, last month Polycom released their RealPresence Centro system, which includes a circle of monitors and cameras, perfect for a small group collaborating on a project.

“A huddle space can sit from 4-6 people max; It could be a small conference room, a dedicated project room or a drop-in collaboration space. While the majority of meetings occur in smaller rooms, these rooms are not typically fitted for video, and that’s what we’re after,” Coste explains.

Systems like these are custom designed for the free-flow of ideas that are a hallmark of huddle spaces, which encourage an egalitarian approach to discussions. This is the direction modern workplaces are headed.

The Value of Virtual

Open-concept workplaces have accelerated the need for huddle rooms – not just in the physical space, but in a virtual setting as well.

Web conferencing software has established what are called “Virtual Digital Offices.” Like a physical huddle room, they allow for an intimate collaborative space but are all online, with tools for recording notes, sharing visuals, and all the other perks you’d expect from a “real” room.

In a shared office huddle room, your notes are almost guaranteed to be erased from the white board by the next group to use it. Virtual Digital Offices can let you save and record meetings for future reference.

For teams that meet regularly (and like to pick up where they left off) these Virtual Digital Offices can be a preferred huddle-style meeting solution for some.

***

Modern office spaces have new requirements their predecessors lacked. As work spaces grow increasingly decentralized, the rise in demand for intimate collaborative spaces like huddle rooms has also risen.

Thankfully, technology has adapted to meet the change in demands, and conferencing companies are providing new, affordable tools to help do so.

Even if your office lacks physical huddle rooms, software can provide virtual alternatives, so that all employees will have access to the benefits of an intimate collaborative environment.

The growth in huddle room popularity won’t be slowing soon, and with good reason. Inexpensive, easy-to-implement conferencing solutions now exist, and every company can now afford to benefit.

About the Author

Peter Bean joined Pragmatic Conferencing in 2010 with the task of growing the companies Webcasting and Video Conferencing business. Within 6 months of joining the company, Peter's role expanded to include Web Conferencing and all rich media collaborative solutions. Peter is a conferencing industry veteran with 10 years of industry experience. He has held nearly every role within the conferencing industry throughout his career. His knowledge of collaboration systems and applications (and how they work together) as well as his reputation as a subject matter expert is well known in the Canadian conferencing industry. He also has a strong background in online events and webinar production from his time as a Webinar Producer. In the past, Peter has held roles as a Sales Manager at Enunciate Conferencing and PGi.

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