room takes media to an extreme
Boardroom at National Association of Realtors wins Best
Presentations Rooms grand prize
taken to the extreme: DVD, web, streaming, videotape, PowerPoint, and
MacroMedia. Each on a single projection screen or on side-by-side plasma
displays. All supported by an audio system powerful enough to require
6” of soundproofing in the room’s walls. These are all standard fare
in a new boardroom at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which
was chosen by Presentations Magazine as its grand prize
conference room in the 2000 Best Presentation Room Competition.
Despite its quiet-sounding
name, NAR is anything but a quiet organization. It is, in fact, the
world’s largest trade association, with 54 state and district organizations,
1,700 local chapters and over 730,000 members. Headquarters prepares
hundreds of presentations each year for member meetings, educational
programs and conventions, and it’s critical that NAR’s executive management
keep in touch with its far-reaching membership. So when they began planning
a new boardroom for their headquarters in downtown Chicago, they knew
it would be built around an extensive media system.
a/v system NAR built with the help of Chicago’s United Visual, Inc.
is both practical and impressive. As you enter the boardroom, the first
thing you notice is a beautiful burled-walnut table and matching credenza.
The table has a raised center section, and if you look closely, you’ll
notice 18 microphones unobtrusively mounted and seven small doors, each
of which hides power and network connections for laptops and an input
for an AMX touchscreen. Push a button on this control and a high-brightness
Panasonic projector drops from the ceiling, while simultaneously a screen
lowers,the lights dim and blackout shades cover the windows. Push another
button, the projection system disappears and the credenza top begins
to rise, revealing two Sony plasma monitors ready to show side-by-side
computer or video images.
Welch, Director of Technical Customer Service at NAR, says that the
association needs side-by-side images because staff do a lot of comparisons
during presentations. For instance, a presenter might contrast proposed
changes on the Realtor website with what is currently there—or may
show a PowerPoint about the site while simultaneously showing material
from the site. On the other hand, when it’s time to do a single-screen
presentation to a client or board member, the larger LCD image can
have more impact.
users of the conference room are typically high-level managers, board
members or guests, technology in the room is geared as much to meeting
participants as to presenters. For instance, the conference table
includes AC power, network and media connections for participants’
laptops, making it easy for them to connect to the internet or even
make a presentation from any seat at the table. United also installed
a SoftBoard interactive whiteboard to make it easy to capture written
notes from discussions and brainstorming sessions.
Videoconferencing with impact
effectively throughout the organization was another important goal
for the new boardroom. Though you don’t see it, a PictureTel Concorde
is a critical component. Its camera—the only component visible—nestles
between the plasma displays. Push a button on the AMX touchscreen
to raise the plasmas and camera, power the Concorde and activate a
special lighting system optimized for video.
Concerned about the dim, straight-overhead lighting
common to videoconferencing rooms, NAR installed special florescent
fixtures, which use 45° angled reflectors to throw bright, but diffuse
light onto conference participants’ faces. “The plasmas work well with
this lighting,” says United’s Doug Carnell, who was in charge of the
project, “and at 42” diagonal, they’re big enough that everyone can
seem them clearly.” As the system comes on, you note that one plasma
shows the far-end site, the other, a near-end preview or images from
a document camera or laptop.
The PictureTel Concorde was a great
fit for the room. Not only does it handle the multiple sources needed,
but it was easy to adapt to the AMX system. Near and far-end camera
controls, dialing and a handy one-button connection to NAR’s Washington
office are all accessed from the touchscreen. The Concorde is also
tied to the room’s automatic mic system and to its sound system with
Winning the award
The Best Presentation Rooms
winners are chosen on the basis of technological sophistication, suitability
to task and aesthetics. A panel of judges chose the NAR boardroom
as its grand prize winner in the conference room category—the nation’s
best for the year 2000.
NAR executives are ecstatic with
what they’ve built. Hank Welch says “we are especially happy with
how easy the room is to use. The controls are understandable and require
minimal support. And the new room works with every technology we use
for presentations and to communicate with other sites.”
Welch also related this story: “We
had a large mortgage company give a presentation here a month ago.
I caught the president of the firm outside and he said, ‘I don’t believe
that room. That is the most technically advanced room I have ever
seen.’ Coming from who it was, that was quite a compliment.”
Our thanks to Draper Shade and Screen for their
help with the photography of this room. NAR uses a tensioned Draper
Signature motorized projection screen.