Saturday, 27 March 2021

Let’s go outside …

 As Hospitality gradually reopens, one area that will be key to success, at least in the short to medium term, will be ensuring that venues make the most of their outside spaces by really integrating the ‘outside in.’ 

We now know that good ventilation is key in reducing the spread of Covid, so eating or socialising outside with all the benefits of natural air flow, reduces the propensity of transmission. As a result, outdoor hospitality spaces are going to be key this summer and AV can be used to help enhance your guest’s experience whether they are inside or out.  

Used effectively, a soundscape can bring the ambience of your venue seamlessly from one area to another, to create a holistic experience.  In just the same way as you would use a multi zoned sound system to create continuity of sound, as a guest walks through a hotel from the lobby to the bar though to the restaurant, the right number and type of speakers placed in the correct location can create a seamless flow of sound into an outdoor dining or bar area.

Similarly, outdoor speakers don’t have to be ugly!  Discrete speakers can be installed outside and even matched to a RAL colour to seamlessly blend with your decor.  They can be linked to your existing sound system and controlled in the same way as any other room or zone in your venue, ensuring that the right ambience is created in that area, depending on the occasion or time of day.

So as we embark on the road map to recovery, ‘let’s go outside’ and welcome guests back to our hospitality venues.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!


What are Hybrid Meetings?

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, BYOD was the ‘buzzword’ for meetings.  Hospitality venues wanted to ensure that their meeting and conference rooms allowed delegates to connect and collaborate on screen seamlessly and wirelessly from any device as part of an event, without the need for dedicated hardware, lots of messy cables or a lengthy setup process.

Then the pandemic hit, and with it came remote working, video conferencing and social distancing.  BYOD seemed a thing of the past.

With the goal posts on social contact continually shifting, the world of meetings has evolved.  Over the past year we have all become experts on Zoom Meetings and using Teams, with each of us operating from our own homes in whatever space is available.  But with this has come the frustrations of internet connections dropping out, distraction and noise from others working or learning in our households and the yearning for in person social interaction.    

As restrictions are gradually lifted and people are able to meet in person once more, although the need for BYOD hasn’t gone away, the primary need for meetings will be to link remote delegates with those who are able to meet in person, socially distanced, within the meeting room.  

Enter ‘The Hybrid Meeting’.                  

With everyone now capable of running video conferences and meetings via their own device at home, BYOD has evolved into BYOM (bring your own meeting).  BYOM systems enable you, with a few simple connections, to deliver your meeting on the infrastructure of a hospitality venue’s meeting room, with all the technological benefits that brings; a large screen, installed quality sound and microphone systems and surroundings more conducive to an effective working environment.  This inturn enables those colleagues who are present in person to join with remote colleagues dialing in, where everyone can see the same screen viewed in the room. The good BYOM systems have all the functionality of BYOD, but are delivered in the room as well as on the call or stream of remote colleagues.                                          

Large scale BYOMs can be set up at Hospitality venues to host presentations and conferences for larger numbers of delegates.  You can now run meetings in your larger spaces with a video call or stream going out to remote delegates, routing presenters, radio microphones and on screen presentations to a stream or call, as well as showing this on screen for the distanced delegates in the room.  This type of hybrid meeting is easily achievable in house, but when numbers of delegates are particularly large, you may want to get your events company involved to ensure that the event runs smoothly for all delegates, wherever they are, and to make the event as dynamic as possible.

To fully embrace Hybrid Meetings on whatever scale, you need to get the in-room AV infrastructure right.  

CGA is here to help you get the most from your meeting rooms.  If you would like to find out how your current AV system can be modified to address the issues we face in these current times, why not give us a call? 

Whatever type of meeting you are facilitating, and however technology evolves to meet the needs of our ever changing world, CGA can advise you.  Why not give us a call on 01344 456500 and see how you can unlock your hybrid meeting potential today.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Clean Shoes?

How do you prepare when meeting a client for the first time or delivering that crucial presentation?

If you’d have asked me a year ago I’d have said; clean shoes, iron shirt, for the gents amongst us we’ll choose an appropriate tie, and I even have a set of cufflinks which my wife gave me that always create conversation...

All of this has now changed, as the pandemic means that we now don our “Zoom Suits” and only dress in business attire from the waist up, presenting from home in our slippers...

But as we move forward, things are likely to evolve again. Companies will want to get their people back together in person as soon as it's safe to do so, and with the UK vaccine programme picking up pace, this may be closer than we think. Nothing works better for the charismatic sales executive than being in a room and bouncing ideas off colleagues, even if the client is remote.

Moving forward, it is my belief that there may always be someone outside the room, either because they are isolating, ill, or unable to travel due to company budgetary or environmental constraints. So the next generation meeting rooms need to be mindful of this and as such need to be a little different from the meeting rooms of old.

In the hospitality industry, we need to remember that we have so much more to offer than just the technology for meetings. However, to enable this new style of meetings to work effortlessly, getting the technology right will be vital.

Why bother to host meetings in Hospitality venues?

Hospitality venues offer so much more than being at home:

• People - welcoming, smiling, competent people who are there to help ensure your event runs smoothly and you have everything you need; no slamming doors or playing of loud music degrading your event!

Space - where a team can meet either socially distanced, virtually or a mixture of both.

Hospitality - food and drink on demand so that your time is spent with your team or customers doing business and networking with no trips to the kitchen required.

A dedicated focused environment - with no doorbells ringing, homeschooling interruptions or pet distractions.

Quality connectivity - generally hospitality has much better internet (bandwidth) than many of us have at home, ensuring the meeting or presentation goes without a glitch.

Quality surrounding - rather than hanging a spare shower curtain behind you or worrying that the window cleaner will suddenly appear, Hospitality venues have well-appointed rooms with soft furnishings that give a much better sound & ambience to calls and discussions, whether they are on or offline.

So what tech can I add to enhance the meetings offered in my venue?

In order to offer the optimum environment for meetings at your venue, there are a few things you can ensure you have in your armoury:

Well distributed sound - having a quality ceiling speaker system installed in your meeting rooms will ensure that the sound from a presenter or video call is heard by everyone in the room, without the need for a PA. Many sound systems hired by Events Companies are PA systems. PAs consist of a pile of speakers, they are normally in big black boxes and are either on stands, ground-stacked or hung and they blast out sound from where they are positioned, usually from the front of your room. The problem with this approach is that the first few rows of delegates can often become deafened, whereas those in the back of the room can struggle to be heard or hear. VR or vocal reinforcement does not use big black boxes, it is about lots of smaller speakers working gently across a room to evenly distribute the sound throughout the space. As the name suggests, VR reinforces the sound of the speaker’s voice via the multiple speakers positioned throughout a room. This in turn allows delegates to be spread out and still hear what is being said, without either being deafened or having to move forward and get closer to other delegates in order to hear. VR is a definite advantage in this time of social distancing.

Large format projection and screens - making sure all of your delegates can clearly see what is being presented or discussed is important, especially with requirements for social distancing. This might mean looking at installing a ceiling-mounted or hung screen & projector to use the advantage of height available in your space. If you have limited ceiling height please see One to All & Webview below.

BYOD - bring your own meeting is the evolution of BYOD. With everyone now capable of running video conferences and meetings via their own device at home, BYOM systems enable you to scale that meeting, with a few simple connections, to deliver the meeting on the room infrastructure: a large screen, sound system and microphone system. This enables those colleagues who are present in the room to join with remote colleagues dialing in, where everyone can see the same screen viewed in the room. The good BYOM systems have all the functionality of BYOD, but all delivered in the room as well as on the call or stream of remote colleagues.

Whole room microphones - in order for effective BYOM and video conferencing to happen, coordination of devices is required through a centralised microphone system. If clients have an in-person meeting with remote colleagues at your venue and they want to present on one call using separate devices this will not work without coordination, as the individual devices will all interact and feedback, making it a worse experience than calling from individual kitchens or spare rooms! Discrete ceiling microphones can be installed to cover your whole meeting room and take the sound of the talking delegate onto your video call to ensure everyone is heard.

One to All & Webview - many of the good BYOD & BYOM systems have the ability to share a presentation within a room enabling delegates to see slides on their own device and save them to their device. This is useful not only if you cannot get a big screen in place in your meeting room, but it also eliminates the need for delegates to keep disrupting the flow of the meeting by taking photographs of the projection screen.

What’s the future for larger-scale events and conferences?

How we address the need for larger-scale events and conferences in the short to medium term is a question that is topical for many businesses and one that may or may not be cost-effective to own, but it's something you may be asked to consider:

Virtual events - these kinds of events do not need to be hosted by hospitality venues, they require a large dedicated space, a stage and a green screen background, which can enable you to present just about anything you want to a remote clientele. If this is something you want to explore you will need to talk to your Events Company. The equipment you will need may not be something you want to own, but instead hire in and then offer on to clients as another meeting option!

Hybrid meetings - these are like large scale BYOMs for presentations and conferences for large numbers of delegates. You can now run meetings in your larger spaces with a video call or stream going out to remote delegates, routing presenters, radio microphones and on screen presentations to a stream or call as well as showing this on screen for the distanced delegates in the room. This type meeting is likely to be something you would want to get your events company involved with to ensure it runs smoothly for all delegates wherever they are and to make the event as dynamic as possible, but you need to get the in room AV infrastructure right to make it happen.

What can I do now?

Whatever type of meeting you are facilitating, and however technology evolves to meet the needs of our ever changing world, CGA are here to help you get the most from your meeting rooms.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!


Friday, 9 October 2020

Meeting Room & Events AV in restricted times

This year the situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented.  We at CGA know that as a result, Hospitality venues have very little budget at present, so we thought that some ideas and tips on how to make the best of your current AV may be helpful. 

As the Covid situation changes, we all know that Government advice is constantly changing and varies throughout the UK.  Currently the general guidelines reflect the need for gatherings in small groups, (rule of six), no shouting or singing, and keeping your distance.  These rules pose challenges when it comes to delivering quality face to face meetings or important conference calls, but with carefully planned technology and AV, these difficulties are not insurmountable.

Facilitating better calls

Are your clients currently making business calls from their spare room, kitchen or lounge?  Do they feel their home is not delivering the correct ambience for meetings, or do they find themselves not in a ‘business state of mind,’ (as they still have their slippers on!)  Coming to your venue could help them to get into work mode, focus better and present the best version of themselves.  Wearing their business attire and presenting themselves in a meeting room that sounds great and has a better camera than their laptop, could increase their productivity.

All the design elements you have invested in; great decor, soft carpets, comfortable chairs and quality AV can come together to create an optimum environment for a video call.  The presence of soft furnishings helps to eliminate echo and reverberations, often too prevalent in kitchens and modern minimalist homes, which detract from the quality of sound in virtual meetings.

Ensuring delegates can be heard

To effectively get your message across in a room of socially distanced delegates, you need what is called a "Sound reinforcement system."  This is best done with multiple ceiling speakers spread through a room, as each speaker gently reinforces the sound of the delegate speaking and saves them from shouting, delivering even sound throughout a room without the aggression and front of room energy generated from a PA system. Many of your function rooms will already have ceiling speakers for background music, and with care, these can be retasked without decoration, to make a vocal reinforcement system to help your delegates deliver safe and effective presentations.

Delivering Hybrid meetings

Even if we are only allowed to have a small number of delegates in our rooms and they have to be socially distanced, it is still possible to enable them to successfully meet with distanced colleagues via a ‘call’ if you get the AV in the meeting room right.  Current AV allows your existing radio microphones to be linked to a call, or for a dedicated ceiling microphone to be deployed to cover a whole room to more effectively bring together delegates who are both at the meeting in person with those dialling in remotely.

Enabling large scale virtual events

Although it is no longer possible to gather everyone together into one room for key presentations in an old-style company conference, did you know that your lectern or radio mics can be linked to a ‘call’ with an HD camera to make a live stream to remote delegates, at the same time as presenting in your function room?  A small group of individuals can reveal the big-ticket items and key corporate messages to everyone in the company, without geographical bias, from your venue.

Whatever type of meeting you are facilitating, we are here to help.  If you would like to find out how your current AV system can be modified to address the issues we face in these current times, please give us a call, we’d be happy to help.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!


Monday, 29 June 2020

Thank you for the Music

Great News! English, Scottish and Northern Ireland hospitality venues are able to reopen their doors from July.  After three months of Lockdown this is brilliant news, but if you have a music system, didn't the government say that venues are no longer allowed to play music?

That’s not true!

You are not allowed to stage live music performances, open mic nights, comedy or drama, but music to create an atmosphere in your venue is still permissible and arguably now more important than ever.  

You can’t have incredibly loud music, as we still need to observe some level of social distancing and this would cause guests to have to shout to make themselves heard; Shouting, singing and chanting all increase the risk of aerosol transmission, which is how COVID -19 is spread, so you need to get the audio levels just right to aid the safe reopening of your venue.

If you are concerned about certain members of staff turning up the level of your sound system or even regulating your own passion for music, CGA can limit the power available on your system so that levels cannot go too high.

Now, more than ever, it is key to have your venue sounding great, opening with no sound or poor sound could further damage the ambience of your venue.  Some customers will be emerging from Lockdown very tentatively.  They have been safely cocooned in their homes with familiar sights, smells and sounds and when they return to the warmth of their favourite hospitality venue they will find it changed.  With venues only being able to operate at  ⅓ to ½ of their pre-COVID capacity, the atmosphere will be very different.  

So now is your chance to really show off your sound system!  Numerous small speakers carefully spread throughout a venue will create a lovely consistent, low level all surrounding sound, that will help to fill in the gaps generated by reduced capacity and make all your guests still feel right at home.

If you have any specific questions regarding how we can help with your sound system please get in touch.


CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Video conferencing, the saviour of meetings?

Since the beginning of lockdown everyone is moving to video conferencing ... for meetings, study and religious services to staying in touch with family and friends we can no longer physically gather with or travel to see.

However much of a ‘life saver’ this technology has proved to be during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still not the same as face to face interactions and can often feel very isolating.  All of our senses are engaged in creating an experience; sight, sound, taste and even smell all play a part.  A laptop, tablet or phone meeting cannot replace the loss of physical contact from a handshake or a hug.  It dampens down the sensory stimuli; it’s much more difficult to pick up on body language, it has a reduced audio capacity so vocal inflections are lost and olfaction is limited to where we are calling from.  The experience is better than nothing, but nowhere near the same as meeting in person.

That being said, moving forward I believe video conferencing is here to stay.  As we tentatively emerge from our current state of global lockdown, due to medical, travel, eco, financial or other reasons, there will always be someone who is ‘not in the room’ for most if not all future meetings and events.

The challenge for Hospitality venues is how can you add value to the video conferencing experience.  How can you connect people to people in a better way than a Zoom call from their spare bedroom? How can you make meetings and event experiences memorable for all the right reasons, whilst still in at least the short term observing social distancing and addressing remote workers and often disparate teams?

Once business starts coming back into your hotels, what shape will it take and what will you need to offer to support and attract it?

Will it be that every meeting and events space will always need the ability to support video conferencing to ensure that remote workers or people who cannot travel can always be included?

Do we need to offer dedicated Video Conferencing suites that offer a more immersive experience for that important call that really cannot be done at home from a home Internet connection, or which needs six people from the local distributed team, socially distanced yet on the same call to a key international client?

Some of how we address this is sensory.

Make the video call feel more personal through creating a more immersive experience.  By offering video conference spaces that are non-reverberant and fitted with high-quality microphones, speakers and cameras, you can help to ensure that callers can pick up on body language and vocal nuances that give real meaning to conversations.

Whilst some of the sound quality is reduced in the internet part of a conference call, much of it is lost due to the relatively low quality of laptop speakers and microphones.  With the correct microphones and digital processing, groups of people on video calls can be heard much more clearly, and background noise can be reduced or even eliminated.  A video call from a standard laptop can have a greatly enhanced audio on a call by using good quality wireless microphones or by installing quality in-room ceiling or desk-mounted microphones and speakers along with the correct interfaces.

Similarly, laptop cameras are relatively fixed and often give us a better idea of our colleague’s interior decor than their body language and demeanour. As with sound quality, cameras can be used in a room to allow for a better image of the caller or a group of callers and will have the additional benefit of being able to zoom in and out on a key presenter or product being demonstrated and discussed.

In addition to sensory improvements, hygiene also needs to be considered.

Did you know that you can use your large screen with your BYOD as a white board?  Although this can operate with or as a touch screen for direct interaction, to prevent having to touch the same surface as others you can annotate on the main screen using your ipad and an app.  Each delegate is able to draw on the screen from the comfort of their own chair and device, reducing the need to move around or cross-contaminate surfaces.  Also all installed CGA touch screens in meeting and function rooms have a ‘screen clean’ function.  This gives a time when the touch screen can be cleaned without changing any settings.

Or will video conferencing for business meetings continue to be done from home and will the Hospitality industry be offering spaces for remote and disparate workers to come together every so many weeks to bond as a team, to get real physical interaction and to socialise, albeit with social distancing?

Rather than ‘dress down Friday’ we might have ‘in-person’ Friday or ‘in the room’ Friday where people come together as a team in one space and the functionality of that space need not be a meeting room but this needs to be a social, bonding and entertainment space, now that work is at home and for some this will be their new escape.

Even so, there will still be some people who will be unable to attend these kinds of ‘gatherings’ which again raises the need for high spec, hygienic video conferencing in your venues.  Maybe video conferencing really is the saviour of meetings after all ...

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

What is Hospitality?

Hospitality
The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Hospitality is all about people, experiences and a smattering of escapism.  It has always been about a change of scenery; somewhere special to show a client that you value their business, or your team that you value their work.  Somewhere to meet with family, friends or colleagues to celebrate, mark milestones and create memories, an escapism from our everyday workplace and surroundings.

As we tentatively emerge from a state of global lockdown, our thoughts turn to how we can establish a ‘new normal’, how we can deliver hospitality once again but in a very different environment.

I don’t believe that the need or desire for hospitality has gone away.  Now more than ever we need to offer that aspirational trip, adventure and experience, although the rules of engagement have now changed.

We all understand the need to be socially distant from others, travel less and maintain best practice hygiene, but now we need to find out how we can deliver hospitality whilst embracing these.

There are many questions to be addressed across the Hospitality Industry as we grapple with the confinements of social distancing, personal protective equipment for staff and intensified levels of hygiene:

How do we reassure guests that our restaurant is a safe place to eat?

How can we make our dining experience memorable for all the right reasons?

How can we make our spa experience as relaxing and as far from the stress of lockdown as possible?

How can our team create a great hygienic stay for our guests?

Fundamentally we have to reassure our guests that it is safe to re-engage with the Hospitality Industry and then we need to deliver an experience that makes their leap of faith worthwhile.  Some of how we address this is sensory.

Experience
An event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.

For the last few months many of us have been at home.  Historically home has been our safe place,  a place where we are surrounded by our own familiar sounds, smells and views, with our family or friends around us.  As the lockdown has drawn on, this once cherished space may now feel claustrophobic and less appealing than the sanctuary it once was.

Let’s consider dining.  How do we, if restaurants are to reduce consumer density, ensure that each diner does not feel disparate and isolated in the new restaurant environment? Could sound help to ‘soften’ the environment and create a dining experience that is better or different from that at home?

Sitting alone at a restaurant table may or may not appear more attractive as lockdown eases and hospitality venues begin to open up under strict social distancing, but it might become more attractive if we think about the use of space.

Historically ‘hip places’ had a buzz.  Their clientele, staff, music and service all created a noise that created a certain atmosphere and gave an energy to the space, but if all people or family groups now have to be two meters apart, the sound in that space will have significantly changed.  Just by reducing the number of people in a designated area it will leave you with much less sound absorbing mass, resulting in a boomy sounding space.  The slightest noise may reflect to become a meal disturbing sound for other diners. Remember your guests have just emerged from the cocoons of their homes, where the space they occupied was probably smaller and filled only with their own familiar soundscape, so sudden noises from others may well feel unsettling and be unwelcome.

Think about the soundscape in your venue.  Think about what music is playing, as it is much more likely that your staff and customers will hear this now.  Make sure that it is delivered well, as remember, your guests have all been at home with their stereos.  Think about your space.  You might need to fit some sound-absorbing panels to help your space sound less like an aircraft hanger and more like the warm welcoming space that you want to offer your guests at this time, where it is imperative that they feel safe.

Moving focus to your spa, as guests seek escapism and a time to relax, how can you change the soundscape to block out the everyday sounds of mobile phones, traffic and the noise of other people to create a truly aspirational air of calm?  Sound is a key factor in this.  Ensure that you cannot hear any external sound in your space and then gently add music. Music that reflects and enhances the mood of specific treatments, fully immersing the guest in that individual experience.  Sound can so often be overlooked, but during treatments when lights are dimmed and guests often close their eyes, other senses including hearing become heightened, so audio replaces colour and becomes a key factor in generating the most appropriate mood.

Personally I think the move away from hard surfaces, whilst harder to clean, will help with the whole Hospitality experience.  At home, the sound level is generally lower; you are often the one making the noise and there are many more soft finishes in a home environment to absorb and muffle sounds.  To go back to hard surfaces will create a harsh soundscape and will be an acoustic shock for guests and not necessarily a good one.  Warm quality sound will help to create quality Hospitality experiences; use sound to fill the space in your venue.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!