Virtually Unstoppable! How Teleconferencing Continues to Evolve 

Published: December 22, 2023
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There are countless moments in our lives where we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at a given time. The birth of my children, the Eagles winning the Super Bowl, and the day that Michael Jackson passed away — all come to mind.

However, there is another moment I do recall, and that is the day that I participated in my first ever video meeting, aka teleconference. It was my first day on the job as a business development Manager at Exertis Almo (formerly Almo Pro A/V), and I was preparing myself to join my first team call to meet my colleagues. As if I wasn’t already nervous enough, I received a “Zoom” link and was told to load the Zoom app onto my PC. Having just come from a previous company that would send out toll free numbers and a dial-in bridge, this was unchartered territory. I clicked on the link in the invite and within seconds I had about 12 other people staring at me. Talk about a “deer in the headlights” moment!

My mind immediately entered a state of panic, and I tried to remember if I had cleaned my home office beforehand. I had even forgotten what I was even wearing (rest assured I was dressed appropriately!). As the call began, I alternated thoughts between “This is strange” and “Oh, I like being able to see everyone.”

That, to me, is teleconferencing, and even seven years later, I find that many people still have those same feelings. You either love it or you don’t, but I am here to tell you how essential it can be and how it continues to evolve with three key areas of growth:


I have always been a proponent of devices that can serve more than one purpose. For example, when I finally got rid of my iPod in favor of storing my music library on my iPhone. Given this, it should come as no surprise that I am loving the number of all-in-one devices currently out in the market. There are soundbars with cameras and microphones built-in that can sound better than the individual components do, conserve space with a smaller footprint, as well as utilize far fewer cables than having three to four separate devices. Imagine having a single soundbar mounted under the display with hundreds or thousands of virtual microphones built in, rather than running boundary mics throughout the room? Talk about consolidation!

For systems involving individual components, the design and aesthetics are still front and center with devices such as ceiling array microphones that not only sit flush with the ceiling tiles, but also have textured grilles to blend in even more! Little nuances such as these can really differentiate from the older systems that we grew accustomed to.

When discussing audio in teleconferencing, I truly believe that we don’t know what we don’t know. That brand new employee encountering his first ever Zoom call, had no idea how much better a USB microphone would sound when compared to the built-in mic on the laptop, or how that a good set of studio monitors would drastically improve speaking clarity. While noise-cancelling headphones are always helpful, they are not always needed, and therefore, the only true way of learning about the audio is to take the time to learn and find what fits for your exact need.

As it pertains to the visual side of the equation, we also see many manufacturers focusing on collaboration boards as well as 21:9 displays to better suit the visual needs from the conferencing platforms and end-user applications. A 21:9 aspect ratio offers users a more immersive experience which is ideal for multitasking and video calls where you want to maximize what you can see during the call. As it specifically relates to Microsoft Teams, it offers features that require a 21:9 ratio, otherwise you won’t be able to experience all that Teams Rooms can offer.

Artificial Intelligence

I will be the first to admit, this is one area where I am only scratching the surface. However, it is also the area where I have most recently gotten my feet wet. The idea of AI is a combination of interesting, annoying and also amazing, in my opinion. It is interesting in a sense that I consider it yet another technological advance being made in our world, but also annoying in that, much like other advances, I think you will find some who take advantage of it rather than use for greater benefit. However, it can also be amazing, and that is why/how I think teleconferencing is in for a drastic shift.

After a recent Zoom update, I noticed something called AI Companion on the app.  I activated this feature on a test call and was blown away! Not only was it similar to having a courtroom stenographer sitting next to me jotting down everything that was said, but it also provided the action items from the meeting and completely eliminated the need for either participant to have to scribble notes down. It was an eye-opening feature, and as we move in 2024 and beyond, I can see more being added to it to constantly improve the user experience.

Also Read: Five Qualifying Questions That Can Make or Break AV Projects

Meeting Equity

The topic of meeting equity has been front and center lately. For those that may be unfamiliar, the phrase “meeting equity” refers to the interests that all participants have a similar meeting experience and feel as though they are valued equally. For example, is there a noticeable divide between me sitting in my home office compared to my colleague who is in the conference room with other executives? As we get further and further removed from the pandemic of recent years, it is obvious that hybrid work is here to stay and the need for meeting equity remains just as important, if not more important! While there are multiple ways we can achieve this, the two that I wanted to touch on are bandwidth and Microsoft Teams Front Row (MSFR).

Remote workers have the advantage/disadvantage of having their own internet connection, meaning, they don’t normally need to worry about outside factors, such as multiple teleconferencing meetings happening at once. What they do need to think about is sufficient bandwidth and what else is on their network. I will always remember the day that I was on a call and out of nowhere, my video crashed, and a message flashed on the screen saying I had low bandwidth. As it turns out, it’s a bad idea to host a meeting while your children are in other rooms streaming movies while video chatting with friends!

A general rule of thumb is each person needs at least 10Mbps in download speed and 1Mbps in upload speed to host a sufficient web meeting. You also need to make sure that you aren’t running 20-30 other devices on your network at the same time! It is all about bandwidth management.

MTFR Features

MTFR is another important feature. It is essentially a way for users to maximize the screen real estate during a call while carefully focusing on meeting equity.

For example, they move the gallery (the smaller video screens of other participants) to the bottom of the screen at eye level rather than at the top. This way, when someone is speaking, you are all looking directly at the other meeting attendees. MTFR also has a chat feature present on the screen, so rather than simply seeing a flashing notification on the chat, which then distracts you from the meeting, you can easily view and address the chat questions in real time. Newer features such as these are improving meetings for all participants, and I sense we are just getting started at addressing the topic of meeting equity for everyone.

As you can see, a lot has changed in teleconferencing since I had that first team call in 2017, and while I still have the occasional mental lapse and forget to “unmute myself,” I get excited when introduced to another new device or feature that makes teleconferencing feel more like a personal discussion and less like a task. The more inquisitive we are to learn about features such as Zoom, AI Companion, MTFR, or 21:9 aspect ratio, the more future advances we will find.

My open challenge to all of you is to take the time to learn about what teleconferencing can actually do for you. With some small tweaks to your typical meeting practices, you may unlock a whole new avenue in this continued evolution.

Rob Voorhees headshot.

Photo courtesy: Rob Voorhees.

Rob Voorhees is business development manager II Technical Specialist at Exertis Almo, CTS, CTP, CTNS, DSCE, Dante 3.

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