Ease-of-use is consistently voted the most important feature of wireless presentation systems. The obvious reason why is that usability maximizes the amount of time the group can spend in the flow of discussion and spares presenters and their audiences from awkward pauses as computers wirelessly connect to screens.
Let’s look a little closer, though. View usability through the lens of human psychology and you’ll see an even bigger benefit. When things are easy to use, more people use them. Likewise, when content is easy to share on-screen, more people share content. When more people share content, the dialogue becomes more engaging. When the dialogue becomes more engaging, we see the absolute best in group collaboration and productivity.
While the benefits of ease-of-use are impactful and straightforward, there are many factors that determine how easy or difficult a product is to use. Some of them are subtle, so let’s unpack usability into specific requirements to consider.
No Device Left Behind.
Put a packet sniffer on today’s corporate network and you’ll see desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones running Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and who knows what else. The enterprise has never seen such a proliferation of heterogeneous devices. Given this computing environment, it’s surprising how few wireless presentation solutions offer support across all major devices and operating systems let alone a consistently dead-simple, uber-pleasing user experience across them. Some solutions require dongles for laptops to connect and apps for mobile devices to connect which isn’t ideal. Look for solutions that support any device that may come into the meeting room, including those that may come in with guest users (who, too often, get relegated to second class citizens in the meeting room). To unlock the full power of wireless presentation, look for a solution that offers uniformly seamless and equal access for all devices, operating systems, and user types (ie, employee or guest).
Collaboration versus Presentation.
Virtually all enterprise technology deployments are aimed at helping the knowledge worker be more effective and productive. When it comes to wireless presentation, there is no longer a single cable restricting the group to sharing content in single-threaded fashion, one piece at a time. If you’re going wireless, why not choose a solution that allows more than one user or more than one content source to be shared the screen at once? Picking a wireless presentation solution that allows content sharing in a multi-threaded way will enable more participative meetings and discussions. It is difficult to have a brainstorming, storyboarding, or ideation session using a single-threaded wireless presentation model. In a multi-threaded model, discussions have the option to go from presentation to collaboration mode by allowing more users and/or content sources to be shared. There are significant productivity gains from unlocking this kind of dialogue.
Performance and Reliability.
If one of people’s worst fears is speaking in front of crowds, then imagine how people feel when technical difficulties occur in the middle of their presentation. If wireless presentation systems stream content on-screen with any degradation in quality, latency, or reliability, the experience of the presenter and audience suffers. Thus, the performance and reliability of these solutions are critical, and it’s tough to research these dimensions online since results can vary widely from the manufacturer’s specifications in part due to the idiosyncrasies of host IT networks. Thus, one very important step in evaluating these systems is to obtain a demo system and validate its performance and reliability in a setting that is representative of a typical meeting room. Some solutions providers even offer demo units free of charge.
The importance of ease of use is pretty clear. If it’s not easy, you’ll need to do lots of user training or even worse, your users won’t adopt the technology at all. For enterprises looking at large scale deployments, the stakes are even higher since training all users across many rooms, buildings, and even campuses isn’t feasible. So, don’t gloss over the product usability criteria when evaluating wireless presentation systems. It’s likely to be the primary determinant of user adoption and project success when all is said and done.