Technology primer: How technology can make your meetings more effective

Ask any professional about their list of pet hates and you can bet that ‘meetings’ will feature somewhere on that list? So what’s wrong with the traditional meeting and why for they attract so much ire?

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The common mistakes are: failure to define the purpose of the meeting and its objective; not setting and keeping to a time limit; failure to record and distribute the conclusions of the meeting; absence of one or more of the stakeholders in the decisions to be reached by the meeting; lack of the necessary resources to be used in reaching the decision.

New meeting room technologies have been developed to overcome these issues. While comprehensive meeting room solutions are available, some at considerable cost, there is also a growing number of accessible and affordable solutions that can be integrated to deal with your specific requirements.

Collaborative working

So let’s look at some of these issues and identify some of the technology solutions available to solve them. Setting objectives is the first and arguably the most important: why are we meeting and what do we plan to get out of it? Setting and circulating an agenda and supplying supporting materials is more than courtesy – it is efficient business practice to think about the purpose, nature and structure of a meeting before it takes place. For an effective meeting the participants to prepare by reading and writing reports, drawing up plans, designs and proposals.

To overcome this problem, the process has to start well before the meeting date. The meeting process has transformed into ‘collaborative working’, with a vast amount of technology developed to support collaboration, sharing of content from other devices and networks and presentations from mobile devices.

Once it is established who is in charge of the meeting, how long it will last, and what the point of the meeting is. Meetings have three primary purposes: communicating, administering, and deciding. The focus of all three kinds of meetings should be action. They should either be communicating the intention: to take an action or the results of a completed action; administering a plan of action; or deciding among alternative plans of action.

Preparation

The adoption of a networked room booking system not only reserves the meeting space for the required time and of the necessary capacity but can also that the equipment and facilities needed are in place. Elsewhere in TEKBUYER you can read primers and reviews of the latest models from market leaders like Evoko and Vision AV.

You have a choice of wired and wireless solutions which can be linked to your preferred calendar software, or used as a local terminal to check bookings or make new ones. The technology of room management has developed to the point that it can be used to arrange parking, catering or equipment provision. There are even systems that provide feedback to facilities managers to ensure that space and facilities are used efficiently, for example, by monitoring CO2 emissions.

Ensuring that meetings don’t overrun is pivotal to the operation of a room management system. Integration of the room management with meeting participant’s calendars should ensure that everyone receives advance notice of the meeting, and on arrival at the venue should find all the appropriate people and facilities needed in place.

Digital infrastructure

Whereas the mechanics of meetings used to involve printed reports, memos and other forms of analogue materials, today’s meetings revolve around digital materials, stored on networks and personal devices, shared with workgroups of colleagues, suppliers and customers. Bring Your Own Device is the much-used phrase that describes the practice of integrating smart phones, tablet PCs and laptops into local networks that serve the meeting room, but with the potential to bring in remote participants and their data resources, videos and other resources into the meeting room.

Fortunately, the market has reached a consensus on the technology that it will commonly accommodate in the business meeting environment. For the most part this is defined around operating systems, with iOS for Apple devices, Windows for Microsoft devices and Android for Goole and just about everything else. If you’re an avid fan of Blackberry you have probably lucked out.

If your meeting participants have their presentations and materials stored on compatible devices, a new category of devices has emerged called ‘presentation gateways’ that link personal devices to meeting room projectors or large format flatscreen displays. They can also integrate mobile devices in remote locations to allow participants unable to participate in the meeting even when unable to be present physically and resources stored in locations beyond the meeting room or local networks.

Technology choices

If the capabilities of the presentation gateway are appropriate to your needs you can choose to integrate with a third party display device or you can choose a display device, a projector, large format display screen or even a smart TV, with these capabilities built-in.

Your choice will be decided by what you have bought already and your budget. For example, Microsoft’s Surface Hub provides an all-in-one solution that easily integrates into business meeting environments, but at a cost. If you choose to integrate a presentation gateway with a separate display, it is important to ensure that is both easy to integrate and to operate.

A recent survey by Barco revealed that 9 in 10 UK office workers experience seriously elevated stress levels when dealing with troublesome technology during meetings.  Barco research shows that: [1]. People’s heart rates reached 179bpm when struggling with technology during a meeting and [2], compared to resting heart rates of around 60-100 bpm – a clear indicator of stress.

Meeting room technology which does not work seamlessly is a huge hindrance for productivity. Amongst the biggest challenges for UK employees were sharing content and screens, and finding the right cables to connect to in-room devices. In trying to deal with tech problems, staff are wasting significant amounts of their valuable time: 60 percent try to fix problems themselves, 49 percent call IT/tech support and 30 percent end up giving up with the tech and going to their plan B.

As a result of struggling with technology in meeting rooms, a quarter of UK office workers have missed important deadlines, and some have even missed out on personal opportunities like promotions (7 percent). Worryingly, 15 percent reported that their meeting room technology struggles actually lost the company business. This implies that poorly performing meeting technology has a potential knock on effect of damaging both personal and corporate reputations.

Add to this, there is a common prohibition by IT managers against downloading drivers and apps to the company network. This might not be a factor in your organisation, but it is important to check before committing to a particular system.

 

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