A meeting has been scheduled with important key players. Unfortunately, one of those key players is sitting in an airport a thousand miles away, because of a delayed flight. Decisions must be made without her input, creativity, and problem-solving skills, or the meeting will have to be re-scheduled, inconveniencing all of the other key participants.
The ultimate impact of this scenario is that productivity is lost and critical decisions must be postponed. The entire organization suffers from this setback.
Other Issues with Traditional Meeting Environments
- Lack of Engagement
Members of a workforce often dread meetings. They must report to a “meeting room,” listen to a presentation leader, and then be asked for input, perhaps giving suggestions or solutions that are then placed on a flip chart for discussion. Here are the problems with this:
- People resent being taken from other tasks to attend what they often see as pointless meetings
- Many actually fall asleep during these types of meetings
- Others are on their phones, if they can do so discreetly
The end result? Participation is minimal, the best suggestions/solutions are not achieved, and productivity has just been lacking.
- Technology Issues
How many of us have been to a meeting where a laptop, containing the agenda, objectives, and activities, has failed to operate and project on a large screen? There is then the scurrying around trying to fix the issue, while participants sit and wait, find things to do on their phones, and while valuable productive time is lost.
- Inconvenience for Those Not Physically There
Someone is sick; someone is stuck in an airport as previously described. Someone else has a family emergency. They are then responsible for bringing themselves up to date by taking someone else’s time to get filled in or reading what meeting notes there may be.
Sometimes (and much more often in recent years), there are remote workers, either employees or contracted players, who must be informed of decisions made, so that they may modify their tasks accordingly. This information must be transmitted via email, and ensuing conversations must then occur to further clarify questions or issues. This is, again, time wasted, not to mention potential security risks, as sensitive information is transmitted in this manner.
- Speaking of Security Risks
Attendees at many meetings today bring their own devices into those events, record the session on their devices, or take notes, for future reference. The security of those devices is not known or monitored, and the potential for proprietary information being compromised is increased, especially if bored participants are shopping or accessing questionable sites.
Enter the Smart Meeting Room
There is quite literally no reason for the four issues addressed above. Technology has eliminated them all. And that is what a smart meeting room is all about – using the latest technology to provide a seamless experience for every participant, whether physically present or not, and both simplifying and shortening meeting times, so that everyone can return to their tasks at hand, armed with the important information and key decisions that will impact their own work. Productivity re-captured!
Smart meeting rooms, in short, are all about communication – communication among attendees, remote employees and partners, even vendors, as necessary. And that communication is now visual, not just textual or audio. In fact, video technology serves to enhance interactions among participants, because it provides the visual cues and the “personal touch” that other communication tools do not. Bill Benson, Communications Director for Pick the Writer, says this: “All of our staff members are remote, and we rely heavily on communication among all of us. Traditional methods were slow, cumbersome, and frustrating. Video-conferencing has turned my office into a smart meeting room, and with everyone securely connected through the cloud, we can hold individual, group, and whole team meetings – short, to the point, and productive.”
Smart meeting rooms require equipment that allows the real-time collaboration that teams need, no matter where individual members may be. While it may initially be an expense, the increase in productivity and the higher morale among team members will pay for itself in the long term.
So, let’s look at the improvement of newer technology and equipment over the traditional ways of doing things.
- Conference Calls vs. Video Conferencing
Conference calls are audio conversations among participants. Depending upon the size of the participants, it can be difficult to keep the conversation organized and to keep only one person speaking at a time. It will require a leader who controls the conversation. The other downside of conference calling is that only voices, not visual expressions are relayed. The other issue with conference calls is security. Everyone is on a call from their own phones, and security cannot be controlled.
Video conferencing on the other hand allows participants to see one another, to discern facial expressions, and to have a far more human-like interaction. This builds relationships among remote team members. And using secure video conferencing apps allows for much greater protection.
- Viewing Content
Without all participants in the room, there must be a way for remote access to content that may be visually presented via a digital whiteboard – one that can go through a secure cloud connection and accessed by remote participants on their devices. And many of these whiteboards have additional functions and features that will enhance meetings even more. Here are a few options:
- Google Jamboard: a digital whiteboard that can be operated through the cloud. This board works with G Suite, meaning it coordinates with Google Docs and Sheets and in real-time.
- Samsung Flip: One cool feature is embedded search that can locate other projects that are stored within. There are built-in security features to block unauthorized users.
- Cisco Spark Board: Participants can collaborate through conferencing in the cloud. It has solid encryption features, and connections are wireless.
- Microsoft Surface Hub: This is promoted as an all-in-one solution, that provides both digital whiteboard and video conferencing. No more phones, web cameras, and those hideous old overhead projectors.
There are other options as well, but all will serve to shorten meeting times, allow for everyone’s input, and make decisions faster – keys to increasing productivity.
As smart meeting rooms become more widespread, there are lots of other tools that can be added to enhance meetings. For example, The Meeting Owl is a video camera that can sit in the middle of a conference table and rotate around to each person as s/he speaks. This is especially valuable for remote team members who can see who is speaking. The writing administration team at Supreme Dissertations recommends this, as all of their writers are remote.
Another tool for large enterprises with several smart rooms is JOAN, a tool for scheduling and posting meeting room use and availability. A small interactive screen is posted outside every meeting room with its schedule. Accessing availability via any device can avoid delays in attempting to physically find an empty room for an impromptu or emergency meeting.
You might also want to check out Alexa for Business, or portable cameras like the HuddleCam HD.
“The Times, They are a’Changin’”
These are the words from a famous song by Bob Dylan, and they can certainly apply to the work place and the work force today. Companies need a high level of efficiency if they are to remain competitive; remote work forces are a given in most all sectors of the economy. Just these two challenges can impact overall productivity. Smart meetings rooms are one important solution to meet these challenges.