Meetings are a love-hate relationship for most of us. The rise of BlueJeans, Zoom, Teams, Webex, and the rest, fueled by COVID, has made meetings easier to set up and attend (or politely ignore if you turn off your camera), as well as putting remote workers on a level playing field with everyone else. However, few would argue that videoconferencing has improved meetings much.
A few short-term modifications may be able to help.
With hybrid work set to become a permanent part of the future workplace, conferencing technology has seen a surge of innovation. I believe this will forever alter our perceptions of how we meet, resulting in more productive and inclusive office events. It'll take a while to get there, but the stars are aligning in a way that will fundamentally change the way we connect.
Having better meetings
For one thing, we'll probably have more meetings that are shorter and more focused. Face-to-face communication is now possible via smartphones, tablets, and even watches. There's no reason why everyone who wants to participate in a meeting can't do so.
Meetings will also have a larger attendance. We may quickly enlist the help of third-party subject matter experts when they are needed and available. Videoconferencing has already transformed the traditional top-down, one-way company meeting into a more inclusive dialogue. The fact that interactive meetings can now be worldwide is evidenced by the 45,000 devices and approximately 100,000 people that participated in a video chat in anticipation of the Jewish 3 Tammuz celebration last June.
Manufacturers of collaboration software are currently competing to bring new features to market. Since September, Cisco claims to have added more than 800 new features and devices to its Webex videoconferencing system.
Microsoft has proposed a futuristic conference room with huge screens, eye-level cameras, and spatial audio that makes it easy to see who is speaking. Each virtual participant will be seated at the same virtual table in a familiar panel style. Instead of being segregated into different windows, presentations and chat discussions will be blended into the workspace. People will be able to mark up each other's work on shared whiteboards. Because all of these capabilities take up a lot of screen space, manufacturers of large television monitors will profit handsomely.
In most cases, the technology to perform all of this has been in place for a long time, but there was little motivation to use it because most meetings took place in the same physical spot. As the workplace changes, technology companies will be compelled to make these advanced functions more widely available.
Some businesses are taking things a step further. In a Second Life-like experience, virtual places increasingly mimic patios, parks, and other common community spaces. Others use a similar strategy, allowing visitors to move around and interact with others on a case-by-case basis in order to replicate one of the most intangible components of office life: meetings that create relationships and generate ideas. The more popular features will transfer to corporate markets over time, even if they're now geared for consumer markets.
Recordings and transcripts are two tools that are quickly becoming standard in corporate meetings. Meeting recordings turn the fleeting nature of meetings into an archive that can be analyzed to determine exactly what was said and by whom. The major videoconferencing systems now include transcription options that produce amazingly precise results, including exact speaker identification. This provides us with an instant, searchable library of complex multi-speaker interactions, and the technology will only improve.
In corporate meetings, people will continue to be the weak link. Technology can't do much about ambiguous objectives or loudmouths. However, if advanced features become more popular, we can expect behavior to shift as well.
Technology won't make meetings more enjoyable but it will make them far more productive.
As a leading New Zealand Distributor of Digital Workplace technologies, Merge AudioVisual helps businesses to connect and communicate. Merge AudioVisual is the official partner of BlueJeans in New Zealand. BlueJeans Network is the most advanced way to enable video conferencing in the workplace or on the road.
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