By Patrick Lee
Vice President, Entertainment & Corporate – Barco
We’ve all been there: Sitting around a conference table fidgeting while awaiting the arrival of the IT specialist to untangle the mass of cables, get the presenter’s PowerPoint on screen, the clock ticking away as attendees lose interest and contemplate life beyond the meeting room.
To some, it might simply be a minor inconvenience, but multiply this lost time by 3 billion business meetings a year, and you’ve amassed literally thousands of man hours in wasted company time. Recent studies indicate that the Fortune 500 alone loses $75 million annual on unproductive meetings. And the problems go deeper:
- 71 percent of meeting participants feel that meetings are unproductive
- 38 percent of employees say there’s not enough collaboration in the workspace
- 68 percent say they cannot use their own computing device with the meeting system
It’s no wonder most employees feel that office meetings consume too much time with no tangible results or corresponding benefit in productivity. The fact is, most meeting room systems are inflexible and difficult to use, and typically result in the main presenter dominating the meeting. Without the ability to clearly present and share information in an efficient way, many workers choose not to participate in the discussion, inhibiting any chance for meaningful dialog, and thus never achieving true collaboration.
Is it the holy grail, or is there a reliable way to harness the collective genius of an organization and enable effective knowledge-sharing in the meeting room?
Introducing the Smart Meeting
Fortunately, technology innovators have responded to the need for enhanced collaboration by developing innovative presentation systems that promise to make meetings smarter for a new generation. After all, today’s up and coming professionals have grown up in a world populated by multiple, intuitive devices that allow them to instantly share their data, images, video and more. These new workers expect the same functionality in the meeting room that they enjoy at home with their consumer electronics, i.e., surfing Smart TV, wirelessly sharing music/media across all devices, so office administrators and IT directors need to take note.
Gen X/Y Drives the BYOD Collaboration Trend
This new social knowledge-sharing paradigm demands that organizations offer a foolproof way for employees and visitors to quickly and easily connect their own laptops, smartphones and tablets (aka the BYOD “Bring Your Own Device” trend), to the main meeting room display. Because these Generation X and Y workers tend to be more easily distracted with shorter attention spans vis-à-vis the proliferation of digital technologies, it’s important that a meeting room system not only enable fast set-up, but also seamless interaction to minimize interruptions and keep participants focused. Collaboration tools that allow presenters to spontaneously share their content without disrupting the flow of the meeting are the best options for improving meeting dynamics. For example, Barco’s ClickShare enables up to four participants to share their content simultaneously on the main display with the click of a button controlled by each user. Because it’s wireless, there’s no need to switch devices or cables; users simply share a document, a video, an Internet browser and more to enrich the discussion.
In a typical meeting scenario, an employee may carry in his laptop, a consultant could bring her iPad or PC tablet, while others may pull out their smartphones to share information. The most robust collaboration solutions can accommodate all of these devices — as well as integrate with popular enterprise communications systems — and quickly provision them through simple hardware or software apps to push content to the main display.
Guests attending business meetings often have the most challenging connectivity issues since they are not affiliated with the company network. Often, they are required to access room information, IP addresses and/or upload apps to interact with the presentation system. Fortunately, some systems on the market eliminate this problem by creating their own standalone network and connecting users via a simple USB device or app.
This boost in interactivity and heightened information-sharing tends to result in better decision-making since ideas and information can flow rapidly, supported by visuals that reinforce content. In fact, 70+ percent of users cite improved decision-making as the top benefit of data visualization tools, and it can literally pay off: The ROI of collaboration tools is 4x the initial investment, making it a win-win for users and the organization alike.
Ease of Use is #1 Priority
A prevalent theme in today’s most effective presentation and collaboration systems is simplicity. In a recent study, 77 percent of users cited “ease of use” as the number one priority for presentation tools, which has been reflected in numerous surveys time and again. The meeting room system should offer the user-friendliness of most consumer applications so that anyone can be ready to share their content within seconds of starting up the very first time. After all, if it’s difficult to use, your audience will be limited to only the tech savvy workers in your organization, which defeats the purpose of a ubiquitous, screen-sharing solution!
A meeting presentation system should also be simple to install in a variety of spaces, from a large auditorium, to a conference room, to huddle spaces, enabling users to spontaneously collaborate to achieve enterprise-wide collaboration. Some systems, like ClickShare, can be conveniently scaled and deployed throughout the organization, and managed centrally using enterprise-wide software, which greatly simplifies administration for facilities or IT managers. A bonus is the ability to integrate with global telepresence systems to enable videoconferencing and remote collaboration.
Six Steps to Next-Generation Collaboration
When considering a new meeting room presentation system, organizations should focus on solutions that empower today’s young professionals to freely share their knowledge in the manner they’re accustomed. This means taking into account the plethora of smart devices and alternative computing platforms that will no doubt find their way into the meeting room.
A simple six-step checklist can ensure that you consider all of the important aspects when making a purchasing decision:
Security vs. convenience
How do you balance user expectations, convenience and desired access to multiple networks with the need for ironclad security? Meeting spaces, huddle rooms, or other areas equipped with AV solutions create a potentially dangerous intersection between corporate network(s), guest network and the worldwide web. Presentation systems that operate on their own standalone network can provide both flexibility and security while accommodating all types of users and venues.
Who is in your meeting room?
Are you equipping a single conference room? A network of huddle spaces? A large auditorium? All of the above? Also, who is attending your meetings and what devices are they bringing? You need to consider the entire universe of users and locations within your organization to determine a collaboration device strategy. The system that can meet the widest variety of needs is the natural choice in most cases.
Integration and interoperability are a must
Collaboration doesn’t just extend to the business users, but also with the AV infrastructure already in place. Does the system you’re considering play well with others? It should seamlessly integrate with the room control system as well as your videoconferencing platform to maximize functionality and usability.
According to 80 percent of business leaders, technology is the #1 way to improve collaboration in the meeting room, but one out of four US employees says that they experience technology overload in their work life. That’s why the technology should be invisible, and the user experience simple. Don’t get an overly complicated system that’s difficult to learn, or no one will use it.
Cross-platform is more inclusive
For successful collaboration, your meeting room system needs to accommodate a multitude of device types (Windows, iOS, Android, etc.) as the BYOD trend continues to rise. In today’s meeting rooms, it’s all about empowering a mobile, flexible work style that increases productivity through close collaboration.
Human factors determine ease of use
Everyone has struggled with a 40-button remote control or puzzling touchscreen microwave to no avail. Fortunately, even the most robust presentation systems don’t have to be difficult to use! Some of the latest options are designed for simplicity and are highly intuitive, enabling users to get up and running in no time.
 Based on data contained in the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project (2012) and “Technology and Society” Planning & Progress (2014) by Northwestern Mutual