Thanks to technology, businesses now have the ability to expand their operations globally and increase their remit of services. This has dramatically increased the need for and use of collaboration between teams and, as was revealed in a two-decade long study by the Harvard Business Review, employees are getting their heads together for meetings with colleagues over 50 per cent more often.
Although the meeting is, by its very nature, a driver of progress, they also risk inflaming some employees’ biggest workplace peeves, such as one person dominating the discussion while the rest lose interest in the shared goals.
But many common problems can be solved by identifying what your team members really want from a meeting room and planning for it through design and technology in the early stages.
A study by intranet software provider Igloo found that 47 per cent of workers say that meetings are not productive. This will ring true with any worker who has sat in a meeting that’s drifted off topic, which proved to be a major gripe for 59 per cent of employees surveyed.
Not being able to hear or see what’s being discussed can be very frustrating for all involved, but when team members give up on trying to contribute to the main group and instead launch their own conversations with their immediate neighbours mid-meeting, it’s counterproductive for all involved. In fact, 47 per cent of workers from the study stated that these ‘side meetings’ were a huge frustration in their working day.
If one person dominates the conversation then a meeting can feel like a thankless task for the rest of the team. Being unable to offer input or have their say made 47 per cent of workers from the Igloo research cite someone taking control as a major gripe for them in a meeting.
Almost everyone feels like they don’t have enough time in the day. But when it comes to meetings, the frustration caused by things running over schedule is felt by everyone involved. Irritation caused by constant technical issues during meetings was felt by 34 per cent of respondents to the Igloo survey, making it an area businesses need to get under control for their teams to be able to use their time together productively.
As a large proportion of a working day is spent in group meetings or work sessions, major organisations and business leaders are going to greater lengths to analyse collaborative habits and ultimately identify the winning formula for a successful team.
Tech giant Google, for example, has dedicated resources to exploring how employees work well together and what they want from their collaborative work spaces. Project Aristotle was launched by the firm in 2012 to try and establish group norms and behaviours to compare why some teams work better than others. After studying hundreds of groups, the project found that successful teams tended to have better “social sensitivity” – they were more intuitive to tone of voice and expressions – and distributed the conversation fairly evenly between all members of the group.
Clearly employees want to work with socially aware people. But the study also illustrates the fact that for meetings to gel and function efficiently, workers need the space they’re working in to be conducive to collaboration and sharing the floor. So what can be done to solve the common problems and give team members what they really want from a meeting room?
If a meeting is going off topic, something’s preventing teams from sticking to the agenda and moving forwards. Human input can’t be ignored and meeting plans and schedules certainly have a role to play. But there are certain things the meeting room setup itself can provide to keep things moving in one core direction.
It makes sense to start with the creation of a focal point in the room. If everyone is looking at a large shared screen, displaying relevant information that’s bright and clear to read, there is a reduced chance of succumbing to distraction in comparison to a team that’s struggling to view the material under discussion.
Audio also needs to be considered in this matter; is the sound clear for anyone that’s dialled into the call? Can people at the back of the room hear what’s being discussed at the head of the table or is a microphone required for key contributors?
When the eyes and ears of an audience are held to attention, their brains tend to follow, making it easier to keep meetings on topic and on track.
As with ‘The Tangent’, side meetings tend to occur when people face barriers to engagement in the main meeting; perhaps they can’t see the area of the screen with the information being discussed so they tune out and talk to their neighbour instead. But there’s a second factor at work here, namely barriers to contribution.
For a truly productive meeting, team members want a meeting room that allows them to contribute to the topics of discussion; an agile environment that allows them to jump in and talk through their pre-prepared data or visuals easily, no matter what device they’re using.
The rise of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend and the range of operating systems in use makes this a daunting problem to solve. But it needn’t be. A lot of technology on the market now is simple to use, wireless, and will work with almost any device the team can throw at it, from laptop, to tablet to smartphone. Barco’s ClickShare is a popular choice here, but there are others that work well in smaller teams, such as the Kramer VIA Connect Pro or Montage by DisplayNote.
Almost half of those questioned (47 per cent) said that one person taking control of a meeting was a major gripe for them. This is clearly a big issue and one that risks derailing projects.
It’s something that looks like a personality problem on the face of it. But in most cases team members just want the tools they need to balance things out. A central display screen is a very powerful addition to any meeting and in many cases whoever holds the access to the screen will hold the attention of the team and the meeting.
So tools that open up the chance to contribute to more than one person at a time are worth their weight in gold.
Barco ClickShare, again, is a popular choice here, particularly for ease of use when it comes to letting almost any contributor jump in and add their content on a main display screen. But there are other options that will allow dozens of team members to contribute at once, like Awind WePresent SharePOD or NovoPRO.
Unfortunately, if it’s the always same one person dominating every meeting, then HR might be better placed than IT to solve the matter.
Meetings have evolved from the whiteboards and handouts of the past to fast-paced, global affairs as technology has enabled collaboration and teamwork on an incredible scale, allowing teams scattered across the world to simply dial in and share their input and work. But is the tools aren’t in place to facilitate collaboration, things risk grinding to a halt.
Whether it’s delays in getting everyone connected to the display screen, pauses during a meeting while cables are switched over between contributors, or a call to IT to fix a problem mid-meeting, teams don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to time-wasting technology problems.
Teams want presentation and collaboration tools that are reliable and quick to set up. They expect to be able to connect people who are physically in the meeting room or dialling in remotely to the main shared display screen, no matter what device or operating system they’re using.
Ease of use also matters to teams in this area; solutions should be sufficiently straightforward to setup that there’s little or no training required so guests can connect and share their material quickly and easily without the need for IT teams to help out.
The right technology choices - from the perfect display screen, through to the faceplates and connection points your team use to present from their personal devices - will help give all employees, clients and guest contributors what they really want from a meeting room: the chance to have their say in an all-important group meeting.