How often have you left a meeting feeling it was a waste of time; felt unclear as to whether anything had been accomplished; and questioning if all those action items would ever really be followed up?

If you answered yes to any of the above, chances are it’s not you – it’s your outdated meeting routine and lack of collaborative business communication tools at hand.

CommunicationWhat makes a meeting effective?

The meeting achieves its objective, it takes up a minimum amount of time, it leaves participants feeling that a sensible process has been followed, it effects decisions, generates collaborative sharing and new ideas, and creates a process, supported by follow up status reports.

Enhanced computer-aided technologies have enabled levels of communication that leaps time and distance. From electronic mail, instant messaging, intranet and extranet links, translation, note-taking, videoconferencing and online training to more custom focussed tools for businesses to meet, share, agree and process business transactions, we have no excuse not to be communicating more precisely, fluidly and efficiently.

Streaming the digital highway

Electronic mail has overtaken the humble dialling tone, with more email addresses in the world than telephone numbers and more people have multiple e-mail addresses than multiple telephone numbers.

Instant messaging (IM) has become essentially real time e-mail, keeping managers in touch with employees and employees in touch with each other, without the delay and inbox clutter of email. The adoption of IM has been at grassroots level, much like the rise of the IPad in the business setting, where workers have carried over the habit from home or social settings in order to add speed and ease to workplace communication and eliminate time typically lost to “telephone tag” or wasted trips to a co-workers office who is absent or otherwise occupied.

Multi-dimensional meetings

Integrated web, audio and video conferencing solutions have not only streamlined, but captivated, audiences of web meetings, webinars, audio conferencing, online training seminars and multi-point video conferencing with the addition of technology that makes the best of sound, light, and emotive influences.

Increasingly sophisticated electronic collaboration tools are further facilitating audience participation by stakeholders regardless of their location and complement face-to-face meetings, email, and teleconferences, by trimming time and expenses and fostering open communication and better evaluation and project management within teams.

Regardless of differences in time zones or work schedules, software integral to the platform provides documentation of threaded discussions, audit history, and other mechanisms designed to capture the efforts of many into a managed content environment be it workflows, projects, deadlines, or sign-off on deliverables. While several well-known commercial electronic collaboration products exist such as SAP and Microsoft’s Sharepoint, there are other customised products available that offer advanced document management and user participation, for example via electronic voting systems that provide proper authentication of votes and assurance of confidentiality.

Meetings with social media

It’s been said that the social media phenomenon really isn’t anything new, it’s just new and better technology. With origins most likely born from e-mail and instant message correspondence, social media is rapidly moving from an emerging communications medium to the mainstream of marketing.

Adding a new dynamic to how we communicate before, during and after meetings and events, social media creates the ‘buzz’, listing who is going to be there and giving participants a reason to go tell others by adding embedded links to specific sites, videos or forums that promote more sharing.

Event professionals know to make sure their venue is well covered with high-speed wireless to ensure attendees will be able to use Twitter and post to blogs and other sites more easily. And they data mine the most active bloggers and attendees via their online profiles so they can invite them to associated groups, blogs and forums. The life of a meeting is then seamlessly extended by building a thriving online community that remains open to further valuable insights, interaction and information.

Fear factor

Digital tools still face the challenge of the human factor – the fear of technology and the resistance to investment in technical knowledge and time, as well as some of the more traditional corporate cultures that do not support open discussions and sharing of power.

What they offer in its place is anywhere (online) capability which avoids travel time and cost, increased participant availability (any place, any time), increased interactivity and participation, more sophisticated analysis and automatic, comprehensive, neutral documentation.

Modern meetings get results. Modern meetings become an action plan with assignments and timelines that are automatically tracked. The visibility of decisions and assignments during the meeting keeps everyone engaged and allow for automatic follow-up resulting in less wasted time and greater accountability.

Isn’t it time to rethink your ‘meeting of minds’?

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