How IT Can Create Meetings That Boost Productivity

Meetings are essential part of working life for many organisations. But sometimes meetings can be seen by participants as time-wasting or unnecessary. There are lots of great tips for organisers and participants to follow, but IT also has an influence on whether meetings are driving clear communication and productivity or becoming unwanted time sinks.

Pick the Right Platform

There are many ways to communicate in the modern world, video, phone, face-to-face (or though that can be problematic in 2020), instant chat, text message, email etc.
The key to relaying the information you need to, or getting the response needed lies in picking the right channel for the message. It sounds simple but it is still something many people get wrong.

Need a quick ETA on something? instant messenger won’t distract your colleague for too long. Need to bounce ideas with someone the other side of the world, video may be the better than a phone call so you can gauge reactions and easily share files together.

The Organiser

Before diving in, take a moment to consider the basic requirements for your communication:

  • What information do I need to relay?
  • What input or response do I need to get back?
  • Who needs to be involved?

It may sound a bit obvious, but we are often so busy we don’t consider these basic points and fire off an email or book a team meeting in a rush. By taking a short moment to consider these points we may realise that what will take a day of email chains to tackle a problem can be solved by a quick team meeting or conversely, a meeting is not necessary and the answer can be quickly acquired by an instant message.

The IT Department

Starting out with a clear collaboration strategy is crucial. It is important to ensure that your organisation has a range of communication tools to cover each eventuality. These tools must integrate properly, allowing users to easily set up meetings and communicate between platforms.

Work forces are, and will be increasingly spread out and working more flexibly so its important that these tools work on many different devices and support remote workers. Try to understand staff communication needs and their workflows and provide tools that not only enable communications, but that staff know how to use and prefer.

These tools should enhance the experience for meetings and communications. All too often we see dis-connected collaboration environments that turn staff off from using them to their full potential. Shadow IT springs up as users move to more familiar and easier-to-use tools, compromising security and leading to a reduction in communication and productivity.

Managing Time

Sometimes it can seem like too many meetings start to get in the way of getting work done. You look at your calendar and realise that you have back-to-back calls and video meetings all day long. Each will have action points added to your workload, but most of your working day is tied up.

The Organiser

When you are booking or accepting meetings, try to schedule in a way that gives you breathing space between meetings. Its important to take half an hour to write up your notes, consider what was discussed and go back to other staff for clarification or to raise a point you only thought of retrospectively.

Likewise, when booking or organising meetings, create an agenda to share with participants that clearly lays out what you want to achieve by the end of the meeting, and how much time it will take. Avoid the pitfall of booking an hour and then meandering around the topic or filling the time with non-essential topics. Often tightly run meetings can be productive and finish early, giving back all involved some valuable time.

The IT Department

Reliability of service is critical; meetings must be quick and easy to set up. Tools must be ready to go and easy to use. What can often be overlooked is staff training, and this comes back to the all-important user workflows. Rolling out a fancy new videoconferencing platform to your new meeting rooms? That is great but take a bit of time to introduce staff to the technology and familiarise themselves with the tools. Show them how to set up and join meetings in the room and connecting externally.

A good way to encourage adoption is to pick some ‘champions’ in each to team to train up and then promote and support their team members. Also ensure team leaders are advocates and are making sure their teams are using the correct tools and can quickly feedback any issues.

When It Goes Wrong

With the best will in the world, even the most well-designed technology in the world will go wrong occasionally. Having the ability to respond calmly and quickly is important, especially if it happens while communicating with clients or senior influencers.

The Organiser

Firstly, you can mitigate issues with some preparation. Can’t remember how to work the meeting room touch screen? Book a quick 20 minutes before the main meeting and give yourself a quick refresher. Not only will this help the meeting go smoothly, it will highlight any issues or problems ahead of time, giving you a chance to get them fixed.
But for those times when something does go wrong on the day, as the Hitch Hiker’s Guide suggests, do not panic! We have all been in the situation, high pressure meeting, nerves are a bit frayed and something breaks 10 minutes before the start. Cue the panic, shouting at service desk and making the situation work.

We have all seen actors or news readers fluff their lines, but the best acknowledges their mistake and smoothly moves on. Can you move to another room? Can you continue with audio only while IT fixes the problem? Can you reschedule easily? Staying calm is the best way to look competent in front of peers and solve the problem quicker.

The IT Department

As you expect from your suppliers, quick, effective, and calm response is key. Establish ahead of time who is responsible for meeting rooms, IT or facilities.

Do you have AV trained staff onsite for more serious problems?

If not ensure your service provider or installer has a solid SLA and good support options.

Do you have kit from multiple hardware suppliers and platforms from different providers?

Often, we hear clients complain that when it comes to support, suppliers try to pass the buck and you end up being bounced around with no-one taking ownership. You may want to consider support from a collaboration specialist that can provide monitoring and support for all different platforms, so you have a single point of contact to go to locate faults and quickly fix to minimise the impact on productivity.

In conclusion

Meetings continue to be one of the essential ways teams and colleagues come together to communicate, problem solve, share ideas, and understand their part in achieving the organisation’s wider goals.

Meetings play a part in team and company morale and team spirit. Badly run meetings, either by the organiser or because of toolsets or equipment that do not support the organisation’s collaboration strategy can negatively affect productivity, communication, and team spirit.
Fortunately, with the right approach, you can avoid these pitfalls.