Business meetings, whether in a small office, between far-flung employees of an international company, or business to business, are becoming more and more enhanced by technology. We are all more connected because of e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, teleconferencing, and videoconferencing. Calendaring — the ability to check a colleague’s schedule or add meetings to his or her calendar — is now a standard feature in Microsoft Outlook.
Recent technological advances can further strengthen your business, making your meetings more efficient, productive, and creative. Here are some cutting-edge ideas and developments:
No More Whiteboard
At small meetings, the norm is still for everyone at the conference table to write things down. However, if you are able to designate one person as the “technographer,” then that person can record everyone’s ideas on a laptop, with the entries appearing before the group either on a large monitor or projected onto the wall. Unlike whiteboards, which fill up and have to be erased, the capacity of a computer is boundless.
Following the group’s direction, the technographer can edit ideas as the meeting goes along, drag related notions alongside each other, rerank choices, and redirect everyone’s attention merely by scrolling back to earlier notations. This is especially useful for brainstorming sessions and creative meetings. Another benefit is that everyone can leave the meeting with a hard-copy record in hand, and that instant meeting record can be e-mailed to the rest of the company.
Like teleconferencing, Web conferencing is a way to talk to people in different locations at the same time. Some businesses have gone beyond this initial premise, however. For example, Web conferencing can be used to hold training sessions over the Internet, so that trainees several time zones away can enter a virtual classroom to work with a simulation of the system they are learning, along with real-time instructions from a trainer. Students see what the software looks like in action. They can interrupt the lesson with questions using text chat or voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) technology, which lets them make long-distance telephone calls over the Internet rather than over telephone wires.
With an IT team that you trust, you can customize your company’s internal network so that your various offices can easily communicate and collaborate. Some businesses set up chat rooms and bulletin boards to keep communication flowing between various departments or office sites. Employees can leave notes for one another or have ongoing conversations through this private section of the company’s Web site. Occasional use of Internet conferencing software can also come in handy.
A wiki is a web page that multiple users can collaborate on — it’s generally basic in design and easy to use. Popularized by way of wikipedia.org, an online encyclopedia fed by contributions from thousands of people, wikis are now starting to work their way into the business arena. The advantages of wikis are that they increase group productivity and also act as a business knowledge base where information is logged and easily accessible. The ever-shifting nature of a wiki means it may never be completely finished, but it does remain current.
Good candidates for wiki use include companies that generate a lot of documentation through groups, are team project oriented, or seek a collaborative writing environment. Just freeing your inbox from the heaps of cc’ed e-mails and fostering productivity can be worth the investment.
There’s no doubt that, to stay in the game, your organization needs to keep up-to-date with emerging technology. Communications between team members or between you and your clients are vital, and recent technological advances will give your company the edge it needs to succeed in the business world of tomorrow.