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When your meeting is meant to be a broadcast, MeetingSphere has little to add, except perhaps the opportunity to get feedback. Also, when a meeting is about seeing eye to eye – in a negotiation or to get to know the other party – or if it is about bonding. In such cases, you’ll probably want to meet in person, perhaps over lunch or dinner.
MeetingSphere comes into its own when you need to do work in an online meeting. Collaborate for results. Unlike traditional conferencing tools which focus on quality of voice and the ease of connecting and, after some 20 years, have become quite good at that, MeetingSphere is focused on outcomes and how to get there. In the time available.
Do real work in online meetings
Perhaps the greatest and most obvious efficiency is the very ability to get to valid results online which often is the only way to get them in time. Online, the right people can attend at much shorter notice. Online, the disruption to their work – and thereby the cost to their respective organizations – is minimized. It all depends, of course, on the ability to actually get things done in the meeting.
That requires tools (MeetingSphere calls them ‘workspaces’) that can handle and even enhance the dynamics of a ‘live’ meeting. MeetingSphere calls this ‘live collaboration' as opposed to the asynchronous work more traditional collaboration tools focus on.
MeetingSphere is all about making meetings dynamic and getting participants involved by letting them contribute (more). That is necessary but not sufficient. To get to results, those dynamics must be controlled, paced and pointed into the right direction. So, of course, MeetingSphere provides for that, too.
If it is just about a quick brainstorming of ideas or facts or whatever, control is very simple: Add a Brainstorm workspace, ask your question (MeetingSphere also helps with that) and open the workspace for participants. Add folders, if you want those ideas sorted. Clean up the list if you like. Close the workspace and press a button to ‘print’ those ideas in a Word report or export them to Excel.
If you want to do more, MeetingSphere lets you build an agenda meaning a sequence of workspaces selected and configured for the task at hand. Say, you need to find and understand possible solutions to a problem. For this, you might want to Brainstorm possible solutions, then Rate the solutions on ‘Effectiveness’, then Discuss the most ‘effective’ solutions regarding their feasibility, implementation and unintended consequences. Then produce the report and mull it over before making a decision or agree the course of action with the group then and there.
Meeting ‘process’ sounds grand and produces great results but is nothing more than organizing the steps you need to take from where you are to where you and your group need to be: Present, if you need to push information. Use Brainstorm to expand the possibilities (ideas, facts, opinions, whatever). Use Rating to narrow things down and prioritize. Use Discussion to drill into matters and to build consensus.
Focus on what's relevant
However simple or complex the steps in your meeting are, you probably want to produce and process reliable information.
In a conventional meeting, this isn’t trivial: Participants may not say what they really think, which means everybody has to spend energy on second guessing everybody else. The question ‘What do they really mean?’ inevitably leads participants to think a lot about ‘who said it’ at the expense of evaluating what is being said. Participants may also not share fully what they know, or even dress up the facts. Which means that the understanding of the situation or the options is likely to be incomplete and distorted. Facts and opinions that are withheld cannot be discussed, options not considered, and so on. Traditional ways of dealing with this involve expert facilitation skills and extra time both of which may be in short supply. Worse, they do not work online.
MeetingSphere offers anonymity because it helps with all of the above, instantly. With anonymity, people tend to say what they think and share what they know. Which means that the situation will be clearer, the list of ideas more comprehensive and original and the contributions to a discussion more honest. Since people cannot know who said it they tend to keep an open mind and judge what they see on its merits. This is not only efficient but liberating. (learn more)
However, just because an idea, an opinion or a fact has been shared does not mean it is relevant to your purpose, or warrant further attention in or beyond the meeting. For most purposes some ‘must have’ criterion i.e. a property without which it need not be considered comes readily to mind. For facts, this often is ‘importance’ which implies that it is also true: If a fact isn’t important (and true) you need not spend time discussing it. Depending on just how much time you can spend, you may even want to reserve your attention for items which are ‘very important’ rather than just important. If you are looking at solutions, you probably want to focus on the most effective because, why would you discuss the feasibility of something that will not solve the issue?
Fortunately, the Rating workspace makes such prioritization easy and fast. This increases efficiency in multiple ways: First, it identifies the top scoring items which warrant further attention and effort in and after the meeting. Second, it identifies the items nobody believes to be relevant in that context. This saves arguing about them again and again. Third, it indicates where the group agrees and where it does not. This may prompt further investigation and, if it matters, efforts to find out who’s got it right and build consensus.
MeetingSphere’s efficiency extends to not letting the results of a meeting go to waste. The workspaces are self-documenting which means that
a verbatim report can be created in Word
results can be exported to Excel
by pressing a button. This saves the effort of writing up the minutes and frees up that time for less tedious work. More importantly, instant documentation that is comprehensive and unbiased enables direct follow-up. It avoids the confusion that can arise by participants working on their private notes (or memory) until the minutes arrive or by sketchy briefings of others involved in follow-up. (learn more)