If all you want to do is broadcast, or show some slides, traditional web conferencing is probably fine. If you want to get to know people, better meet them in person, perhaps over a meal.
If you want to get work done in an online meeting, use MeetingSphere.
MeetingSphere is an intensely collaborative, scalable, next generation meeting environment. It lets you do real work in online meetings and get results fast.
Unlike traditional conferencing tools, which for 25 years have added little beyond letting people talk and share their screen, MeetingSphere enables groups to collaborate in the meeting. For this, MeetingSphere adds a set of collaborative workspaces in which groups can get to results in the time available.
Slow-moving conferences are a pain
Even a good conference call or web conference rarely gets beyond talking about the work. This seems to be fine with technology providers who show an astonishing disregard for what actually goes on in conferences.
It is as if conferences were still billed by time - the longer the better.
MeetingSphere takes a very different view: People who can make things happen, who know and do things should not see their time wasted in deadbeat conferences. Nor should they be forced to travel, just for a few hours of working together effectively. MeetingSphere’s view seems to be shared by those concerned. Somehow, there is no lack of reasons why, sadly, they cannot make it this time.
Most people are quite aware of what is needed to make online meetings – and, indeed, any meeting – efficient and productive. The list includes
Getting the right people to attend
Planning the steps required for that outcome
Enabling participants to contribute
Letting participants say what they (really) think and keep an open mind
Focusing on what’s relevant
Documenting the outcome and how you got there
If many meetings are nonetheless lacking, and one assumes that people do try, the devil must be in the practicalities of making it happen. The following sections explain the issues and how MeetingSphere helps to drive efficiency in meetings.
Productivity driver 1: Getting the right people to attend
Obviously, the quality of the meeting depends on the quality of the participants: If you need to involve influential stakeholders, having their deputies attend is, well, not quite what you need. If you need experts to crack a problem or determine what is possible, you don’t want their intern to show up instead.
Just as obviously, meeting online makes meetings easier to attend, especially for those who'd have had to travel, with lots to do and little time.
But beware of low expectations. Wasted time is time wasted, even without travel. Web conferences are easy to attend but even easier to drop out of. People turning up just pro forma, expecting to do email, won't help you achieve what you must.
In short: If your success depends on getting the right people involved, give them a reason to expect that this conference will be different and therefore worth their while. That the efficiency drivers are all in place and working. Or simply assure them that the meeting is run on MeetingSphere.
Productivity driver 2: Planning the steps required for that outcome
Call it ‘process’ or call it ‘agenda’. If you’re in one place and you need to be in another, there are certain steps to take and work to do that get you there.
If, for instance, you have a problem and, at the end of the meeting, you need a choice of workable solutions, you may want to (A) present the issue as you see it, (B) brainstorm possible solutions, (C) identify the most promising (‘effective’) solutions and (D) discuss these candidates as to their feasibility, prerequisites and possible risks.
MeetingSphere supports such a ‘process’ with a set of workspaces: ‘Presentation’ lets you push information and get feedback. ‘Brainstorm’ lets you and your group expand the possibilities (ideas, facts, opinions, whatever). With ‘Rating’ you can prioritize and assess items on one or multiple criteria. ‘Discussion’ allows groups to drill into matters and build consensus.
MeetingSphere’s ‘Agenda’ tool helps you bring these workspaces into any required sequence. It even helps you with asking the right questions.
Productivity driver 3: Enabling participants to contribute
Talking in turn is perhaps the greatest turn-off in meetings. Literally. One person talking shuts up the rest. This means that the overwhelming majority of facts, opinions or ideas and, indeed, responses to what is being said, cannot be shared because of the simple technicality of only one person being able to speak at a time.
No need to labor this point: Shutting up all participants but one for most of the time is blatantly inefficient, and participants don't like it. Which is why, MeetingSphere allows all participants to contribute at will, when they have something to say or ask.
Productivity driver 4: Letting participants speak out and keep an open mind
The technical ability to contribute is required. However, it does not guarantee that participants will speak out. And, sadly, even if people share what they really think, that doesn't mean that what they say actually gets heard.
In all experience, discussions where people hold back or dress up the facts and where people are more concerned with ‘who said it’ rather than what has been shared, are rarely productive. At best, such discussions are a waste of time. At worst, if taken at face value, they can lead to confusion and poor decisions.
MeetingSphere enables participants to both speak out and ‘listen’ with an open mind by providing anonymity. Anonymity enables disclosure. Just as importantly, without having to worry about WHO said it, contributions are judged on merit. With people sharing openly what they think and people actually listening, discussions stand a very good chance of achieving their purpose.
Productivity driver 5: Focusing on what’s relevant
If you have the right people in the meeting that’s great. If they have shared the facts and their opinions honestly, that is super. All is set for a meaningful result. That is, unless people start to ride their hobby horses, go down rabbit holes or start chasing red herrings. Pick your metaphor.
This worry isn’t far-fetched. Without a means to prioritize matters objectively, people will choose the topics subjectively. As in, “I’m the senior guy here. That idea looks promising to me and I know something about it. So, let’s start with that.” Unfortunately, as you can only discuss so much in a meeting, this kind of prioritization may well leave much more interesting matters undiscussed. It also tends to turn people off, the smarter the sooner.
Fortunately, technology comes to the rescue also at this point. MeetingSphere supports all customary rating methods by which groups can assess what is relevant, promising, important or pressing. The results are instantly available and establish what warrants attention. Items can warrant attention because participants agree that, for instance, certain items would be highly effective in solving the issue at hand. Alternatively, it can be about establishing consensus. If the results show that views differ strongly on certain items, perhaps we should invest some time discussing why that is so and how we could come to a shared view?
Such prioritization by the group has two effects:
The most important stuff gets covered
People really engage with topics which are either high priority or truly controversial
Clearly this is preferable to participants enduring a lukewarm exchange on a subject few believe to be relevant while what really matters falls off the back undiscussed.
Productivity driver 6: Documenting the outcome and how you got there
At a minimum, the minutes should record decisions and actions and be timely. Ideally, they summarize the discussion and the reasons why a certain conclusion was reached. This saves time down the road, when some matter is warmed up again as in, “Thank you, that argument was duly considered when we made our decision. What’s new?”
Unfortunately, the writing of good minutes is more art than science. Striking the right balance in any summary is inherently political: If I give Tom’s argument, I must include Susan’s objection. So, what about Ann’s confirmation which added that subtle but important twist? The R&D folks didn’t really add much, but I can’t leave them out, can I? No time to think this through now. Better sleep on it. Or should I just put it all in? Impossible. My notes aren’t detailed enough. Would have to make it up.
That’s how hours are wasted, and minutes get delayed – or people just give up on meaningful minutes.
With MeetingSphere, the boxes for good minutes are easy to tick.
All MeetingSphere workspaces are self-documenting
The minutes are verbatim, but easy to navigate quickly