Now that technology has untethered employees from their desks and offices, it’s about to transform the conference room, too. And as anyone who spends time in meetings knows, there’s plenty of room for more efficiency when teams get together.
Distributed teams of all sizes rely on technology to foster communications and collaboration. But conference room facilities make it tough for teams to replicate the in-person experience for those joining remotely.
The changing workforce is forcing organizations to rethink how modern meetings should be conducted. In fact, two-thirds of companies say they’re “engaged in, planning for or evaluating ‘conference rooms of the future’ projects,” writes Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research.
A key challenge is that many businesses don’t have the right technology in place. Conference rooms often aren’t set up for convenience and efficiency, which causes employees to view meetings as little more than time-wasters. So, Nemertes asked IT leaders what features mattered most to them when thinking about the “conference room of the future.”
High-speed network connectivity topped the list as most important. Fifty-five percent of respondents said faster speed was needed in traditional meeting rooms, and 44 percent said they wanted it in huddle rooms. Other top desires include high-quality sound, access to power outlets and a consistent set of collaboration tools.
These and other technical features address some of the main obstacles to holding effective meetings. Here’s a look at six of the top technology trends destined to shape the conference room of the future.
Internet of Things
One obstacle to making meetings more efficient is a lack of insight into which rooms are available at any given time. Even among organizations that use a central calendar, many rooms that appear booked actually go unused because employees frequently schedule meetings for particular conference rooms, but then don’t show up. The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a promising resolution to this conundrum. Communications-enabled sensors can detect when meeting participants arrive. If no one enters the room around the designated time, the system can automatically mark the room as free on the schedule and alert an office manager of the change via text or email.
Remote workers must contend with a myriad of obstacles when connecting to team meetings. They have to search in their calendar for the right conference number, jot the PIN down and juggle the phone and notebook while dialing in. Cell phone service is sometimes wonky. At the same time, inside the conference room, the meeting leader may overlook remote attendees and fail to give them the time they need to speak.
Unified communications addresses these issues by making it easy for everyone to join and participate. Using a single communications app, attendees can join meetings from any location. The meeting leader can see at a glance who’s on the call and ensure everyone has equal time on the stage.
By removing the need to use multiple apps, unified communications takes the pain out of connecting from afar or while on the go. In addition to simply clicking to join a conference, remote workers can use an app’s chat feature to hold side conversations with other attendees. In this way, UC comes close to replicating the in-person experience for remote attendees by providing the tools they need to “be in the room” no matter where they are, thus providing the flexibility and mobility remote workers expect and crave.
Video conferencing also puts remote workers in the conference room. One of the advantages of meeting in-person is the ability to read body language and understand nuances that are hard to detect in audio-only conversations. In the past, video conferencing equipment was expensive and tricky to use. But a unified communications solution makes video accessible on laptops, tablets and mobile devices. That means meeting leaders can walk into a conference room and immediately greet remote workers joining by video.
Team collaboration features
In the “conference room of the future,” team collaboration features will be especially important, Nemertes says. According to 45.9 percent of survey respondents, document sharing is the most important team collaboration application, followed by voice, video and screen sharing. Document sharing increases meeting productivity and speeds decision-making by enabling all attendees to follow along and add commentary in real-time.
Interactive white boards
Finally, interactive white boards are finding their way into more conference rooms. These devices integrate touchscreen technology with audio and video conferencing capabilities. As a hub for teams to collaborate, visualize, collect ideas and share work, they may quickly become a focal point in meetings or a workspace for distributed collaboration.
These tech trends will be game changers for companies of all sizes, driving seamless collaboration, greater productivity and faster decision-making—both for those in the conference room and for those joining virtually.