• Jim

A New Conference Tool...Really?

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

“Catastrophic,” “I didn’t even know who was talking,” “What a waste of time,” “I didn’t understand anything,” ... the list of complaints is as long as your arm!Anyone who has ever experimented with a distant meeting can testify how a collaboration opportunity can become a nightmare.

“Which page did you say?”

I remember a few months ago, my Italian colleague Matteo was working from home (Milano) and the two of us had to discuss a simple business topic. While talking in our distant meeting, we wanted to exchange files but couldn’t. Sharing my screen was not possible because of his poor network bandwidth, our internal chat system did not allow file exchange, and the mail I tried to send was rejected because of its size. We finally ended up using our private Gmail (yes, you read that correctly) to share business data. Isn’t that crazy?And guess what? It was still very tough to understand each other while reviewing the documents (“Which page?” “Cell D43, are you sure?”)

This real-life example is not an exception; every day similar problems happen to co-workers all around the world. Unable to connect to the conference system (have you ever tried to enter an eight-character code while riding in your car?), poor sound quality, impossible to identify who is talking…Now, think for a minute about your business-as-usual meetings. You know, the physical ones. 😊Are they always effective? Is it really worth it to spend 60 minutes listening,especially when you still have a bunch of work to do? Obviously, the answer is no. As posted in our blog here and here, having remote meetings is no easy task. Actually, a distant meeting combines the disadvantages of the “regular” ones with the technical issues described earlier.

How Do We Fix It?

Most of the current solution providers tend to tackle one or some of the aforementioned problems. By doing that, they’re attempting to differentiate themselves from the big players like Skype and Cisco, but they forget to look even further. To achieve successful distant meetings, you can focus on improving the sound quality (although it is still required), but you will never replace the warmth and quality of a face-to-face discussion. You can make it easier to share information between participants (there have been a lot of interesting evolutions lately), but you can’t really substitute a debate around a boardroom. At this point, you may be wondering, Why such a negative statement? Well, I’m rather convinced it is a realistic one, but I’m also confident that a solution can be found.

What’s Next?

Platform that only deals with the technical issues of the existing tools will never be able to compete with in-person meetings. In order to succeed, we need to balance the weaknesses encountered during a distant meeting with other strengths that could be provided by such tools. By implementing some of those lessons learned into a tool, we can not only compensate for the deficiencies inherent to the lack of physical presence but also begin to reverse the trend. There are lot of hints and tips on how to improve meetings, and most of them are common sense, so why aren’t they applied? Well, the answer is two-fold: on the one hand, I’ve never seen a company organize training on how to lead efficient meetings, while on the other hand, applying those principles in a real meeting is not easy. Managing a meeting means that you need to animate the discussion, keep the focus on the agenda, take notes, facilitate decisions, make sure everybody is involved and heard, play the timekeeper, and avoid clashes. Ieven know of companies that delegate people to manage those organizational tasks so that the meeting’s organizer can focus on the content and the debate.

At aBoard, our objective is to transform a painful, endless moment into a pleasant collaboration experience. It is important to improve not only our short-term needs but also our future, from a work-life balance point of view as well as from an environmental one. Let’s shape it together! Visit us: https://www.aboard.one

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