Collaborative technology will future-proof meeting rooms

In every corporate working environment, the most important space has to be the meeting room. Whether it is open plan or behind four walls, it is where the most critical business decisions are made, and the main hub of communication, creativity and collaboration. On the positive side, the meeting space is the engine room of activity and productivity in the workplace. However, we have all been on the other side. When meetings take up huge amounts of time, and the hours whittle away as speakers struggle to engage the attendees or even get the technology to work. The only proven results end up being wasted time for the individuals and the company, and effectively wasted corporate money.

From start-ups and SMEs to large corporate businesses, investment in today’s meeting rooms has to be based on bolstering productivity, innovation and that all-important element of improving collaboration.

Technology aids collaboration

The benefits of collaboration are well known — cost-effective use of time and resources, knowledge sharing across the organisation, enhanced responsiveness, innovation and problem solving. It can even assist organisations in retaining a happy workforce. However, it is more than just working together and finding new ways to do this. As with all other areas of modern businesses, technology, and by extension the IT department, has an important role to play in collaboration.

If we consider a traditional meeting room setup, there tends to be a distinct lack of technological tools that make it easy to share information and boost collaboration among employees. Ironically, business meeting rooms are too ill-equipped even to deal with the equipment workers use at their desks, let alone when they are out of the office. In today’s business environment, laptops, smartphones, and tablets are crucial to productivity, so it’s only logical that the meeting room equipment is advanced enough to be able to be integrated with them.

Collaboration in meeting and training rooms has evolved beyond recognition during the last few years. In the past, perhaps just one person would bring content to present or discuss – either on paper, as a PowerPoint presentation, or in any other carrier – and the others would listen. That changed with the prolific use of personal and digital devices in the workplace. The challenge now is that every meeting participant wants to bring their own content to the table and share it with the other attendees in a quick and easy way. In other words, meeting room technology needs to be upgraded and brought into to the BYOD era.

Visual collaboration tools

The need for multiple people to share a presentation can be a common occurrence, and one that can become seriously time-consuming, especially when each presenter has to plug their laptop into the projector, and give out their own handouts, etc. The ability for multiple participants to be able to display their screen on a shared monitor quickly and easily should be a staple of meeting rooms within businesses that wish to promote collaboration and productivity.

Ideally, the technology in the meeting room has to be as user-friendly as possible — effectively plug and play. The screen would be available to all meeting participants, either through USB, app or Wi-Fi, and a number of people could share the screen at the same time, showing different information or comparing data. It should also be easy to share screens, perhaps by clicking a button, so that the flow of the meeting isn’t interrupted and time isn’t wasted.

Without bridging technology in place, connecting a device to a shared screen typically means a tangle of cables and having to regularly reconfigure screen settings. This can result in distorted content due to incompatible settings or resolutions. When multiple people want to put content on a shared screen, the problem is compounded. Wireless collaboration solutions will bring all of the devices together regardless of the operating system.

Another important element is that any wireless collaboration tools need to be suitable for all types of meeting rooms. From small huddle rooms for SMEs to large boardrooms at multinational businesses, the main focus of the meeting room will still be the same. Any technological tool should enhance sharing, creativity and collaboration – the collective brainpower of attendees is critical, regardless of the size or importance of the meeting.

Sharing knowledge

For many companies, knowledge is their most important asset. And in order to nurture this knowledge, the right tools have to be in place to share it. One of the latest trends is the introduction of interactive collaboration platforms that can allow companies to share their knowledge in the simplest and smartest way possible. This type of collaboration platform will enable attendees to share documents, images and videos rapidly and from any digital device – laptops, smartphones, and tablets, and also document cameras, networked sources and IP cameras.

Some of the networked collaboration solutions developed specifically for meeting and training rooms are composed as modular systems, which means that additional equipment and technology can be added at any time. This level of freedom over what and how to share is a natural step towards making meetings more collaborative and engaging.

Technology can deliver significant benefits to boost performance in meeting rooms. As businesses of all sizes embrace trends such as collaboration, mobile working, flexible hours and BYOD, it has become more important than ever to ensure that technology within a meeting room improves productivity and efficiency, as opposed to hampering it.

Jan Willem-Brands, VP Collaboration, Barco

Image Credit: Tischenko Irina / Shutterstock