If there’s one thing SMEs can’t afford to do, it’s waste hours in the day. As the old saying goes, time is money – and with limited people resource to rely on, employees at smaller organisations can’t be tied up on tasks that aren’t adding business value.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why meetings can be an issue for many small businesses. The intentions behind calling a meeting are nearly always good. But the reality is usually somewhat different. One team member hasn’t seen the agenda, and the person with the slide deck somehow can’t share their screen. Another’s dialling in from home, and keeps dropping out. And that’s assuming you can all work out how to dial into the conference call in the first place.
It’s a recipe for disaster, offering little business benefit: almost half of the professionals in a survey by Wrike said that at least some of the meetings they attend are a waste of time. Yet the majority of respondents also said they attend over five meetings each week – and more worrying still, those who attended over six meetings a week were more likely to dislike their job. So, bad meetings aren’t just a waste of time. They could also be damaging all-important employee engagement.
It’s time to rethink meetings
Something has to give. Obviously, we can’t do away with meetings altogether. But there is a clear impetus for businesses (especially smaller organisations) to make meetings as streamlined and impactful as possible – not to mention a little more interesting to attend.
Fortunately, there’s a number of ways businesses can go about improving meetings. Including making them more inclusive, capturing attention, getting everyone on the same page, and simplifying proceedings. But while these steps are effective, they all rest on having the relevant business collaboration tools in place. Along with new strategies and a shift in culture, the right tech is an important part of improving the effectiveness of your meetings. Especially since, with the rise of flexible workers and disparate teams, the need for remote meetings is only likely to increase.
How video conferencing can transform your meetings
One solution is to try and move away from relying on ‘voice only’ conference calls and shift towards video conferencing. For a start, these meetings will be more engaging. With everybody on a voice call, the chances are that busy employees will be multi-tasking, with one ear on the conversation and one eye on a spreadsheet. But during a video conference, everybody can stay focused on their screen, where they can see (and be seen) by the rest of the team.
Creating a ‘virtual meeting space’ in this way can keep everyone on task, with the ability to share a whole desktop screen and display webpages or documents. This sort of meeting can also facilitate a higher quality of communication. On a voice conference, it’s all too easy to misinterpret tone, miss a reaction, or talk over somebody and disrupt a train of thought. With cloud-based video calls, it’s possible to gauge reactions more effectively and respond appropriately. You’re in the room, without being in the room.
Meanwhile, a simultaneous live chat function means questions can be noted during the meetings, instead of being followed up on in emails after. Best of all (for anybody who lives in fear of setting up a conference dial in) easy-to-access virtual rooms can eliminate any hassle. Instead of a clunky dial-in process, employees can simply click to join.
The SME advantage for business change
As a smaller organisation, you might be sceptical – of course all of these ideas sound helpful, but aren’t they costly and time consuming to implement? Fortunately, with applications hosted in the cloud, nothing could be further from the truth. New software suites can be embraced simply and with minimal start-up costs. And, unlike larger organisations, SMEs are actually at a distinct advantage when it comes to shaking up their meeting culture – because they’re usually agile enough to implement change in a relatively small period of time.
Video is by no means the only business collaboration tool you can use to improve the quality of your meetings – mobile devices can also have a role to play, while collaborative team workspaces can keep everybody on track with ongoing projects and documents. But it’s definitely a good place to start.
Adapted from 'Making business meetings more effective with collaborative tools', written by Neil Taylor and originally posted to the official site of Gamma.