Work involves constant business meetings, there’s no denying it. Which inevitably leads to the pesky problem of how to optimize them. Possible meeting solutions: Should our group have a daily stand-up? Should we institute a company-wide ban on Friday meetings, so everyone has at least one day to do the work they committed to over the last four days of solid meetings?
BlueJeans Director of Business Value and Solution Strategy Robb Woods has thought a lot about this. In a traditional office environment, he notes, if someone’s booked into seven or eight meetings a day, that’s a full day right there, taking into account the necessary breaks for lunch, coffee, restroom. And if they must travel to those seven or eight meetings, it’s pretty much impossible to get it all done in a single workday.
“The fact of the matter is,” he says, “that by being physically removed from the site(s) of my business meetings, I can multi-task—in other words, do what comes naturally to me and be the most responsive company employee I can be. In this very online meeting, I have a pen and a pad of paper and I’m jotting things down that I need to do later. I’m glancing at my computer to see if anything is blowing up and I need to take five to address it. I’m reading emails on my phone, knowing that I might need to jump into something else right away.”
All of these things would be impossible in a boardroom environment, and in an ordinary conference meeting room it would be distracting for everyone.
How to attend more business meetings, and make those business meetings more productive? Turn them into online meetings via video conferencing.
Sometimes, Woods notes, being in a physical meeting room is not better than joining the meeting remotely. “First, I feel much more comfortable in my natural surroundings, namely my home office or my primary workstation. And because I’m a high-energy person, my physical absence can help make others less distracted by me.’”
Running into someone in a conference room whom you haven’t seen in a while can create distracting and time-consuming catch-up conversations. Video conferencing is free-form and flexible, but can contain focus. Plus there’s the option for the moderator to press the mute button and instantly quiet someone, which can’t be done in a boardroom.
Woods also notes that time between online meetings is far more productive for him than time between physical meetings, since it is effectively condensed—meaning, he can get in those seven or eight meetings a day and use the five or ten minutes in between to run to the fridge, grab a bite, read some emails. That would be far more difficult in a busy office environment.
Then there is the psychological part—another aspect of what Woods calls “better than being there.” Think about it: if you’re in a room of ten people, you can’t see everyone at once. If you pick one person to pay attention to, you lose the ability to look at others, especially those wrapped around the table to either side of you. Whereas with a BlueJeans meeting you can see everyone’s face on-screen equally and simultaneously.
If you want to focus on one person, perhaps to see how a particular statement is being received, you can do that without the person even being aware of your stare and getting self-conscious. And if you want to pipe up with a thought, you might feel freer to do so without the scrutiny of other people’s physically present eyeballs.
“I’d absolutely call it empowering,” Woods observes, “to not feel rushed to get to a meeting room, or to not feel excluded because the company isn’t flying you into some business meeting in person.” Webcasts are great for all-hands meetings because you can address people in their native environments, where they are comfortable, even if those environments are far from corporate headquarters. Team members who might not have the freedom or flexibility to come to a meeting room can still join the webcast from their phone or desktop computer, or watch the webcast after the fact. It’s actually about inclusivity.
And then there are the practicalities of the post-meeting. When you’re sitting in a business meeting, everything is happening in real time, and you must either take your own notes or hope someone is, and will actually share them later. Whereas with BlueJeans you have the ability to record the meeting.
“In the end it’s about being who you are, where you are, and still doing your best work,” concludes Woods.