||Paul Doherty is a registered architect
and one of the AEC Industrys most sought-after lead consultants and
integrators of information technology. He is the principal partner of The
Digit Group, a management consulting and information technology services
firm based in Memphis with offices in Atlanta, Washington, DC, New York
and London. He is an author, educator, analyst and consultant to Fortune
500 organizations, the most prestigious architectural, engineering and contracting
firms in the world, government agencies and prominent institutions. For
more information, please visit the Digit Group.
In the following interview with EffectiveMeetings.com, Mr. Doherty
shares his vision of meeting rooms in the future.
Can you describe the
state of meetings today?
best descriptive terms are disconnected and unfulfilled. When invited to a meeting,
the majority of people enter the situation feeling theyll be a part of
something. Be it a decision, a recommendation or a task to accomplish, people
want to feel their participation in a meeting will be important. These expectations
usually fall short in three important areas:
1. Type of meeting. Most people conduct meetings
in the best way they feel comfortable, but that method may not be the best
for achieving the meetings goals. Learning what type of meeting to conduct
for the situation will help connect the meetings goals to the people.
2. Type of tools. Matching the tools used to the
meeting type is critical to the success of any meeting. Using a PowerPoint
presentation for a two-person get together can be overkill, just as using
a flip chart for a 300-person corporate sales presentation can be underwhelming.
Disconnecting the tools from the meeting type can lead to a poor meeting.
3. Type of message. By not stating the goals and
objectives or setting an agenda, the message of the meeting becomes lost.
Great storytellers always have a beginning, middle and an end to their tales.
Its no different in conducting a meeting. If you dont have a beginning,
middle and an end to your message, your meeting will be unfulfilled.
What are the major
challenges facing organizations as they look to improve meeting effectiveness?
disparate people across the organization is the greatest challenge facing companies
as we move into the new millennium. Project teams, consisting of traditional
employees, contract workers, alternative workforce, outsourced solution providers
and traditional vendors are taking a more important role in the success of Net
Economy organizations. This increase of integrated "project teams"
is increasing the need for meetings. The problems occur when more than one of
the participants cannot physically be at the meetings. The use of teleconferencing,
videoconferencing and Web-based meetings is rising due to this situation. Bringing
geographically dispersed people together by connecting them through the "environment
of the mind" can succeed if the proper mix of the type of meeting, tools
and message can be achieved.
If you could change one
thing about the meetings you attend, what would it be?
rooms and the lack of schedule coordination. In my line of work, I estimate
that I am in meetings at least two or three times day. This adds up to about
750 meetings a year. Phone/Video/Web conferences account for one-third, formal
presentations for one-third and face-to-face meetings for one-third. The most
successful are the ones that do not feel like meetings. Having a meeting space
that feels formal, when you need a working-session meeting, leads to an unpleasant
experience. Meetings that match their surroundings lead to a feeling of being
connected and fulfilled.
What should be considered
when designing a meeting space?
Change. A meeting space should be able to change its look,
feel and functionality at a moments notice. Lighting,
furniture and meeting tools should be able to change to accommodate
the users of the space. Meetings are theater. Business is
entertainment. Meeting-room designers should take their cues
from stage designers who understand the essence of creating
an image to match the desired need. One day a theater is hosting
a drama, the next day a symphony orchestra. All within the
same physical space, but two different environments. New technologies,
such as full-size plasma screens and Bluetooth (www.bluetooth.com)
wireless standards, will assist designers in reaching the
goals of special differentiation and flexibility.
Does technology help improve the effectiveness
Paul: Technology can improve the correct
mix of tools and message of a meeting. Technology tools like PowerPoint will
not make you a better speaker, but they can make a good speaker worse. Some
other points about technology, and in particular Microsoft PowerPoint, the number-one
business meeting tool in the world today (sometimes called the number-one business
crutch in history):
· Use slide effects sparingly and to emphasize certain points
· Slide transitions should be consistent throughout the show and use the
most subtle one you can find
· Invest in a remote device that can change the slide. Frequent stopping
to find the enter key or mouse on your laptop can be distracting.
· Try new presentation tools that enhance PowerPoint's strengths like Vadem's
Clio (made as a physical desktop presentation tool) or SMART Technologies
SMART Board (touching the board moves the slide forward).
· Be flexible when presenting... be sure you can hop around to interact with
· Talk "with" your audience, not "to" or "at"
· If you are giving a presentation to an audience larger than four or five
people, make sure you use a projector device and you know how to hook it up
· If your clients and/or audience is in the 20-30 year range (Generation
X), the visual entertainment quality level of your presentation needs to go
up tremendously. You have to keep their attention. If you still use overhead
slides for your presentation, the Gen X crowd will think you just don't get
it and will tune you out.
What are some of the barriers preventing organizations
from using more technology products in the meeting room? How should they be
Paul: In meetings that use technology,
many people appear to be hiding behind the technology, afraid to be themselves
and get to the point. The rule is if you cannot give your presentation without
the technology, then you shouldn't be presenting in the first place. Meeting
technologies should be enhancement tools, not "Use this tool and you will
be a better presenter" tools. If anything, new technologies will highlight
all qualities of your presentation and meeting skills, warts and all.
Due to these perceptions, many are asking themselves, is technology really
necessary? The answer is a certain yes. The question is, what is the right mixing
of technology and message to enhance the type of meeting I am running or participating
These issues and questions can be overcome through education, testing of the
newer technologies and practice, practice, practice. Why is it that some people,
when conducting a meeting or giving a presentation, look at ease and comfortable
with technology tools while others look like they are struggling with it? People
in business today were not born into technology; they learn and practice with
it. John Perry Barlow has said, "We are all immigrants in this new land
of technology. The only natives are the children who have been born into this
time." With this thought in mind, its OK to feel lost at times. What
we really need is a good immigration guide.
What will meetings be like five years from now?
Ten years from now?
Paul: Within five years, meetings will
be better connected. People, technology, information and the meeting place will
be better integrated. The integration of wireless technology into the physical
place of meetings will provide seamless and effortless links back into knowledge
bases of information. No more waiting for photocopies to be made for handouts
or postponing another meeting until data can be pulled together. With standards
like Bluetooth being integrated into mobile devices, people will not have to
physically be at their computers/workstations/laptops in order to use, access
or manipulate their information. Bluetooth, being radio-wave based, does not
require line of sight to transfer information. This means you will be able to
walk into your meeting space and synchronize the projection device from your
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), like a Palm organizer, to set up your PowerPoint
presentation as soon as you walk through the door. The physical spaces will
accommodate all types of meetings (one-on-one, formal, work session) with an
increased reliance on technology.
The ability to be connected to anyone, anytime and to anything worldwide will
increase the need for schedule coordination. The next five years will see an
increased value for meeting schedule coordinators as an important organizational
asset. This is a natural outgrowth of meeting planners. Because organizations
have many meeting rooms, a meeting schedule coordinator will be required to
coordinate everyones schedule, inform the participants of the meetings
nature, location, tools needed and remote alternatives to be part of the meeting,
and then manage the entire endeavor. With people like me who may have two or
three meetings a day, this person becomes a necessity in a more connected world.
Within 10 years, meeting spaces will become the most used and widely available
in any facility. Facilities will become more of a series of meeting places with
fewer cubicles. Although most people will work wherever they want (home, executive
life resort, etc.) people will still need to commune, thus the need for meeting
places. These meeting places resemble more of an entertainment facility than
what we now call "corporate facilities." The ability to have a holographic-type
image of a person, who is not physically there, will provide the essence
of that person being there. There will be a huge demand for enhanced imaging
of your holographic image for representation at these "virtual" meetings.
Want to be seen in that $5,000 Armani suit? Just click the icon. The video transmission
will be of the quality that you will not be able to decipher if the person is
real or "virtual," providing the environment for greater communication,
coordination and collaboration. Holographic-type images will be produced for
people to interact with the visual representation of business data, thus leading
to more of a sense of involvement and fulfillment.
As we move forward in the Net Economy, meetings, tools and the spaces that
enhance them will be challenged to become more versatile, entertaining and connected
in order to fulfill their role in the future of business.