I had a chat the other day with an employee of a large, well-known tech company. She told me a story that really surprised me. She said that the meeting technology used at her company was so terrible that it was not only impacting productivity; it was actually making people hate their jobs.
Pretty dramatic, right? Also pretty surprising for a Silicon Valley tech company. You'd think they'd have this nailed by now.
The company uses a popular audio/video conferencing solution that also allows screen sharing. Like many large enterprises, they have many remote workers. In fact, almost every meeting includes employees from other offices, as well as people who are working from home or from the road. So, this software is key to everyday operations.
The problem is that the software is flaky. She explained that not only is the audio quality often bad, but calls routinely get dropped. It requires so much bandwidth that they've completely abandoned using the video-conferencing functionality. Passing control of the screen from one presenter to another is onerous, too. It often results in frozen screens, forcing presenters to email their decks to participants so they can follow along at their desks (while the presenter has to keep repeating "ok, next slide" every 30 seconds or so). It can easily take 10 minutes or more to get all participants successfully connected. And recording the meetings rarely works. What a nightmare!
This company has a very meeting-intensive culture. In fact, this woman is often in meetings literally every hour of every day she is at the office. She said that the problems become so annoying that it causes people to completely tune out, so participants don't always retain the information being disseminated. Poor or few recordings means there's no way to go back and review the calls when things are missed, so they end up having repeat meetings to go over the same information again and again (yikes, more meetings!). With all these meetings, there's precious little time to do actual work. So people end up having to work overtime to get things done.
The end result is that a significant number of workers are not just disengaged — they actually hate coming to work. I get it. I already despise meetings. Add these frustration factors in, and I might start to feel the same way.
Beyond the employee experience, imagine the toll this phenomenon takes on productivity. It boggles the mind. It's so ironic that a tech company is letting such simple technology become an obstacle.
We talk a lot about meetings at Prysm. We published an ebook about it, called "Nine Ways to Put the Mojo Back in Your Meetings." We even created "Bad Meeting Bingo," a card that you can print out to tick off squares when the call is dropped, an employee is playing with their phone or when someone is 10 minutes late because they couldn't get connected. But it's one thing to read marketing materials about a topic like this and quite another to hear a real person talk about how dramatic a toll the problem takes on her life.
Now, no one likes a gloater, but I have to say — we don't really have this problem at Prysm, because we use our own solution for meetings. We rarely have connectivity problems. Our displays are touch-enabled and interactive, so passing control to another presenter is a non-issue: when the first presenter finishes, the second (no matter where they are located or what device they are using) can just start interacting with the screen. Instead of the ubiquitous PowerPoint, we use our huge digital canvases to add visual interest. We can show multiple pieces of information on screen at once. We have integrated digital whiteboards that everyone can see and write on, even if they're not in the room. Recording isn't an issue, because our cloud-enabled workspaces are persistent, preserving both the meeting content and context.
I felt sorry for this woman, who has great passion for her job and wants to inspire her teammates to stay motivated and engaged. Beyond complaining to the IT department, there's little she can do to effect change. She feels stuck.
If you feel victimized by meetings at your company, I'd like to encourage you to request a trial of Prysm Visual Workplace. This is more than just a product plug, it's an endorsement from someone who hates meetings even more than okra. (In other words, a lot.) If Prysm can make meetings bearable for me, it's bound to help your company overcome its meeting hurdles.
Got a nightmarish meeting story? Feel free to leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing about it.