They can be long, short, productive or not; but meetings are the nucleus of our working culture, so we need to keep them modern.
Do you remember how meetings with your other-office colleagues and clients used to go? First, we would book our travel. Then we would download our materials onto a USB stick. Then we might have to run to catch the bus, train or flight. In the meeting, we would take notes with a pen and paper (how quaint), and after all that, it was back to the office to follow up. It seems peculiar, now, that we didn't question the many cogs of an out-of-town meeting.
Since then, meeting culture has transformed. Now we can hold meetings with multiple people in all corners of the globe at the click of a button. And I'm not talking just phone calls; I mean full, telepresence-hosted meetings with your work connections. Video conferencing technologies have become more advanced and more accessible so you can be looking your Australian colleague in the face in real time. Even the way we hold our meetings has evolved: the collaborative element of these technologies means that we can simultaneously converse with out of office teams whilst working on the same document.
Our growing ability to be connected without being tied to a desk has accelerated the trend for digitally enhancing meetings. With smartphones and tablets, we are used to being able to do so much on the go that we value our time even more. If we can book a holiday from a mobile device, we should be able to meet with colleagues from the same handset. As well as having better connectivity, there is an increasing emphasis on our responsibility to operate as ecologically as we can. If we can cut our carbon footprint by holding virtual meetings, why shouldn't we?
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the average office worker spends 16 hours a week in meetings, and a quarter of this time is unproductive. Clearly, this is a practice that needs streamlining; and technology helps us increase our productivity and efficiency. In fact, in a recent survey of senior business managers in EMEA, remote conferencing technology was cited as one of the most important features for meeting rooms. In the same survey, 59% said they thought their meeting rooms would have full digital facilities by 2014 (which is only a few months away!). This figure grows to 94% when predicting the meeting rooms of the year 2020.
At the moment, immersive telepresence uses HD video and audio and automatic zooming cameras that track the conversation. All of this combines to create a meeting experience where it really feels like everyone is in the same room. I predict that, as the technology becomes more affordable, we will start to see the use of 3D holograms in virtual meetings.
Video conferencing has opened digital doors for us, but the telepresence industry isn't finished with meeting culture just yet. Telepresence robots being developed in Silicon Valley are tipped to be the next big thing - though as it stands, they are unaffordable for the mainstream. Whatever happens, we've come a long way from booking trains for simple meetings - and we've got some interesting years ahead of us in terms of meeting culture.
I have joined in the conversation on Twitter under #MyMeeting. People are tweeting pictures of their meeting rooms - so far we've seen everything from the ultimate corporate setting to remote workers' gardens!