The future of work is hybrid. Only 20.5% of companies plan to bring their workforces back to the office full time, according to Metrigy's "Unified Communications Management and Endpoints: 2021-22" global research study of 396 companies. For the remaining 80%, the future of work is one in which in-office and remote individuals must be able to communicate and collaborate effectively regardless of location.
Today, unified communications (UC) vendors are attacking the meeting equity problem by delivering hardware and software products to enable equal display of all meeting participants in a gallery grid. Through the capture of human forms, as well as the use of multiple in-room cameras, these approaches eliminate barriers, such as tables, people not facing a camera and distortions caused by distance from the camera.
But simply presenting everyone on an equal footing isn't enough to ensure meeting equity. Seeing everyone on the same screen doesn't equate to easy sharing of ideas and conversations, nor does it provide IT and business leaders with the information they need to ensure meetings accomplish their goals.
To achieve true meeting equity, IT and business leaders must take the five following steps:
1. Deploy in-room touch displays.
These are critical for using virtual whiteboard software -- either standalone apps from vendors such as Bluescape, Miro and Mural, or whiteboard features built into meeting platforms from vendors such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft, RingCentral and Zoom. A touchable virtual display in the meeting room means in-room participants don't have to stare at their individual laptops to review or contribute to a whiteboard. They can collaboratively work on the in-room touchscreen while also seeing input from remote participants.
2. Enable in-room chat.
Meeting app vendors are increasingly delivering features that enable those in the meeting room to see conversations in chat. This eliminates the need to supplement meetings with personal devices. While supporting in-room chat can be difficult to deliver due to screen size limitations, it should be a design goal for meeting rooms going forward.
3. Use additional engagement capabilities.
Polling and engagement apps such as Webex's Slido, Slides with Friends and Polly enable real-time engagement with in-person and remote participants, especially for larger meetings where everyone may not have the opportunity to speak.
4. Rethink meeting leadership.
Even if IT and business leaders implement the first three steps on this list, it may not be enough to ensure equal engagement. Meeting leaders must actively reach out to remote participants to ensure their voices are heard, and seek regular feedback to guarantee meetings are useful, productive and necessary.
5. Take advantage of analytics.
Employee engagement and experience insights are now available from meeting app vendors as well as third-party providers, such as Unisys and Vyopta. Using these tools can provide insight not only into app performance, but potentially audience engagement. Coupled with other regular employee experience feedback approaches, like surveys, these analytics can provide IT and business leaders with the guidance necessary to revise go-forward strategies.
Meeting technology strategies shouldn't simply focus on enabling participants to see one another, but rather aim to achieve equity of the entire meeting engagement experience.