We spend a LOT of time in meeting rooms. Probably more than we should – it was recently estimated that the average worker attends 62 meetings monthly! Another study found organizations spend 15% of their collective time in meetings – with middle managers sitting in meetings for almost 35% of their time and upper management spending up to a whopping 50%!

With meetings taking up such a large portion of our time, they must be as efficient as possible. After all, the ostensible goal of meetings is to accomplish work – discuss issues, problem-solve, brainstorm, plan, and collaborate on ideas. Yet, so often, meetings can feel like a waste of time, bogged down by everything from poor planning, multi-tasking, lack of attention to remote attendees to ineffective information sharing.

Technology, which is supposed to help streamline communications, can end up compounding these meeting issues when poorly selected, deployed, or trained on. How often have you arrived at a meeting only to have issues with display connectivity, selecting an input, typing in meeting codes, or sharing a screen?

It’s time to put technology back where it’s meant to be – not as a hindrance, but as a supporting tool that improves meeting efficiency and meeting sharing. Here are six ways to improve your meeting room technology… and hopefully improve your meetings!

1. Connectivity: Depending on your presentation system, you may end up using wired or wireless options for connecting devices to a screen. Cables are slightly less flexible as different users may have different ports on their various devices; HDMI is the dominant cable but some users may still need VGA, mini display or USB cables for their ports. Wireless presenting will make your meeting room sleeker and more organized and should remove the issue of cable and port compatibility. However, even with a wireless system, you may still want to have an HDMI cable stored at hand in the meeting room as a hardware backup. When choosing a wireless system, be sure to account for device types (e.g. Apple TV will only work with Apple products) and determine whether the system will require a dongle, app, or a certain amount of bandwidth to function properly.

2. Visual Display:There are lots of options when it comes to your visual display, from projectors and smart tvs to electronic whiteboards and interactive displays. We’re a fan of the Microsoft Surface Hub in our meeting room, as its multi-touch interactive technology allows for presenting, screen sharing, video conferencing, saving and sending screens, drawing directly on screens, opening web pages, playing videos, and more.

3. Audio: Be sure to incorporate a high quality conference room phone that has HD Voice, such as the Polycom SoundStation IP 7000. If your meeting room is large, use microphone extenders to expand the audio range so that you don’t have any “dark corners” of the room where it is hard to hear participants.

4. Collaboration Tools: As teams become increasingly distributed and more employees work remotely, video conferencing is increasingly becoming a must-have for meeting rooms, as well as other collaborative tools such as screen sharing. For video conferencing, you’ll need a camera, whether built in to your display or as a separate device. There are lots of Unified Communications and web meeting platforms available, including Office 365, Broadsoft Team One, Skype for Business, WebEx, and Go to Meeting to name a few.

5. Scheduling: A meeting room scheduling system integrated with your email and calendar platform will make it easy for users to check the availability of and book rooms. Some Unified Communications tools can even be integrated with your calendar to automatically change a user’s digital presence to “busy” during a scheduled meeting.

6. Training: All the fancy technology in the world won’t help improve your meetings if your employees don’t know how to use it. Be sure to train users on how to connect devices to displays, dial in to conference calls, book meetings rooms, and initiate video conferences. No matter what meeting room tech you choose, this is the most important aspect to ensuring that meetings run smoothly without technological hiccups. You should make this a standard part of onboarding for new employees as well, so that you never have to deal with hearing “Which input do I choose?” at the start of a meeting again.

A Look Ahead

The future of meetings is full of exciting possibilities! Smart glasses, augmented reality, 3D mapping, voice command systems, the IoT, improved interactive displays, even holograms, could all one day make it into the board room. For now, focus on finding the right technology available now that fits your ideal meeting culture, and be sure to train your employees on the right way to use it.