The Evolution of the Company Meeting: How Technology has Made the Old Way New Again

Thirty years ago, before most companies had email and online calendars, you simply remembered that your team meeting was held in the 3rd floor conference room at 10 a.m. every Thursday. If you were prompt, you grabbed a seat and studied your colleagues’ faces as they appeared around the large conference room table. You noticed their body language and heard sighs or laughter as you got a feel for the vibe of the room.

The experience of an in-person meeting is still the most effective way to gather minds and solve problems. But when colleagues are remote, not all of the options replicate the same in-person experience. If you’re downgrading to audio-only or even just webcam-driven video, you’re missing most of the benefits of meeting in the first place.

Is This Thing On?

Any conversation that can’t be held face-to-face can still be relatively effective over a phone line, and that’s even true for meetings of three or more people. As speakerphones became centerpieces for most conference tables in the 1990s, they allowed more voices to participate in a meeting. But as conversations spread across the meeting room or ideas moved to a whiteboard, participation of those on the phone dropped off.

Conference rooms eventually acquired another, often large, presence: video conferencing. This let remote attendees see that whiteboard and, hopefully, most of the people in the room. But the first generation or two of video conferencing systems were expensive, hard to maintain, and were difficult to get running.

If you worked in the corporate world back then, you probably remember the video conferencing system that sat idly in the corner of the room, gathering dust. Which meant, even with video capabilities, the speaker phone largely reigned supreme as conference calls remained the default.

The Dawn of Digital Voice

Digital telephony – Voice-over IP, or VoIP – gradually took over, ushering in an era of cheap calls to nearly anywhere on the globe and the ability to support hundreds of participants on a single call. Though the quality was shaky at first, mostly due to slow internet speeds and less than stable connections, higher speed internet became commonplace into the 2000s. This led to improved sound quality and, eventually, streaming video.

Streaming video introduced a new form of collaboration: the web conference. With a relatively cheap webcam, you could finally see faces and get a greater sense of the conference room setting. While those in the conference room could see their colleagues as they sat in airports, cafes, and home offices. It wasn’t a complete “like you’re there” experience, but it was a marked, if merely novel, improvement.

Send in the Cloud

The cloud has upended everyone’s approach and usage of technology. Related to remote meetings, cloud-based video conferencing systems now offer a near in-room experience. Additionally, hardware continues to fall in price, enabling 4K cameras and acoustically superior microphones to fit any budget. Add in some creative software intelligence to clean up images, filter out background noise, and adjust for bad video angles and you’re meeting room hardware is near Hollywood quality.

The result of the cloud’s low costs, massive computing power, and high-speed connectivity means simple digital cameras and microphones in a conference room can create a fully immersive experience that’s exponentially better than what’s available from a laptop’s webcam.

This brings cameras that can track movement in a conference room, whiteboards that allow remote participants to join in the collaboration, and microphones that capture every voice clearly and crisply. Using a high-caliber cloud-based video conferencing system can help remote attendees feel truly part of a meeting, and part of the collaboration.

Get Everyone in the Room, No Matter Where They Are

If you’re looking for a video conferencing system that gives you that in-person experience of old even as modern work takes people everywhere, look back to the face-to-face experience. Modern video conferencing offers superior collaboration, simple one-click participation, and meetings that you can start from a phone or laptop in just a tap.

To learn more, talk to Highfive. We can revitalize your meetings and give everyone that “like you’re there” feeling, even when they’re not.