Developments in technology such as electronic meeting systems have changed the way organisations facilitate meetings. Nowadays, meetings go beyond face-to-face interactions within the same room; instead, they transcend distances and timezones, allowing more people to connect with each other — whether for a sales presentation or a board meeting — in a virtual environment created by electronic meeting systems.
What are Electronic Meeting Systems?
Coined in 1988, the term ‘electronic meeting systems’ refers to software that facilitates collaborative decision-making and creative problem-solving. Its features address the usual problems of face-to-face meetings, such as lack of participation from participants, domination by a handful of members, and low level of interaction in discussions.
Because of the advantages presented by electronic meeting systems, an increasing number of organisations have shown interest in adopting one for business use, especially in light of the fast growth of tablet and smartphone usage. And though new technology makes things easier in the long run, it has its fair share of challenges. For most organisations, the challenges begin with choosing the right solution, a crucial step that sets the tone for the rest of the transition process.
To help you pick the right electronic meeting system for your organisation, you need to consider the following factors that have a big impact on your decision:
Different electronic systems serve different purposes: Some systems are designed for training sessions, sales presentations, or enterprise meetings. These systems are specialised; they usually come at more affordable prices because they cater to only specific needs. Other systems are comprehensive, though they may be more expensive and complicated. If you can be 100 percent sure that your organisation will use an electronic meeting system for one purpose only, then you can save more with a specialised system. Otherwise, a multipurpose system makes a practical choice.
Consider how many people will use the electronic meeting system after its implementation. Will it be used for company-wide conferences attended by hundreds, if not thousands, of employees? Or will it be used for smaller enterprise meetings of different teams and departments? Electronic meeting systems vary in the number of participants they can handle, so you have to check the capacity with each respective vendor before making a decision. Also, more users mean more paid licences, which can affect your budget especially if you’re working within a limited one.
Budget is another crucial factor to be considered when you’re looking for an electronic meeting system for your organisation. The purchase of licences, as already mentioned, consumes a part of the budget. However, there are other costs that you need to anticipate, such as training, equipment, and support. You’ll need to invest on mobile devices like iPads and Android tablets to would-be users, then spend on teaching demonstrations. If needed, you may even have to hire IT staff to provide technical support and perform necessary equipment maintenance. However, you can lower costs by choosing an electronic meeting system vendor that offers training and post-transition support. These services are often add-on expenses, but are likely to cost less than when you do it on your own. Also, to avoid having to invest in additional mobile devices, look for an electronic meeting system that supports multiple platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows. The use of such a system will enable you to implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, which is a policy that encourages employees to use their personal devices for work-related reasons.
All electronic meeting system vendors claim only good things about their solutions, so limiting your research to what marketing collaterals say will cloud your judgment. To get a real peek into how a system works, look for actual users, read their reviews, and better yet, ask for what they think. Some systems sound good in theory but suffer from multiple issues in reality. For example, an important feature such as usability can never be adequately described in words or shown in photos because only hands-on experience will be able to qualify it. Chances are, some of your colleagues have already transitioned to an electronic meeting system, so you can start asking for recommendations from them. More often than not, they will have strong opinions on whether or not their organisation’s system is easy to use.
As mentioned, usability — the ease of use and learnability of an object — is an important feature. End users wouldn’t care about full functionality and impressive features if an electronic meeting system is difficult to use. People want digital tools to be straightforward and intuitive, so it’s important to look for systems that make the user experience enjoyable and easy. But don’t confuse simplicity with usability. Even complex systems can be usable, provided the design is well-made. You can find an electronic meeting system with comprehensive features and high-level usability, so you don’t have to settle for less.
Most electronic meeting systems offer free trials and demonstrations to give you an opportunity to see them in action. In some cases, you can even use the system in an actual meeting, giving you a glimpse of what future meetings will be like in your organisation. Thus, take full advantage of trial periods and use them to make a comparison table of different systems. This will help you identify the pros and cons of each system, and how they stand against your organisation’s non-negotiables. Also, include would-be users in the trials to get their opinion on which system they like best. After all, they’ll be the ones who will end up using it, so their thoughts on the matter should have a heavy weight in your final decision.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask questions, as most electronic meeting system vendors will be happy to address your inquiries. In fact, we’d love to hear from you, so try out Azeus Convene and tell us what you think after. Azeus Convene is our own electronic meeting system that works on iOS, Android, Windows PC, and soon on Mac as well. Even with its wide range of features such as presentation tools and document management, it remains a highly usable solution, making your meetings not only efficient and productive, but also enjoyable and easy.