It’s 2012, and PowerPoint has been around for a quarter century. Yes, that’s right – PowerPoint came out the same year as the Simpsons and Prozac (coincidence? I think not). So, since you can’t smoke in your cube anymore and we have, ya know’, cool things like the Internet & wifi now, maybe we should go ahead and make some changes to top-down, death-by-PowerPoint meeting culture. Whadya say – you in?
Okay then – here are 5 ways to transform your meetings:
1. Ban Laptops & Encourage Tablets
The feng shui of laptops in a meeting really puts a cramp on your corporate qi. When your co-workers are staring at the butt-side of your laptop, it doesn’t engender collaboration or conversation. Instead, it kicks-off an arms-race of laptopping, where each participant is trying to stockpile email and IM replies, deftly raising their eyebrows to demonstrate they are listening, while still looking down to finish that last reply. Tablets, on the other hand, are social devices. They are flat, so people can basically see what you are doing, and they really don’t multi-task. So, if you are looking at a preso on a tablet, you aren’t doing email. Which, in the end, is a good thing for effective meetings.
2. Use IdeaFlight (or a Similar App) & Share the Meeting
The antidote for top-down meetings is to eliminate the big, imposing, 1984-like screen and corresponding presenter. The very image of a large screen implies that people are about to be presented-to, and the presenter is likely just delivering a finished, foregone conclusion to the poor recipients. Kill the big screen, and get an app like IdeaFlight for everyone. With IdeaFlight, each meeting participant sees the presentation on their own tablet. The presenter can still advance the slides, OR they can give control to the participants to swipe through the slides at their leisure. It’s amazing how much better a meeting is when participants are invited to use their, ya’ know, brains. They ask great questions, have the freedom to skip around to previous or future slides without having to say “can you go back 37 slides?” and they generally feel like collaborators, instead of hostages.
3. If You Must Have a Big Screen, Get an Apple TV
Hey big spender, you just got $500 iPads for all of your employees. Now, spend the extra $100 per conference room, and outfit your joint with Apple TVs on every LCD projector you have. With Apple’s AirPlay feature and iOS5, you can now mirror your iPad wirelessly on any screen connected to an Apple TV. If you then want to hand-off to another colleague in the meeting, you simply let them connect with AirPlay from their iPad. No more fooling with wires, changing seats to get closer to the cable or waiting 5 minutes for IT to come by the room to fix your screen resolution. Stop letting technology interrupt the flow of your meetings.
4. Heck, While You’re at it, Kill the Whiteboard, too
How many times have you jotted a note to yourself during a presentation, and then later re-drawn it on the whiteboard during a discussion? Or, wanted to – but didn’t because you forgot, or there was no time or space. These days, I don’t ever bring paper to meetings – I use Penultimate (and a stylus) to take notes on my iPad. It’s great for me, because I always have them and can easily email specific notes to people. But it’s also great for a meeting. I can draw a quick diagram or graph or idea, and then (with AirPlay – see previous tip) I can display it right onto the screen for the whole team to see. We can even take notes together – like an iOverhead Projector – and easily send them out via email after the meeting. I’ve even hand-drawn entire presentations – fast, flexible and much more interesting than a PowerPoint preso. And, it doesn’t give off the impression that I know all the answers – it feels like work-in-progress, and people appreciate that.
5. Share Your Presentation – Even Across The Globe
I manage a distributed team, and we often have Skype meetings that span 2 or 3 continents. So to share the presentation during a working meeting, we put the presentation in a folder in our cloud content management system (disclaimer: I work for Alfresco). Each team member can access the presentation through our mobile app (or through a browser). Better yet, people can post comments right alongside the presentation, even as we are in the meeting, using Alfresco’s mobile app or a browser. We can be displaying the preso, using AirPlay, and then flip over to see comments that any other distributed team member has added. It’s a great way to gather questions real time, and preserve the comment stream for later.
With tablets, a few great apps and an Apple TV or two, I’m confident your meetings – and maybe your company – can be great in 2012.