I'm keen to use more 'e' in meetings. Teleconferences mean live conversation without the travel. Add in some kind of live editing of a shared document (like google docs), and everyone can see the notes being written in real time, just like flip charts in a workshop. Share some video or slides, and everyone is viewing the same input. Include video calling (e.g. using skype), and we can see each other as well.
I can see that there's loads of potential to reduce participants' carbon footprints (probably) and include people whose other commitments mean that adding travelling time onto meeting time would mean that they couldn't attend at all.
Toe in the water
So I'm making a concerted effort to experience e-meetings of all kinds as a participant. I joined a webcast (lecture and panel discussion) a couple of days ago, and I'm attending a webinar on how to design good webinars next week.
I'm also adding in some virtual elements to meetings which I facilitate. Some tips on good teleconferences, built from that experience, are available here.
Trainers sometimes talk about 'blended learning', which includes traditional face to face workshops with virtual elements like a web-based discussion space or a module delivered by email.
In a workshop I ran over the summer, there was a fascinating example of spontaneous blending of methods. The group is a community stakeholder group, set up to represent local interests during the early phases of developing plans for a flood defence. During a half day workshop, the group was looking at maps showing alternative sites for the defences. Timescales for the project are very tight, and this workshop was taking place during a very short window of opportunity for people to feed comments back to the organisation which is developing the plans. So the pressure was on the participants to ensure that they were accurately reflecting the views of the wider constituencies that they were there to represent.
One innovative participant whipped out a camera phone and took pictures of the maps. Within seconds they could be sent to people who weren't at the meeting, and their comments relayed back. I don't know whether this meant that their views made it 'into the room' during the meeting, or whether it simply gave them a head start in discussing the plans after the meeting. In any case, it set me thinking about how much wider groups of people could be involved, if we can come up with ways of using technologies like camera phones and texting, which are ubiquitous.
What if this person had stuck to the ground rule about keeping mobile phones off during the meeting?
I'm enjoying dabbling my toes in this pool. I'm readying myself to dive in!