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Getting the Hang of Paperless Meetings

written by: ciel s cantoria • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 4/27/2011

Going paperless in holding group meetings is not a fad, as some are inclined to think.The use of web-based tools makes it a cloud computing activity, hence, it's favored by many for its low-energy costs. Yet, others prefer to install software to make the applications available as a desktop tool.

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    Visions of a Paperless Society

    Medvedev and Nurgaliev TANDBERG Tactical MXP 

    In the early years of the Internet Age, the idea of building a paperless society seemed like an obscure possibility. Yet the evolution of computer technologies, from personal computers to tablet PCs, has provided computer users tremendous access not only to information, but also to services, products and all the tools that the Internet could offer. Thus, paperless meetings slowly took shape and form, since people from all walks of life and affiliations are connected to the Internet to conduct most of their day-to day activities.

    It initially started as a sophisticated method, and less of a cost-cutting initiative, for high-level face-to-face office meetings. Each attendee has a PC or laptop connected to the local area network (LAN) as the means for viewing the presentations. Handouts if any are shared and transferred through the computer’s networking system.

    However, the advent of globalization and telecommuting jobs likewise spurred the necessity of developing software for connecting remote participants to these meetings by way of external networking systems. The innovation slowly gained quite a following since it eliminates travel time, minimizes vehicle use, and reduces overhead expenses. Communication, documentation and presentations are facilitated electronically at low energy-consumption costs.

    Paperless meetings are now almost a norm, inasmuch as people coming from various geographical locations can virtually huddle together as if everyone were in the same room. Hence, many are now interested in knowing how to get into the groove in order to get the hang of a paperless gathering.

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    Equipment, Tools and Other Requirements of Electronic Meetings

    448px-Video Conference control booth 

    Actually, it’s not as difficult as others imagine but it does require additional capital costs, since the host has to set up the meeting room with the right Internet connection and the right equipment. The latter includes routers, Ethernet cables, adapters, power plugs, web-cameras and headsets that are suitable to the type of link and number of users expected.

    The employers assume the role of the host; therefore, they have the prerogative to choose whether to purchase and install software or use a web-based software application.

    • In using the meeting-productivity software, the participants have to download the host’s program in their individual PCs or laptops in order to be taken directly to the session being held by the host. However, one of its drawbacks is that some PCs do not have enough capacity to install an additional desktop tool.

    Some programs have limitations for local networking only, which might not suit the purpose of entities that have off-site or remotely located participants. The bottom line is that in choosing software to manage paperless meetings, the features have to conform to the entire organization’s requirements and capabilities.

    Hence it is important that there must be a careful review of the software, because not all versions have the same features. The latest, of course, is often more sophisticated, since the functionalities it provides are more attuned to the newest business innovations and applications.

    • In such a case, a web-based software application provided by a network service provider would be the better choice. That way, the only requirements that participants have to consider is a high-speed Internet connection and compatible operating systems like Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003, or Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or higher.

    Nonetheless, this type of paperless meeting also runs the risks of having their data security and privacy breached. Thus, it is important that the company employ a competent IT to review the features, offers and credentials of the external network service provider.

    Please proceed to page 2 for more information about the other requiremetns of paperless meetings.

    Image Credit: Both images of this video Conference control booth are by Duncan Underwood/Wikimedia Commons

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    Paperless Meetings: Basic Requirements and GuidelinesGet a clear picture of how paperless meetings are set up and held, as this article explains how the system works by using software-installed desktop applications or a web-based productivity tool for electronically held meetings and conferences. Find out the basic requirements, equipment and tools needed and that the steps taken to ensure that data and privacy are secured and how productivity is maximized. Although the online applications are touted as user-friendly, it would still be to the host's advantage to have a competent IT professional review and compare the features offered by the software and the web-based provider. That way security, productivity and cost-efficiency will be realized.
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    Other Requirements of Electronic or Paperless Meetings

    Boxlight ProjectoWrite2 W Interactive LCD Projector 

    The following tools may be optional since some web-based applications have capabilities to provide their functions. However, they are often used for face-to-face paperless brainstorming sessions.

    • An interactive and electronic screen projector to where the participant’s PCs or laptops will be connected. Interactive projectors serve the purpose of whiteboards, as they allow direct interaction with various software and computers. The screen projector can be annotated with the use of interactive pens.
    • One of the latest innovations is the interactive electronic pen and paper, which allows participants to make annotations or add their suggestions, and this would appear on the electronic board.
    • VoIP telephone, which may look like any regular phone, has a built-in Internet phone technology in its system, for telephone calls transmitted by way of the Internet.

    Image Credit : Boxlight ProjectoWrite2/W Interactive LCD Projector at Amazon.com

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    How to Set Up a Paperless Session

    Ekiga in a call 

    Regardless, whether a paperless meeting is set up using a desktop function or a web-based application, the methods for setting up a gathering are basically similar. The important thing is to manage the productivity, time and security of the electronically held meeting. That way its purpose can be achieved and its cost-efficient benefits, realized.

    • There should be a meeting chairman to preside and control the grant and revocation of access to the meeting. As chairman he assumes responsibility of organizing the matters to be discussed and has the sole authority to delete or add transactions to the minutes of the meetings.

    • All authorized participants to a meeting have instant messaging accounts to which they will be notified of the electronic meeting place.
    • A password or code is provided to every participant for a particular meeting, to ensure the privacy of the virtual meeting place and in everything that transpires.
    • Using the software application, configure the room to make it available to the authorized meeting participants only. This necessitates the issuance of the invitation or meeting notification before any person is allowed to enter the meeting.
    • Using the calendar tool, invitations are sent, in which the date, time , the meeting room and the authorized participant’s password are indicated plus a statement that specifies the agenda, goals and topics of the meeting.
    • The invited or notified participants have to accept the message in order to gain entry to the meeting.
    • Every participant’s conversation shall be recorded as a transaction in the minutes of the meeting; thus before a person can add a transaction he has to make a request with permission granted by the chairman.
    • The minutes of the meeting are available to anyone who has been granted access to participate in the meeting. If one was not able to respond or attend to the notification or invitation, he is allowed access to a copy of the minutes.

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    Summary

    Paperless meetings are also known as electronic meetings since the system basically eliminates the use of paper to send out notifications, for handouts, presentations, and to record documentations with the use of electronic devices. Such meetings can be set up using software to install the application as a desktop function or avail the services of a web-based provider who will provide the application equipped with the necessary productivity tools.

    Although both methods have cost-cutting benefits, the web-based application includes the additional benefits of low-energy consumption as a cloud computing activity. The main issue to contend with, however, is the security and privacy of the company’s data. Hence, before deciding on a web service provider, it is recommended that a competent IT professional review the security features of the application as well as compare the functions offered to avoid unnecessary capital investments.

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    Reference:

    PayItGreen.org : "Paperless Meeting User Guide" lifted from http://www.payitgreen.org/files/resources/PayItGreen_PaperlessMeetingGuide.pdf