Why Perfect Business Meetings Don’t Have to Be Hard Work – Q&a With Industry Expert Luis De Souza

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Creating the perfect meeting can play a big role in clinching the deal, but when the video conference doesn’t connect or the meeting time changes at the last minute, closing the deal becomes hard work. Close rates do down, pressure increases and time and money are wasted.

In this comprehensive Q&A, Luis De Souza, CEO, NFS Technology Group, answers these 4 burning questions on technology and space planning/management:

  • How do I arrange the perfect meeting?
  • What are the pitfalls, which can drive poor utilization and wasted money?
  • What important factors should I consider when planning my new meeting facility
  • How is integrated technology evolving to provide better tools for my Facility Manager and CIO to create a better user experience?

Q: Tell me a little bit about NFS and what type of things you bring to the table.

A: I set up the company just over 20 years ago as a hospitality business selling into the Hotel and Restaurant markets, and we have diversified to corporate and conference centers.

Today we have a whole range of products that not only span the hospitality space but also the meeting room and meeting management space, which is increasingly a big topic in the corporate world.

Q: What type of products are those?

A: Meeting room software products that help people to book space, manage space, report on utilization, move meetings, arrange complex multi-location meetings.

Our clients typically are large law firms and large financials (see these case studies) but we also have a lot of clients in the mid-market sector where they are arranging very specialized types meetings involving collaboration, services like catering, and using video to bring in  a whole range of collaboration experiences.

Q: When some people are looking at their space or maybe building a new space they don’t always think how they are going to manage it.

They just think about what kind of cool technology to put in there – and then everybody wants to get into the room but only so many people can fit at one time, so you bring an interesting piece of technology to the table.

How do you advise someone getting ready to help build a facility and say here are the things you need to think about?

A: Our philosophy is increasingly not just about scheduling but about making the meeting perfect as there are so many pitfalls to having a great meeting experience  – from when you walk into the room and the technology doesn’t work – so in a hour meeting you lose 15 minutes trying to get everything to work.

Also, meetings change a lot in the real world.

You booked something three weeks ago, but on the day you might have people attending who were not attending then, people dropping out, locations changing, catering needed or not needed.

Booking meetings is increasingly complex today. Meetings are increasingly global, people are increasingly mobile, and services are increasingly needed to be provided at very short notice.

So rather than thinking about the space, think about the meeting, think about how you can have that perfect meeting experience for everyone.

It’s not about the people in the room or in the space, it is actually about the people who are joining that meeting in a collaborative way and about what technology they are using.

Ask these 3 critical questions:

  1. Do you have an accurate schedule tool to be able to manage the complexity of the changes in the meeting arrangements?
  2. Can I integrate my services seamlessly so your catering and AV providers are informed if there is a change?
  3. Can I make the meeting available to people who are not going to be sitting together in a room? They might be in a Starbucks, they might be connecting from home, they might be at an airport joining a meeting.

Luis said: “For example, I have done three presentations since leaving the UK in two days on the road. I wasn’t in a meeting room but the participants were – and I had to join through the collaborative tools that were offered to me with one click to join the meeting.

“The world of the meeting is moving forward now, and for us, it’s about delivering the perfect meeting solution.”

Q: When people they think about meetings they think about the people who are going to walk in there and sit down, but you also need to communicate and coordinate with the caterer or the AV guy who is going to come test the room before you arrive etc.

A: Or Reception to know the people are arriving. Which visitors are going to need to be routed to a particular room or space for the meeting.

Q: Maybe the AV guy doesn’t need to know about what is going on with Reception, or catering unless it has an impact to the particular AV space, so making sure to tailor those messages is important. Do you provide anything like that?

A: That’s all part of our ecosystem – our scheduling platform has what we call service center reporting, which means the moment you make a change to the meeting like add catering or take it away or there is a another change, the appropriate people are notified.

Our notification engine is looking at the meeting, it’s looking at who needs to be informed, it’s looking at the timing and then it’s sending the messages out automatically at the appropriate time. So the user of the meeting, or the meeting host, doesn’t have to worry about all that.

Q: It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. Some needless thinking or over-thinking can be eliminated.

Now, so far we have talked about a software type of environment; do you work with any specific hardware or are you agnostic in your hardware approach?

A: We are primarily a software business and we have found that the best model for serving our clients is to connect seamlessly to the hardware platforms that they have chosen –  typically the client is in the best position to decide what is the right design, what is the right hardware, what is the right format for that meeting space.

So when we connect we have about half a dozen different integrations and Crestron, a very well established player in the market, is at the very top end.

Crestron have a great ecosystem as they can connect the signage with the panels with the in-room technology with the building technology.

They are a very important partner of ours, and at the recent ISE show, we launched our new app which is running on the Crestron panel. That’s gone down very well.

But equally, there are many different panel and signage providers today. We have a number of integrations where we do not provide the technology ourselves and we work seamlessly with these companies.

The other part of that is to move from saying ‘we will connect’ to actually going further back in the chain and asking ‘what solution is the customer trying to solve?’

In the AV industry we haven’t done enough of that. We have come up with the box but we haven’t thought about what problem we are trying to solve.

We increasingly have to educate our own people to say that it’s not just about scheduling but bringing together the more complex challenges of the client, and understanding (through our partnerships) how can we bring the people and parties together to deliver the best solution.

Clients are getting a lot smarter with expectations –  it’s not the box, it’s not the software, it is the overall solution that they are looking for.

Q: That is a very smart approach because a lot of times people don’t really know what they want until they get something and realize it is not what they wanted, so if you can help them with back up and think about what problems they are trying to solve you may save them time and money or both.

A: So when we present our software our position is not as the software experts; instead we are the meeting experts and we understand what goes wrong in meetings and the planning of meetings and what makes them perfect – the typical challenges we all have.

Now let’s talk about these things as a consultative approach and identify which one of these pain points are recognized in the client’s organization.

To give a simple example, no-shows are a very big problem for a number of organizations that have invested heavily in great meeting spaces yet there is often no way of tracking no-shows – how do we do it? How do we release space?

Our answer is to partner with sensor technology so the client can actually know, without sending a person walking around with a pen and paper, who is in the room.

Also, we can release the room automatically to make it available to someone else.  If that room is not used, the system will turn the lights down, switch off the air conditioning and energy supply.

I think behavior changes are now becoming a big challenge for our market because at the end of the day we create good technologies but we also need good behaviors.

We have increasingly been asked by our clients how we can make the technology more interesting to encourage the user to interact and engage so we get behavior change.

One of the things we have found really effective is how we use notifications.

So we can send a reminder the day before a meeting; if there is a meeting in the afternoon, send a reminder in the morning – people aren’t reading their emails all day.

Tell them to ‘click here’ to confirm if they are going to use the room and if they still want the catering –  if they don’t maybe you need to call them, or talk to their assistant or send a notification to say ‘this meeting room booking has been cancelled’ or ‘this catering has been cancelled as you haven’t confirmed’.

I think these are the ways that we can drive better behavior and better communication.

Q: I think at the end of the day communication is the number one thing…

A: Yes, we are all so focused on what we are doing that we forget the bigger need to engage the others.

Q: Absolutely, so how can people find out more about your product?

A: Go to our website – myrendezvous.net, which has product information, case studies and videos to help you decide if Rendezvous is a good fit for you and your company.