How tablets can make meetings less painful

Alfresco's Todd Barr at GigaOM's Net:Work Those of you who hate meetings and can’t stand endless PowerPoint-based presentations, there’s hope. Todd Barr, chief marketing officer of Alfresco had some encouraging solutions for how to improve them at GigaOM’s Net:Work 2011 conference on Thursday: use tablets. He says they can help turn meeting presenters and attendees into active, focused participants, and can make meetings themselves more efficient and all around less painful.

Barr wasn’t pitching any of his own Alfresco products, just giving advice for how to change our current office and work culture that tends to revolve around constant meetings and slide deck presentations. Here are his suggestions for why you should consider incorporating tablets into them:

  • Interact with tablet apps. PowerPoint presentations offer information, but with little way for the audience to engage in what’s being presented. His solution: an iPad (s AAPL) app like Idea Flight, which puts presentations on tablets in front of each participant. “It democratizes meetings,” said Barr. “So you’re collaborating and working with peers and not just absorbing someone else’s points.”
  • Avoid oversimplification. Simple isn’t always better. Some topics are just too complex for a series of bullet points or “don’t fit into 7.5 by 10 PowerPoint dimensions,” noted Barr. He suggested another app called Roambi Flow, which allows presenters to embed data in the slides they’re introducing that can be manipulated by the presenter or meeting attendees. Apps like these, he said, allow meeting participants “not to present data, but to explore the data.”
  • Force them to focus. Barr noted that it’s hard to compete for attention when everyone you’re presenting to at a meeting has their laptop open, each of their screens likely a mess of browser windows, emails, documents and other files. With the way the iPad works, it forces you to focus because you’re only in one app at a time. So using and iPad app that meeting attendees can use along with  “allows us to get out of the ADD, and allows us to focus instead of multitask,” he said.

As more companies incorporate “bring your own device” policies that allow employees to use iPads or tablets on the corporate network, or even as they start purchasing tablets for their increasingly mobile workers, Barr’s ideas seem like something to take into serious consideration.

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Photo by Pinar Ozger.