Which Venue Works Best For Dispersed Meetings?
By Donna McAlister Kizzier

Posted November 10, 2009

In my last Research Brief for FacilitateProceedings, I shared the quantitative results to date of my study on the effectiveness of six different meeting venues on the bottom line of organizations. This month I thought I’d share some of the qualitative results.

I noticed the questions I received from my first blog posting asked my opinion about why we were seeing some of the results. In the larger, long-term study, I analyze the data using not only statistical techniques, but also by using “qualititative methods of inquiry,” a newer research method that helps researchers and practitioners understand not just “what” they are seeing in the research results, but “why.”

As a reminder, each Research Brief refers readers to the full published article. The research I summarize for you in this blog has already been reviewed and deemed credible by top scholars in my field. Click on the link to read today’s Research Brief Comparing Collaborative Meeting Systems - Qualitative Results.

The ultimate result of this research is to design meeting models and processes that will help practioners choose the most effective methods to conduct meetings globally, across time and space, using the latest technology. For example, this month, not only did I add more data to this study, but I also added additional meeting venues that enable meeting participants to integrate real-time audio/video communication with real-time desktop sharing in meetings that use collaborative meeting software such as FacilitatePro.

These blogs are intended to communicate the results of my already published research to practitioners in the workplace. I appreciate and encourage your feedback; you are the best qualified to judge the relevant application of my research in the workplace.

Highlights from Research Brief #2 – Qualitative Results:

Study Purpose
The purpose of the larger, more comprehensive study is to study the effectiveness of six collaborative systems (CS). The larger study used mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry) to compare 26 validated effectiveness factors clustered under 6 constructs for 6 meeting venues: face to face without CS, face to face with CS, audio only with CS, audio and video with CS, asynchronous web (text messaging only) with CS and synchronous web (text messaging only) with CS. A collaborative system is a software application that is specifically designed to address the group processes in problem solving and decision making. Other terms for CS include electronic meeting systems, groupware, and group decision support systems. These studies used FacilitatePro from Facilitate.com as the collaborative system.

Research Questions
The qualitative piece of this larger study study addressed the following research questions: What are the perceptions of meeting participants and facilitators toward each construct/factor? Does a significant difference exist in perception toward each factor/construct among the meeting venues? What quantity and quality of ideas are generated for each of the meeting venues? Does a significant difference in quantity/quality exist among meeting venues? What are the perceptions of session observers toward six factors across meeting venues? Does a significant difference exist for observer factors among the meeting venues?

Results Highlights
Here are a just a few intriguing results that should whet your appetite for a fuller discussion of the results and conclusions found in Research Brief #2 Comparing Collaborative Meetings Systems – Qualitative Results.

  • Face-to-face venues were identified as the most effective to structure and focus problem solving, with teleconferencing next most effective and the web approaches (using text messaging) as the least effective.
  • Face to face venues are the most effective and web-enhanced venues the least effective for keeping a session on task. Lack of nonverbal cues for facilitators and lack of personal support for participants hindered web venues.
  • CS-enabled venues better support equitable participation.
  • All CS venues foster an unbiased, comfortable, open environment that might lend itself to diverse situations and cultures. Face to face methods can infuse bias.
  • All venues were identified as effective, with face to face venues and synchronous CS venues stimulating the most effectiveness comments.
  • All venues generated valid high quality ideas, especially face to face, teleconference and synchronous venues. Synergy appeared especially evident in the face to face without CS venue. All venues except web cam (audio and video) with CS noted inadequate idea elaboration as a discouraging factor. Face to face without CS noted limited idea generation as a discouraging factor.
  • Complications caused by technology were frequently mentioned as limiting participation at a distance, most dramatically for synchronous (text messaging) with CS.

Posted by Donna McAlister Kizzier