Space may be the final frontier, but one that the iconic Star Trek franchise heavily explores is arguably a more important frontier: that of human communication.

Star Trek seems to have an uncanny ability to predict future technology, and the lion’s share of its prophetic devices have to do with communication. From communicators (cell phones) to video calls (the big screen that captain Kirk has dramatic chats with alien captains on) and everything in between, the show seems to have nailed the future of human communication.

And while today’s technology may feel very much like the distant future that Star Trek predicted (although way ahead of schedule), the truth is that digitally-enabled human communication is just starting to take off.

A comic by Bizarro illustrating a conversation between a man and Star Trek characters mocking their old technology

Star Strek reference comic: By Bizarro

Meetings of the Past

Humans have been holding meetings in essentially the same format for centuries. Each meeting is preceded by a document that outlines the structure of the meeting, known as an agenda, and has a designated time, place, and roster of attendees.

Some meetings are open to the public and some are invitation-only, but the common thread with traditional meetings is that they all have a place and time. In order to attend a meeting, a member must be physically present.

A quantity of resources, including time, is required to get everybody to the meeting and to generate copies of the agenda for members to reference.

During the meeting, another document is generated: minutes, documenting the proceedings of the meeting. The scribe is responsible for creating this document.

A facilitator is in charge of keeping the group focused on the topics prompted by the agenda, and a timekeeper responsible for keeping to the times allocated by the agenda for each topic.

Meetings Today

The meetings that people hold today inherit their qualities from the long-held meeting traditions of the past. However, there are some important advancements that modern technology enables.

As in the past, today’s meetings are still held in a specific place and time, typically in a room that can accommodate a certain number of people. An agenda anticipates the proceedings of the meeting, and the minutes records them.

Modern meeting management solutions operate within this traditional meeting format to enable all of the technology people have – such as tablets, mobile devices, and laptop computers – to reduce the expenses, resources used, and time spent managing the logistics of meetings.

Meeting materials, such as documents, proposals, images, and data, are all stored in the cloud. It’s instantly accessible, well-organized, and convenient. It makes sense. Cloud storage is a commodity that now effectively costs nothing.

A meeting management solution allows relevant documents, such as reports, to be updated and tracks versions for version control.

While people still meet physically, meeting management solution enables efficient remote attendance Video conferencing technologies such as Skype is extremely convenient for members who may not be able to attend meetings physically.

Agendas are created automatically based on organization activity, previous meetings’ minutes, and other relevant information tracked in the cloud. Meetings minutes are formatted and streamlined based on the agenda, and timekeeping and facilitation tasks are automated. This makes it possible for one person to play the role of facilitator, timekeeper, and scribe.

Other documents in HTML can be instantly created and published to the internet, or in PDF format, allowing instant distribution of relevant information.

The previous minutes are instantly accessible and can be queried on-demand to recall important details from other meetings.

Information is available to all, including those with visual or audio impairments. With video captioning and text-to-speech capabilities, automatic transcription and soon even real-time translation, meeting management enables everybody to participate in meetings.

Meetings of The Future

Humanity is in the middle of transitioning away from the traditional meeting format. While most of the technology is already here, people are not ready to change their habits. We are just a few generations (possibly just one) away from the future of meetings:

  • Meetings will not be held in a physical place. Since remote presence is possible, the cost of logistics getting people to the same place will make physical meetings a quaint thing of the past.
  • AI will act as the meeting facilitator, translator, timekeeper, and scribe. With comprehensive speech recognition, AI will soon be able to generate documents on the fly and complete tasks with simple speech commands. This will also enable automatic real-time translation of meeting proceedings to foreign languages.
  • The importance of meeting minutes will be diminished eventually. Someday, in response to a question like “what was that number you gave us last month for estimated annual tax revenue?”, the smart AI will be able to answer immediately and accurately, with video playback to support it in the face of doubt. This will effectively eliminate the need for physical meeting minutes.

While the future of meetings and human communication in general is exciting, it’s even more exciting to know just how many great tools are here to help today. It’s impressive, considering we are still 228 years away from launching the Starship Enterprise.

Paul imageBy Paul J. Mackin, Vice President