Welcome to the part three of our series on managing meetings effectively!
In the part one, we broke down the lifecycle of a meeting and showed you how you might not know you’re spending more than 15% of your time just “managing” meetings, and not simply “attending” them.
In the part two, we explored different ways to cut down on the amount of time you spend managing them.
Now, let’s break it down and reflect on the steps taken before, during and after a meeting and discuss some tips and software tools that will help you manage meeting’s lifecycle efficiently and get back that 15% of your time you’re wasting just “managing” them.
Let’s take a closer look.
Before A Meeting
Step 1: Finding an alternate option instead of a meeting
The first common mistake is we schedule meetings that do not need to be meetings. We have so many tools at our fingertips that help avoid unnecessary meetings. So before sending that next invite, take a step back and actually think about why you need a meeting and/or if you can accomplish the required outcome in other ways.
One of the most common reasons we have meetings is to provide detailed explanations of things that may get lost in translation over email or Slack/chat.
CloudApp and UseLoom are great examples of tools that allow you to communicate quickly and more effectively through screenshots and screencast videos instead of discussing the details in meetings. It also integrates directly into workflow apps including Slack, Trello, and Zendesk.
Step 2: Deciding on an optimal medium to meet
Despite all your reasons not to have a meeting, let’s face it - they are sometimes a necessary evil. If you have decided to meet anyways, then decide on an optimal medium to meet.
Most of the times, the natural urge is to meet in-person, but consider is it really required. Sometimes it’s required to meet in person for strategic meetings as it’s the most effective way to build relationships and get things done.
But if the meetings are not strategic, it’s better to use video conferencing tools such as Zoom or BlueJeans. Video calling is still an effective way to build relationships, but not waste your time in commute, planning, etc. and not get tired due to driving as well.
Step 3: Scheduling meetings efficiently
Now once you’ve decided to meet and also how to meet, another area you can optimize is scheduling meetings.
But first and foremost, the most important tip is to always keep meetings 10-15 minutes shorter than the time you think is necessary; for example, if the urge is to schedule an hour-long meeting, try scheduling for 45 minutes instead.
Additionally, coordinating schedules between multiple colleagues within your company or external clients can be a lot of back and forth email ping pong. Leverage some of these tools to streamline the scheduling process:
- Use self-service email add-ons like MeetingBird, Calendly or Assistant.to to eliminate the back-and-forth and make the scheduling faster.
- Intelligent assistants are also a good option here. For example, X.ai is an intelligent assistant that works using natural communication via email. It’s about as close as you get to have a real virtual assistant to schedule meetings for you. This is also an example of the Intelligent Assistant + Executive Assistant (IA + EA) hybrid option we discussed in the previous post.
Step 4: Researching meeting attendees
How many times have you gone into a meeting cold turkey? You didn’t have an agenda or presentation. You weren’t familiar with the person or people you were meeting. How successful was that meeting?
Conducting research on the individuals and company you’re meeting with is a key aspect of meeting preparation. An obvious choice for your initial research is to use LinkedIn.
Another excellent resource for researching attendees is FullContact. This tool will help you maintain better business relationships by giving you a place to host reminders, notes, valuable information and gather insights about your attendees.
During A Meeting
Step 1: Joining an online meeting
This might sound trivial, but you typically spend 5 or so minutes setting up and dialing into your conference call.
The pain is even higher, especially when you want to join an online meeting while on the go from your mobile device. Most conferencing tools, like Zoom mentioned above, or WebEx have dedicated mobile apps. Be sure to set these up prior to your meeting and one click easily connects you to your party’s conference line.
But if you’re using a conferencing tool that doesn’t have an app or you don’t have that app set up, tools like MobileDay sync with your calendar so that you can join an online meeting with one-touch dial from your mobile device.
Step 2: Taking a brief meeting notes
While sometimes it may be convenient to take notes in a physical notebook but to save you more time later on from transferring those notes to digital copy, prefer using any note-taking apps like Evernote, OneNote, or Apple Notes.
No matter how optimistic you are, you would almost never have time to transfer your physical paper notes into a digital version. And the downside of not having a digital version of notes is that information won’t be searchable anymore and you won’t be able to share it with your colleagues as well.
Having said that taking notes yourself during a meeting has its own downsides. I truly believe that multi-tasking is a myth. If you’re taking notes, then you’re not really listening and participating in the conversation. And if you believe you’re able to do that, then chances are you’re making other attendees wait during the conversation while you’re busy writing your notes.
This is where AI can help and one of the many reasons why we created Avoma. With the help of Avoma, you can stay fully engaged during every call and leave the bulk of the note taking to Avoma. This allows you to focus on the conversation with confidence that you won’t miss any important details. Avoma automatically dials into your meeting as a silent participant and records audio and/or video then transcribes your calls and extracts key insights and notes from it.
After A Meeting
Step 1: Taking detailed meeting notes
Many of you might be good at taking notes during a meeting, but the majority of people can’t take good notes during a meeting. Many times, you simply type a few important keywords and then try to fill in the details after the meeting is over.
We already talked about Avoma, where at the simplest level, you can be worry-free of any information that’s discussed in the meeting being lost as all your meetings will be automatically recorded and organized for easy access so you can go back and listen to the previous meeting.
The next level of benefit is, you get the full transcript of for all meetings, which makes the recording searchable. This is helpful because now instead of guessing at what time something was discussed, and doing trial and error to find where exactly a particular topic was discussed, you can simply search.
And finally, you not only get the full transcript but also get the highest-quality summarized notes in your inbox with IA + EA hybrid model, as we discussed in the previous post. This is a lifesaver for busy knowledge professionals who’re running meeting after meeting and do not have enough time to take detailed notes.
Step 2: Sharing meeting notes
Typically, you might share meeting notes to all participants via your email system, but the recommended option would be - to use any shared collaboration services like Confluence, Google Docs, Notion or Notejoy.
With these services, you don’t have to explicitly send an email to all participants, and they have instant access to your notes. In fact, they might also add their own notes to your own notes to capture collective knowledge. This is much efficient workflow compared to sending back and forth emails with everyone’s notes, comments, questions, etc.
Step 3: Following up on action items
The most important reason you host or attend a meeting is - there is a decision needs to be made or a plan needs to be made. So the most important outcome of a meeting is a list of a set of action items, preferably with clear owners who need to complete those, and timeline by which those action items need to be completed.
Once you have captured this information in your detailed meeting notes, sharing these notes via email or collaboration software will not help much. You need to move these action items to some kind of task or project management systems like Jira, Asana, or Trello to track its progress.
If you’re not using any task management system and end up managing these follow-ups via email, then you can email add-ons like Boomerang, Yesware which would remind you to follow up on any email you send.
Putting It All Together
The biggest misconception of attending any meeting is - you think you’re just committing 30-60 minutes of scheduled time. But you don’t realize the lifecycle of a meeting is a long one and it has many steps involved in it. The reality is, you end up spending more than 15% of your time in managing those meetings in addition to attending those. Life is short, so we better spend our time on things that matter.
We hope with these tips and tools shared above, now you are armed with the right set of solutions to maximize your time and cut back on the meeting management wastage. You just have to pinpoint where in the meeting’s lifecycle you are struggling the most, and implement a tool or tip that works best for you!
This post is a part of a 3-part series on managing meetings effectively: