The recent boom in remote work has revealed many redundancies about the office culture. The biggest realization is that we don’t really need a two-hour commute everyday to reach an office building in order to do something meaningful. The second one is the fact that long-drawn meetings are high on symbolism and low on substance.
Most meetings suck because they are called hastily, run poorly, and involve too many people but yield too little outcome. In 2019, Doodle released a State of Meetings report which found the cost of poorly run meetings to be $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. That’s half a trillion dollars down the drain just for corporate teams to throw buzzwords like “think out of the box” and “let’s take it offline.”
Bad meetings are fundamentally a design problem caused by a general lack of thoughtfulness. It’s like a car pile-up on an interstate—the first collision leads to a series of other casualties that soon dovetail into a meeting marathon and hijack your precious time.
Add the customer variable to the mix and you will soon realize that not only are you losing valuable time but also risking new business opportunities. You may argue that there’s no escaping long, fruitless meetings in the corporate culture. Fine. But when meetings become a timesuck also for your customers, it starts hurting your business earnings.
The good news is—not everything about meetings is entirely doom and gloom. Meetings can be fun, fruitful, and productive if you plan them well. I know, it’s hard to imagine—but that’s exactly what we are going to cover in this blog. By the end of this post, you will learn:
- Why agendas are critical to your meetings
- The different types of meetings and agenda templates
- How you can create meeting agenda templates quickly on the go
- How you can make the most out of your meetings
Why you should have a meeting agenda
Oftentimes, meetings don't lead to any action. A meeting without an agenda is just a collaboration fetish. Somehow, we overlook the fact that a little bit of planning is all it takes to make meetings worthwhile and outcome-driven.
An agenda is like guardrails for your meetings. It gives you clear visibility into a meeting’s direction from the get-go, keeps everyone on the same page, and reduces the chances of conversations derailing into unwanted areas.
Meetings follow the Parkinson’s Law of time, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If you schedule a meeting for 20 minutes, you force everyone to finish the meeting within 20 minutes. If you allocate 60 minutes for a meeting, it will morph into a 60-minute-long meeting even if you could have wrapped things sooner.
Setting an agenda for a meeting usually starts from the preparation routine. Here is our step-by-step recommendation on how to define an agenda for each of your meetings:
- Schedule meetings no longer than 25 minutes.
- Add a one-word purpose statement in your calendar invite to set the right expectations. E.g., “Demo” or “Exploration Call.”
- Put your company name first in the invite title, such as “Demo: Avoma<>Acme.”
- Add the meeting medium (e.g., “video” or “call”) in the title. E.g., “Demo (Zoom Video): Avoma<>Acme.”
- Add a brief value proposition in the title. E.g., “Demo (Zoom Video): Avoma Conversation Intelligence <> Acme.”
- Add a one-line goal at the top of the invite description. E.g., “Goal: Learn about Acme’s use case and explore if Avoma can help improve customer retention”
- Add a 3-point bullet agenda in the invite description.
E.g.“Following up on the last email conversation, here’s the agenda for our upcoming video call on Zoom:
• Understand Acme’s current challenges and use cases
• Overview of our solution and exploratory discussion
• Discuss the next steps
We've in fact put together the complete blueprint to make the most of remote meetings in The Remote Meetings Handbook that goes further into the weeds.
The point is, setting an agenda is like taking a pledge of allegiance to adhere to a meeting’s scope and objectives. If you make it a practice to include agendas for each meeting, you will save everyone’s time and resources from being wasted.
Besides cutting down on off-tangent conversations, there are other benefits to having a clear agenda for your meetings. For instance, clearly defined agendas set the right tone for your meetings. It ensures that only the essential people are invited for the meeting, and also increases the likelihood of covering all the bases you set out to accomplish.
Building an agenda template
If you aggregate the different types of meetings that take place in the business context, you can bucket them into four broad categories.
- Internal Meetings: These comprise your all-hands meeting, staff meetings, company-wide announcements, and so on.
- Team Meetings: Think of the sprints, status updates, brainstorming sessions, feedback sessions, post-mortems, and other types of debriefing sessions that occur within a team.
- Leadership/Board Meetings: These are high-level, high-impact meetings that typically take place between the founders, investors, stakeholders. E.g., budget meetings, quarterly business reviews, compliance-related meetings, meetings on change management, and so on.
- Business Meetings: All kinds of meetings that involve talking to external stakeholders fall into this category—such as sales discovery calls, demo calls, vendor partnerships, job interviews, etc.
For the scope of this post, we will concentrate only on business meetings because the stakes with external meetings are usually higher than the internal meetings.
Think of talking to a customer as costing you (and the customers) a dollar every minute. In reality, meetings with customers are costlier than that because a meeting’s negative outcome is the opportunity cost that could have added to your revenue pipeline. Therefore, you can be fluid and amorphous with your internal meetings to an extent. Whereas being so with customer meetings can cost you dearly.
With that in mind, let's look at how each of your customer-facing teams can prepare for their meetings to make the most out of it.
By design, sales is a customer-facing function. Salespeople are among the first to talk to potential customers, represent the brand, and get the foot in the customers’ doors. To give a lasting first impression, it’s critical for the sales team to have a meeting agenda template that leaves no room for error.
The most common types of sales meetings that involve prospects are:
- Discovery/Exploratory/Qualification meetings
- Product demo
- Follow-up meetings
Although discovery and follow-up calls are shorter, you will benefit immensely from them if you have thought through an agenda for them.
Creating templates shouldn't be labor-intensive
The core thought process behind building a template isn’t to create a script that you can use verbatim during your conversation with a prospect, but to have pointers that you don't want to miss discussing during the meeting.
In a typical sales discovery call, these are the common talking points that you might want to touch upon:
- What is their core business need?
- What pain points are they trying to solve?
- What does their current process and workflow look like?
- How big is their team?
- What’s their budget?
- Are they currently in their purchase cycle, and more.
However, sitting down to create templates for all kinds of customer meetings is a waste of time in an age of automation. It would be a great use of your time if you had a system that took all the key talking points from your conversation with a customer and turned it into a template for the future while converting the minutes of the meeting into easy-to-understand insights.
For example, you can use Avoma to simply create a list of categories or topics that you want to cover during your sales discovery meeting. That’s it and you’re all set.
Avoma’s AI assistant will also take notes on your behalf and populate it under the topics you created in your meeting template. Here is how your meeting notes will appear after your discovery meeting is over.
Customer success meetings
The customer success team has unarguably the highest frequency of interactions with paying customers than any other team. Customer success (CS) also has a high mandate to make their meetings count because—while users are in a hurry to see the results with your product—they will expand their product usage if CS hits all the right notes.
The most common types of customer success meetings are:
- Customer onboarding
- Product walkthrough
- Plan upgrades
- Follow ups
Because of the nature of their function, customer success shares many of their meetings with other teams like product (feature requests) and customer service (feedback).
This means preparing a super-organized agenda template is even more critical for the CS team to offer a good experience to customers as well as to improve cross functional collaboration.
Here’s an example of a meeting agenda template for regular check-ins with an existing account:
The advantage of creating an agenda template for customer success is that they can offer a consistent experience to all accounts at scale without missing anything critical. And if you are in the habit of reviewing customer meetings, this exercise will enable you to perk your ears for critical data such as identifying customer churn signals.
Marketing teams have the double duty of telling the brand story and also making the product more accessible to customers. And although the marketing team speaks to prospects and customers mostly through other touchpoints like blogs, emails, or videos—talking to customers can help them fine-tune their messaging, understand use cases that resonate the most and get better at demand generation.
Here are a few examples of marketing meetings that involve customers:
- Customer interviews
- Case studies
Let’s look at an example of a customer interview template:
One common problem across all meetings is the need to document important information. This is especially crucial for marketing teams to keep relevant information while filtering out the redundancies. Thanks to platforms like Zoom, you can easily record meetings to review later.
But sometimes that’s not enough. Not everyone has the time to go back and listen to the entire conversation.
Avoma not only lets you record your video meetings but also transcribes your meetings and gives you summarized notes of the entire conversation.
The product team have their own conversations with the customers as well as tag on other teams’ meeting insights and look for relevant, and actionable data to improve the product.
Some of the meetings that product teams glean into are:
- User research meetings
- Customer feedback
- Demo meetings
- Support calls
Notice how all product-related meetings—except for the user research—overlap with other teams. That just goes on to show how important it is to lean on customer intelligence even when your everyday job doesn’t require you to talk to customers.
Here’s a meeting agenda template sample for a user interview.
If you want to get more specific feedback, you may want to add specific questions you would like to understand from your customers.
If you are using Avoma, you can also share snippets of key parts of your customer conversation with your team or across functions in your organization.
Recruitment meetings are kind of an exception in the list because you don’t really hold recruiting calls with customers. But hey, prospective employees are no less important than customers. Companies with employee-first culture invariably have great customer engagement because great employee experience transcends into great customer experience.
- Job interview calls
- Employee onboarding
- Exit interviews
Here’s an example of how to prepare a template for an employee onboarding meeting:
Like human life, business meetings have a lifecycle that spans across three phases:
- Before the meeting
- During the meeting
- After the meeting
Setting an agenda template is mostly an exercise that takes place before a meeting. But what happens during the meeting and what follows after the meeting are equally important because now you have to process the raw data into easy-to-digest intelligence to improve your business operations.
This is where Avoma comes in handy—it offers AI-assisted note taking (that takes notes for you), while you can focus on the conversation. And after the meeting, Avoma gives you actionable insights across all your conversations.
For instance, you can get a quick overview of the top use cases your customers use your product for based on the aggregated customer conversations across your organization.
There are more capabilities packed in Avoma to help you run effective meetings and make the most out of each customer interaction.