“I don’t think we’ve wasted enough time on this. Let’s schedule another meeting!” Meetings get a well-deserved bad rap for being unproductive time sucks. And, as
Listening and connecting with people is still incredibly valuable for businesses, however, whether this is an in-person client meeting or an internal “weekly roundup” at the office. The right digital tools can make meetings more productive and less time consuming. These go-to tools are my secret weapons for meeting productivity:
#1. Find the best meeting time
Finding an ideal meeting time can be a Sisyphean task in and of itself. Given our demanding jobs, it can be nearly impossible to find a time that works for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you need to lose two days of your life to an endless email chain where 10 different people compare meeting times and end up with… nothing.
My secret weapon: Doodle. If you’re not already using this handy app, you’re missing out! Doodle lets you poll everyone attending a meeting to find a time that works best. Hook Doodle up to your own calendar to simplify scheduling by avoiding conflicting bookings and automatically syncing appointments to your calendar.
#2. Schedule one-on-one appointments
Even one-on-one meetings or calls can lead to plenty of unnecessary email and phone tag to set a time. Worse, if you’re scheduling a call or meeting in a different time zone, it’s not enough just to agree to a time; you need to have that time added to your calendar or you could end up calling your West Coast client at 9am EST… and waking them up!
My secret weapon: Calendly. Appointments, meetings, interviews, and sales calls all just got a lot easier! It takes less than 60 seconds to tell Calendly your appointment preferences. Next, share your Calendly page with clients and colleagues. Invitees can instantly see your availability and pick a time that works for them. If the time is open on you schedule, Calendly automatically confirms this appointment, adds it to your calendar and sends a reminder in advance. With built in time zone support, time zone conflicts are a thing of the past, too.
#3.Take better notes
A lot of information gets covered during meetings and, if you’re like me, it’s easy to get caught up in a lively conversation and forget to write down the important details. When the next day rolls around, it can be tough to remember all the project scope details you just agreed to – especially if you’ve already gone through a few rounds of changes!
My secret weapon: Evernote. There’s a good chance you’re already using this hugely popular app, but are you getting the most out of it? Evernote makes it easy to search the contents of your notes, including any photos you snap of whiteboards or flip charts during the meeting thanks to optical character recognition. I’m also a fan of Google Docs for sharing notes during the meeting. Start a shared document at the beginning of the meeting that everyone on your team can contribute to throughout the meeting. Since Google docs update in real time, you’ll be able to take notes collaboratively. Copy the notes into Evernote following the meeting and search your notes wherever you go.
Given the prevalence of freelancing and telecommuting in today’s workplace, there’s a good chance that one (or more) of your meeting attendees won’t be there in person. While face-to-face meetings can be valuable when first kicking off a project, there’s no reason to require everyone to meet in person for a weekly status update. Bridge the gap by sharing screens.
My secret weapon: While there are a number of different screen sharing programs currently available, my personal favorite is ClickMeeting. Click Meeting is an affordable solution that quite literally gets everyone on the same page. As an added bonus, ClickMeeting also offers screen sharing for webinars, too. Once the meeting is over, keep the collaboration easy and streamlined with online workspaces that are ideal for creating a virtual space that allows for asynchronous communication.
#5. Back channel secretly at client meetings
We’ve all been there: your co-worker is delivering a big pitch and he completely forgets to mention a critical component to the presentation. Or he fumbles over a stat and gets the information incorrect. Yikes! You can’t interrupt him mid-pitch, but you also don’t want the mistake to go uncorrected.
My secret weapon: Rather than sending an email or text that might not be seen after the meeting, avoid these problems by agreeing to a “back channel” communication method in advance. I’m partial to Google Hangouts since multiple people can all join the same chat. Even better, since Google Hangouts also works on your desktop, you can quickly type a note without attracting any attention (or appearing rude by looking at your phone). A final word of caution: while many presentation tools include chat options, never use these for your backchannel communication. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sending an urgent note to your colleague and having your client see the message! Skype and Apple Messages are also great options. Choose what works best for you and your team.
#6. Collaborate better with mind mapping
Mind maps are a great option for guiding group discussions and capturing and organizing ideas. With a face-to-face meeting, it’s easy to pull out the old dry erase markers and get down to business – but what about virtual meetings?
My secret weapon: MindMeister is considered the best online mapping app currently in the market and there’s a good reason for this! MindMeister is free for iPhones and also boasts an award-winning online version that makes it easier to link in multimedia (including files and videos) and then export the maps to Word documents, PDF files or PNGs. For the ultimate productivity boost, use MindMeister to assign tasks to collaborators after the meeting.
Bottom line: While these tools can’t stop your boss from going off on a 15-minute tangent about his golf game, they can help everyone identify the best meeting time, take shareable (and searchable) notes, view reference materials, and even send an urgent back channel message to keep a client meeting from going off the rails. Which tools do you use the most in meetings?
Images: “Elegant gangster/Shutterstock.com“
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