by Daniel Pesis

I can count a number of meetings I have been in that I could tell would be totally pointless by minute 5. Sure, having meetings is a necessary evil. It helps your team exchange ideas, get updates, build valuable working relationships, and manage projects more effectively.  However, you and I both know that doesn’t mean […]

I can count a number of meetings I have been in that I could tell would be totally pointless by minute 5. Sure, having meetings is a necessary evil. It helps your team exchange ideas, get updates, build valuable working relationships, and manage projects more effectively.  However, you and I both know that doesn’t mean that they can’t (or don’t) waste productive time, get your team sidetracked, or in the worst case scenario – start an internal conflict that builds resentment between your team.


Below, I will give my five tips for making meetings less painful and suggestions for apps or bots that can help your team achieve success in those painful areas. By no means am I suggesting that you HAVE to use these apps.  I encourage you to do more research into their competitors, reviews, etc.  The reason I selected these apps as examples is because I have used them in the past and still have a favorable opinion of what they offer.

 

1. ) Improve Communication Outside Of Meetings

  • The key here is to have an easy to track way of organizing your company’s communication online. Way easier said than done, right? You’ve tried email threads but, let’s be real, outside of threads for fantasy football and wedding planning…. They suck. Don’t Give Up, Though! Commit! Don’t let this one go! The best way to eliminate the “updates” part of the meeting (or minimize the time spent on it) is to improve your communication outside of meetings with your team.
    • Our Suggestion: Slack
      • We use Slack and love it. Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams. One word of advice, though – don’t get too granular with channel topics. Embrace the features of the application and use threads, tagging, reminders etc. so that you aren’t hurting your team by using the app. All of the apps mentioned below integrate with Slack and allow it to be your “bat cave” or the company.

2. Create An Agenda (…and give your team the ability to suggest beforehand / give feedback after)

 

  • We are firm believers in agendas at Bobber (insert link). They hold the leader accountable to the group and ensure that the meeting has a purpose or at the very least are run effectively. However, I don’t believe it is enough to JUST have some agenda. To be a great leader, you have to look to improve. We suggest that before meetings begin you reach out to the participants to make sure that all topics that are needed to be covered are in fact covered (and that all “fluff” topics are left off). Have them submit back to agenda items that should be added that way you can filter through them first and make it an impossibility to get sidetracked.  After the meeting put it through an “evaluation” and get feedback from the participants. Was everything covered? Was it a waste of time? Are there any suggestions that you can use for the next one?
    • Our Suggestion: Worklife Meeting Assistant
      • Full disclosure, we ended up not using Worklife for the “long term”. I still maintain that it is solid, especially for the small team or teams that have a lot of standup meetings. It comes stocked with agenda outlines, integrates seamlessly with slack, and has an automation that sends the agenda out beforehand for missed agenda items as well as after the meeting for evaluation. In other words, it gets you feedback before and after the meeting without you so that you can continue to progress. Point blank, the app makes it easy to keep on track and helps you to keep tweaking your setup until it is effective. The only reason we dropped this was that we didn’t get “buy in” or use it correctly. I still highly recommend it, though.

 

3.) Publicly Recognize Team Members For a Job Well Done

  • Low key, the worst part of meetings is the amount of ego in the room, right? A lot of times, the root of the problem is someone’s insecurity that they aren’t getting recognized, appreciated, or trusted by the group.  This leads to a feeling by that person that they need to impress the group or get every thought out to the group to make sure that you KNOW that they do in fact contribute in a positive way. Or, the opposite – someone doesn’t think anyone else is doing anything because other members of the group don’t feel the need to share every “win.”
  • Publically recognizing good work and celebrating team wins shouldn’t be restricted to meetings. Recognition and team unity should be a part of company culture.
    • Our Suggestion: Praisely
      • Praisely is a great way to publicly recognize team members for a job well done. Inspire achievement, promote connections and share victories companywide.Your people do great things every day. Give them a platform to share those wins and take some of the egos out of the room.

 

4.) Get, Use, and Commit To A Project Management Too

  • One of the worst parts about working meetings is that your group can become dependent on them to get things done. It becomes too hard to manage project’s checkpoints, due dates and times, conversations, tasks, subtasks etc. By hosting your projects online on a project management tool you can collaborate, manage, easily track due dates and more. Start hitting deadlines and running productive meetings that advance your goals.
    • Our Suggestion: Trello
      • Trello is a collaborative task and project management service that uses Lists and Cards to organize your team’s projects. Keep your team updated and allow them to collaborate in real time on multiple projects together, all remotely. The application also integrates with slack so as updates are being made on projects, the full team can get alerted. 

 

5.) Empowerment Through Collaboration

  • Open collaboration is key to running efficient meetings and tracking brainstorm sessions. With a number of applications or bots that exist now and days, it becomes hard to not get lost in the sea and/or use too many of them that they become a hindrance to streamlining work. That is why we stick to Trello and Slack, and only commit to other apps that integrate with those. We suggest that you do the same with all applications you use. Collaboration tools ensure a smooth working relationship between a team because it allows you to jump in or out on any project without impacting the flow.
  • If a team is able to have complete transparency during a process then meetings become less about fixing broken communication or progress updates and more about the future of what you are working on. While Trello and Slack both help with the actual project management side of the company, they can be hard to use during an actual brainstorming session. We like to use an app specifically to map out a conversation, brainstorming meeting, or data dump that will help us track our session. Once that is complete, we transcribe the project over to Trello so that assignments and management can be streamlined without hurting our creativity or brainstorming.
    • Our Suggestion: Realtime Board
      • Realtime Board is an easy way to stay on the same page as your team. It is an open, endless shareable space for sketching out ideas or managing complex projects (with a seamless integration with Slack / Zapier / Trello). It allows you to plan visually, brainstorm and collect ideas, organize those ideas, and actually create wireframes or presentations.

 

 


To recap, the best way to make meetings more efficient is to fix the issues that are “causing” your meetings to get sidetracked or unproductive. In my experience, there are two main categories to fix: meeting preparation and meeting execution.  With a little commitment to organizational change, the above tools can help take your company to that next step. Make sure that you don’t view these tools as a “solve-all” and instead view them for what they are – tools that YOU use and control.

 

Blog Cheat Sheet:

  • Communication Platform = Slack
  • Collaborative Meeting Agendas = Worklife
  • Company Culture = Praisely
  • Project Management = Trello
  • Meeting Brainstorming = Realtime Board