In a traditional meeting format, everyone takes their own notes, or someone is assigned responsibilities as a note taker, maybe circulating or posting “minutes” of the meeting. I have worked with companies in which the process of getting meeting minutes approved for publication took weeks! In the meantime, people forget what was decided or what action items they agreed to undertake, and nothing gets done. Another meeting wasted!
Today’s amazing tools make many meetings obsolete and make the necessary meetings more productive. Here are some considerations:
- Asynchronous Tools. If you have a geographically dispersed team, it makes sense to hold “meetings” in an asynchronous format, such as a discussion forum or thread in which people post information, comment, and interact in their own time. You can set a 24-hour or 48-hour time limit during which the discussion must be complete. This work can precede a meeting, in order to reduce time needed for information sharing, and/or follow a meeting, to discuss and review outcomes or next steps. If you don’t have an enterprise system to use, you can do fine with a free service like Google Docs (to collaborate and post content) and Google Groups (for discussion and dialog). For a very modest fee, you can pay monthly for a robust corporate intranet from from Web Office powered by webexone.
- Tools for Onsite Meetings. Be sure to have flip charts or white boards and their supporting tools available. But don’t copy them onto small paper or send someone back to transcribe–just take digital pictures! I recommend a software called Whiteboard Photo that cleans up pictures of flip charts or white boards in one easy step–they till be completely legible, and the advantage of seeing the original version (rather than a transcription) feeds your collective memory.
- Real-time Tools. Webinars and audio conference calls can help your team prepare for meetings and follow up from them. I use GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. The webinar has an advantage of sharing desktop applications from one or more presenters. These tools save travel time and costs and can be recorded and posted to a shared space for participants who can’t be present at the selected time. Teleconferences are possible from most laptop computers, or just add an inexpensive camera and headset to your computer and power up with Skype for internet calls with or without a video component. With Skype, if both parties are Skype customers, the calls are entirely free; otherwise, you can call an number for a very nominal long distance charge.
If you and your associates are killing yourselves with meetings, if you feel that you have to do your real work after hours because of meetings (as do many, many busy people in today’s companies), you owe it to yourself and your company to fight back.
This is Blog Post #5 of a 10-post series devoted to “How to Get More Work Done in Meetings and Make More Money.” Stay tuned for the rest of the series. I welcome your comments and suggestions–how do you make meetings work? Do you have favorite collaborative tools to make meetings obsolete?
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