4 Tools for Making Meetings Purposeful, Productive, and Even Fun
I’m going to say it…
We all secretly cringe when we are called into a long mandatory meeting for fear it has no clear purpose. What is worse, right? Even meta meta meetings can’t happen more than once in a while. You’d go crazy.
Here at Lime Red, we’re building a collaboration culture in which our strategists, designers, and developers move fluidly throughout the day. In essence, the work day is a gathering space where our team is purposeful, productive, and loads of fun. Shouldn’t those be qualities every office has?
There are also times during the day that require all of us to take a step back, be present, and focus on the direction of a creative project together. In our L.A.B. process, we’re meeting as a whole team every time. Part of that time is task-driven, and part of it is exploratory since we’re refining our process as we go. Here’s what we do and what we’ve learned to make meetings super productive and yes even fun.
When Should We Meet?
We only meet when we need to. And only the essential people need to go to fulfill a specific role like facilitating, informing, documenting, or making decisions. There shouldn’t be any reason for someone to be in a meeting unless they have a role. It’s unproductive, boring, and pulls the company culture down.
We start everyday with a team-wide meeting we call a “Standup,” a term commonly used for Scrum development teams. We borrow this term and concept even though we do more than build stuff. We are an agency that works on multiple development, print, UX, and consulting projects at a time. Our Standups are set to last no more than 15 minutes, where we review everyone’s status on each project and find ways to help each other. Each person shares what they just finished, what they are working on, and share any blocks that may prevent them from accomplishing their goals. Identifying blocks helps us determine who should get together later, either in a formal meeting or causally to help fix an issue.
Maintaining Open Channels All Day
We use a great tool called Slack to communicate with each other, even though we are just feet apart almost all day. Slack is a messaging app we use as an open communication channel for the team to share information, prepare for and plan meetings, share interesting articles, get stuff done, and gifs. Lots of gifs.
Slack lets us create channels for each project or client so that special teams can communicate and share information quickly, whether our team member is sitting at the next desk or if they are stuck at home nursing a sick kitten. It happens!
It connects with other platforms and technology. We invited Meekan to some of our channels to work as a scheduler for meetings times. It looks at our calendars to seek the most optimal times to meet. It’s a smart tool, literally… check out our first introduction:
Speaking of Calendars…
We use Google Calendars. Although Meekan can connect and review our schedules, it’s one place where we can all go to see everyone else’s scheduled activities but also to schedule activities. When setting up meetings with clients via Google Calendar, we also provide a tentative agenda or links to resources in the description to ensure everyone attending is prepared. We also give them the option to join us virtually through a Google Hangout, which we use all the time for remote sessions. The great thing about Google Calendars is that we’ve set it up to automatically generate a Hangout URL and is sent along with the invite to the meeting. We can even set up Hangouts via Slack on any channel by simply typing in “/hangout” in the comment field. This is really helpful when conversations on Slack evolve into the need to set person-to-person meetings.
What Happened and Now What?
One of the biggest problems with meetings is that everyone may be taking their own notes. It becomes even more difficult and time consuming when we have to spend even more time compiling the notes so we can convert outcomes into actionable items.
To make awesome agendas and assign tasks, we use a platform called Do.com. It connects with our Google Calendars so when it sees we are all on the same meeting, it gives us all access to a shared dashboard where we can set agendas, contribute to meeting notes, and identify outcomes and action items. There isn’t an excuse anymore for hunting down meeting notes or figuring out what needs to be done following a meeting. Did I mention that you can use this for free?
OK, we all dread meetings. Who hasn’t had a week that was full of them and no time to get any actual work done? When we’re working on L.A.B, yes sometimes our sessions get a little meta, but our time together is still short and impactful. And if it wasn’t, we take extra time to make sure next time will be great for everyone.
What tools do you use?