Lockdown meetings gone wrong

meetings gone wrong

We love meetings but we also love a laugh, here’s our favourite Lockdown meetings gone wrong.

From no trousers to impromptu bathroom breaks for many of us Lockdown has meant getting to grips with virtual meetings, and a fair few meetings have gone wrong! We’ve trawled the web to find some of the best examples. What always amazes us is how eager people are to share them, particularly when it’s their boss who’s messed up. I’d love to be on a fly on the wall at the next pay raise conversation.

Suffice to say the team at Amazemeet very rarely have these problems. Aside from the odd five year old getting in on the action, camera fails and a penchant for hats. I admit it that’s mainly me but hey getting a haircut during lockdown has been tricky and there’s no way my wife’s doing it!

Exit the meeting turn camera off!

This is a lesson for all of us, make sure you exit the meeting properly.

Kids are great at comic timing.

This is something I’m very familiar with. My daughter, who’s five, is more than capable of going to the bathroom on her own. However, when she see’s I’m working in my home office she has a great habit of shouting “Dad I’m doing a poo” at the top of her voice, invariably when I’m on a call.

Here’s another great one.

We’re pretty much all there now.

I can totally relate. Most of us probably started as we meant to go on. However, that probably lasted all of a few days and we realised that shorts, t-shirts and the general clothes we wear to lounge around in were good enough. My excuse, the weathers been warm in the UK, shorts are a must.

Classic.

She handled it well. I think he just wanted to hang around and see what was happening!

Great compilation of classic moments.

It’s amazing how many people forget their camera and mic might still be turned on.

We’ll get there.

Whilst we can’t stop the kids and pets getting in on the calls. We have been working hard during lockdown to launch our version 3 of Amazemeet. With version 3 you’ll be able to manage all your meetings in one place from start to finish. That means managing who you invite, what outcomes you want, how you’ll allot time in the meeting, the meeting itself via video call and then the post meeting follow up. All your notes will be available to everyone and you’ll have a cool AI meeting facilitator there to keep all the attendees on track.

The road to better meetings is simple, click below.

Best and worst of working from home

When I first started thinking about a best and worst of working from home post I thought about a roundup of what’s good and a name and shame. So i’ve written the exact opposite!

Let’s face it a guide on best and worst of working from home isn’t really an Amazemeet blog, we can do better than that so I thought I’d share my personal experience of working from home on Amazemeet during lockdown.

The background.

Ok so confession time. I work from home 4 days a week and have done for some time. Amazemeet are a distributed company with team members all over the world helping people have better meetings. so we are used to it. But this time has been very different. Like most humans we invariably don’t like to be forced to do things and I am certainly no exception. And of course we do have Amazemeet for meetings and communication, in fact we’ve used real meetings for our internal testing of v3 for sometime, more on that later.

The best.

Like most people working from home presents an opportunity for a much better work-life balance but to get that you need to be organised. A desk space, away from distractions, coffee, technology are all important factors as is keeping a schedule. It’s been amazing to spend more time with family, my daughters been off school, and connecting with so many people. As a team I think we’ve come much closer together and really aligned around our goals, not that we weren’t before. As you’ll have read previously though in our blog launching a new product in lockdown we haven’t had the luxury of sitting back and having some nice conversations with long lost friends. Although the odd one has taken place! The focus we’ve had though will be coming to life for everyone in the next few weeks as we launch v3.

Like a lot of people I’ve embarked on a few things I wouldn’t normally do. I now have a love of constructing cardboard structures and my daughter and I are seriously thinking about turning pro when it comes to lego builds. That’s been awesome.

The worst.

Where to start. Virgin media’s intermittent internet has been a real pain, Vodafone haven’t been great either, minor inconveniences I know but especially painful when you’re trying to work. Above the practical side not having the freedoms we take for granted has been a real grind. It’s very true that you don’t miss something until it’s gone but I count my self lucky to be able to go where I want and do pretty much what I want and when. Lockdown took that all away and whilst I was 100% supportive it still pains that these things aren’t available.

I’ve also had to see many businesses and people I know really struggle. Myself and the team are lucky in that respect as we’ve found ourselves in a business and sector that somewhat thrived with the world working from the kitchen table. Others haven’t faired so well. Many friends in the entertainment sector have had businesses close and dreams evaporate over the last three months. That’s hard to watch, especially when you can’t do much to help.

What I’ll take from this.

I think number one is never to take anything for granted. Six months ago we all merrily went along in our world we felt so secure. Fast forward to now and a construct that once seemed solid fell apart with alarming speed. Companies supposedly making healthy profits went bust in weeks, panic buying, food shortages. It’s funny how it all fell apart, perhaps that fragility is telling us something? I’ve also learnt more about my colleagues, we all get each other better. That’s been a happy byproduct of the lines between work and personal life blurring. If I had one wish it would be for company to continue to be accommodating and embrace this even when things are back to normal.

Amazemeet v3 is nearly here, sign-up now for launch offers.

What will matter in the new world of work?

new world of work

The new world of work has somewhat been thrust on us. Will it change our values and how we define successful working?

As we’ve been forced into a new world of work we’ve been reflecting on how our entire working ecosystem will change and the values that we cling to will be reshaped, oh and having some better meetings. Covid-19 struck the world hard and extremely fast. It pushed the vast majoirty of us into enforced home working, overnight companies became distributed businesses whether they wanted to or not.

It forced organisations to quickly re-evaluate their employer, employee relationships in the context of remote working, Did employees have the right technology, how would work fit in with homeschooling and childcare? Employers instantly had to be accommodating, the lines between business and personal have become blurred. But, most of us have made it work and not suffered too much as a result. In fact issues that once were the preserve of personal and family life are now a part of company life too. It feels like business has got emotional. Why? Because companies can’t function without people, businesses had a choice to make, either shut up shop, take some government money and hope to weather the storm or adapt.

It seems like those that have adapted have done it quickly and generally the experience has not been as unpalatable as the press makes out.

Can we go back?

I’m not sure we can. What seems abnormal now will quickly become the new normal. Companies may well be judged on how they dealt with employees during this unprecedented period. Will we see a new kind of business emerge that is happier to integrate around it’s employees lives rather than the other way round? It’s certainly true that the kind of perks we used to think were great no longer matter. I for one would much rather have a balanced working life and time with family than regular trips to a bar.

There’s also so the obvious cost saving that will come from lockdown and the anticipated economic downturn. Do we really need 5 floors of central London office space? Twitter has announced regardless the outcome of the next few months that staff can work from home permanently. I doubt this is a PR stunt, they probably realised quickly that it’s made little difference to their operating model so why not.

Where’s the future?

6 months ago distributed business were real outliers. That’s clearly changed, will we now see a wave of people looking for roles only with businesses who offer mainly work from home? I expect so. Once we can get out and do things again working from home is awesome. The technology is here, the infrastructure exists we just needed a push and we got kind of a big one.

Values that matter.

Productivity is linked to the amount of time spent in the office, said no study ever. Clearly it will be hard for people to argue that anymore, if they still were. I think values will be shaped around balance and understanding in this new world of work. Organisations that can positively blur the line between personal and professional, being mindful of each and giving equal importance to each. I think that’s the kind of place people will actually be happy working in and as we know happy, engaged employees are the root to success.

Tools to make it easier

If we we want to embrace this new world of work, and we should, we’re going to need the right tools to thrive. That’s why we’re levelling up Amazemeet with some amazing new features like the Ai meeting facilitator. It’s like having a PA, secretary and meeting coach rolled into one, designed to make your meeting efficient and effective whether you’re in a bedroom or the boardroom.

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings in the new normal

Try it Free.

Looking beyond lockdown.

looking beyond lockdown

As we look beyond lockdown what kind of world will we emerge into? Will we see lasting change?

Asking somewhat what the future holds right now is a bit like asking for the winning lottery numbers. It’s still far from certain where we will be in one or two months. What is certain however, is that large chunks of the economy are going to take a hit. Some, retail in particular, was on shaky ground before Covid-19 came along and it would be fair to say the outbreak is the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. We do have some motivation however to embrace positive change especially where meetings are concerned. If you don’t believe us read our post the hidden cost of crappy meetings.

What will the lasting impact be?

It’s hard to see how some aspects of the economy will recover. The high street may well never return as we know it. That will be a great shame but it’s also very clear that a traditional model of retail has had it’s day. As people move more towards seeking experiences this could be an opportunity for our shopping streets to transform into places we actually want to visit, rather than rows of the same shops selling the kind of things we get from Amazon.

For meeting culture and those sectors Amazemeet works with the shift is likely to be more cultural. Enforced remote working was at first a pain. But now more and more people are beginning to embrace the change. Organisations are starting to question the need for large, expensive offices for all employees and lets hope will embrace a more flexible future.

The challenges that come with this are many. Having the right tools in place to communicate and corordinate become more and more important. Organisations need to plan for flexible work and ensure processes are defined and understood by everyone. I read an amazing book on this subject, check it out here.

Evaluating the change?

It would be very easy once we emerge from lockdown to crave a shift back to business as usual. There’s always comfort in maintaining the status quo and it’s easy to see how some business will relish the chance to get back to their view of normal. That overlooks what a great opportunity this has been presented to us all. I believe there will be some good to come from our enforced lockdowns. Obviously there’s nothing to be found in the outbreak but the future may tell a different story.

Just look at the advances being made in vaccine development. As many a scientist will tell you war and war like circumstances are often hotbeds of advancement because they bring neccesity to the table. The same could be said of now.

I challenge the smart organisations amongst us to think critically about how lockdown has impacted their organisations, good and bad. Positives will be found and they need to be absorbed into our normal business lives.

Having the tools to sustain change

This period in time has either been really hard or really easy. Some organisations are set-up for flexible working some are not. Some industries cannot support flexible working at all some can. Middle ground is a difficult place to occupy. But that’s OK. For those that can embrace it and to reiterate my earlier point the tools and process to make flexible working better than the traditional office trudge are vital. Amazemeet recognised this for meetings some time ago with a clear drive to hyper efficient meetings. The difference now is that rather than having more time to actually work in the office, you have more time to work and spend with your family. It’s also where project management tools like Asana come into their own. All these cloud based solutions are completely agnostic when it comes to geography and that’s vitally important for a distributed workforce.

Start planning for the future

Embracing lasting change is likely to mean a complete rethink of the physical space we occupy as organisations. We need to start thinking about the individual rather than centring how our organisations function around a place. This will take time and require a huge shift in mindset but it’s a great first step to moving out of a factory mentality.

How great would it be if our office was simply a place to meet colleagues and customers, a place to connect physically and our workplace was wherever we chose it to be?

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings, especially online.

Try it Free.

Breaking out of the bad meeting culture

Breaking out of the bad meeting culture

Sometimes to break a habit we need a big push.

Covid-19 could be the best chance we’ve got of breaking out of the bad meeting culture we’ve been stuck in for the last 10 years. That might sound kind of heartless but very often to really drive home a behaviour change we need a big event. A push to home working for most of the Amazemeet community could be just that. Let us clarify though, in no way are we suggesting that Covid-19 is a good thing but like most ingrained habits humans need something really monumental to force a change.

The good thing is there’s definitely a reluctance for certain kinds of meetings to happen online. We highlighted how much money these bad meetings cost in our hidden cost of crappy meetings blog. Spoiler alert, it’s a lot.

The meetings that tend to be the biggest culprits are:

Project Status meetings

As project teams become more cross-functional with diverse skill sets and people reporting into different managers there’s often a nervousness amongst project leaders around team communication. This generally results in the infamous recurring meeting. The problem is the information shared is very often irrelevant to certain groups within the project team at any given point. So you sit through a meeting waiting for the one thing that affects you.

This is the exact opposite of what Amazemeet advocates for meeting attendees to be able to contribute. Rather it’s much easier for teams to add updates to a shared drive, forum, slack channel etc.

Information broadcasts

These are those meetings you sit through where someone stands up and runs through news, company announcements etc. They are a big time waste. People read faster than they listen to unimaginative delivery. The irony is that if these sessions are done well they can work as team building exercises and help to develop a culture of two-way communication. Sadly 99% aren’t and could be handled by a page on your intranet, an email or a print out by the water cooler.

I challenge you to add up how many of these kind of meetings you have each week?

The good news is that when we’re working remote there’s a reluctance to have these meetings with such frequency. I’m not sure why, maybe remote doesn’t give the organiser the platform they crave. Or perhaps the organiser knows they’re inherently a waste of time and it’s easier not to do them when your not all in the same office? Either way it’s good news for anyone obsessed about having better meetings, like us!

The rest of the key meetings:

  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Innovation
  • Team building

are super valuable, and they work online. These meetings tend to have actual outcomes as all good meetings should. After all that’s what we’re trying to achieve, effective meetings.

Our hope is that as we start to emerge back into the world from our home office cocoons that we won’t just slip back in to our bad meeting culture and pick up where we left of. There’s signs that a cultural shift is on the cards the challenge we all have is to embrace it rather than assuming it’s a negative. We live in a world that tells us we must be connected to everyone else all of the time, is this a good thing. Businesses used to function perfectly well with far ;less meetings than they do today.

Cast yourself back 25 years?

That’s a time before social media. Do you even know what a working day looked like back then? I challenge you to talk to someone who worked in a corporation 25 years ago and ask them about the meeting culture back then. How often did they meet, did meeting less affect their ability to do their job. The answers might be surprising.

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings, especially online.

Try it Free.

The hidden cost of crappy meetings

hidden cost of crappy meetings

There’s a hidden cost of crappy meetings and some of us are starting to realise just how much this cost really is.

Hot on the heals of our recent ugly truth about meetings blog we wanted to explore this underlying cost the vast majority of us are paying. There’s a number of distinct sides to this, first and for most people most importantly is the financial cost. Second, there’s the cost to our wellbeing and there’s also the potential environmental cost. This week we explore each one in turn, hopefully it will open some eyes to what I guess a lot of you out there already suspect.

Meetings are unproductive, that costs money.

When surveyed executives consider nearly 70% of meetings to be unproductive. That’s more than two thirds and to put it into context the infographic we recently published put a figure on this, $37 Billion in the US alone. Let’s spin that on it’s head and assume we stopped having half of those unproductive meetings that could be nearly $20 Billion saved.

It’s estimated that across organisations the amount of time spent in meetings equates to around 15% for all employees. As you move up the ranks that increses dramatically to upwards of 50%. The meeting time is one thing but executives estimate they spend upwards of 4 hours on meeting prep. So again if the 70% figure for meetings being unproductive is true more than 30% of an executives working time could be considered unproductive, because that’s the time spent in crappy meetings.

This is quite frankly stark. It’s hard to pin down exactly what’s to blame. It seems somewhat of a cop out to suggest it’s purely down to the technology, a meeting run well via a video conference is still a well run meeting. What is apparent though, that like most technology we’ve adopted, certain practices have become commonplace without thinking about the wider context and the impact they have as a whole. It seems there’s a symbiotic relationship between the ease of facilitation and the effectiveness of outcomes.

As a marketer the psychology is quite simple to me, things that are easy are often assigned a low value and perhaps this is where we’ve gone wrong. Meetings used to be about productivity and outcomes but we seem to have shifted to a place where meetings are more about having meetings because it’s so easy to have them.

It’s a dangerous place for corporations to be.

Meetings impact on wellbeing.

Employee wellbeing is becoming more and more important to organisations. They realise that happy, engaged employees are more productive, more motivated and less likely to look for employment elsewhere. Crappy, unproductive meetings do nothing to assist. In fact multiple surveys suggest that having better meetings is a route to improving employee wellbeing.

It’s not to be underestimated. Count up the sick days, the drain on talent in an organisation and general lack of productivity and I bet you will find a correlation to bad meetings. It’s a survey that needs to be done, watch this space!

It’s sadly no coincidence that the phrase “A happy workforce is a productive workforce” is certainly very true. The quickest way to mess it up is to disengage the workforce and bad meetings are a quick way to do that. They aren’t the only factor but like many things in our working lives they contribute to the sum of all the other issues and can certainly tip the scales.

Jeff Bezos certainly thinks so. He avoids meetings before 10am, limits attendance to the number of people that can be fed by two pizzas and has banned Powerpoint!

What’s the environmental impact?

This is probaly harder to quantify especially as a huge number of meetings take place remotely. However as the technology has become a part of our working lives there’s always a cost. Server farms create pollution and we certainly need lots of those to power the tools we take for granted.

Technology requires power and for the most part we still rely on power sources that are not very green. Great steps have been made by corporations to buy power from renewable sources but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

data centres in the U.S. alone are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020. Data center efficiency and sustainability is a universal challenge that transcends companies, geographies, and workloads – and there’s no simple solution.”

Colocation America

The technology infrastructure required to support these systems is immense. A large data centre can use more power than a small town. Sadly this way outstrips the capacity delivered by renewable energy. It’s a big issue that’s rarely reported because it’s to a large extent invisible.

It’s not all bad news.

Amazemeet aren’t alone trying to fix this. The hidden cost of crappy meetings is starting to be understood by a host of organisations for whom productivity is vitally important and meetings are squarely in their radar. We’re doing our bit because we know we have to have meetings, we want to make the unavoidable ones great and cut out the unproductive ones where we can.

Let’s get back in control of our meetings

Try Amazemeet, free

Making Brainstorming Work; CEO of Medium on How To End Meetings

brainstorm

Making Brainstorming Work

Image: jeanbaptisteparis 

To make brainstorming work, have two meetings to determine “what to do” and then “how to do it”.

Brainstorming if not properly conducted can waste time and creative juice.

To make it work, leadership influencer Dan Rockwell has a tip: Successful brainstorming calls for two meetings.

The first meeting is a “What might we do” meeting.

The second is a “How might we do it” meeting.

Divide the efforts and focus maximises creativity and follow through. 

Originally from the blog of Dan Rockwell

Tell Me What You Heard

hearing-ear

Image credit: Paul Townsend

Explaining something to someone and not sure they got it – simply ask them to tell you what they understood you said.

In some cultures, the concept of “saving face” is very important.

Sometimes in meetings, when a person explains something and others don’t quite understand, they wouldn’t ask because they don’t want to be thought of as slow, lack of knowledge, or being distracted.

In other cases, it’s simply misunderstanding.

The consequences: misalignment, unclear expectations, may lead to recurring meetings in the future.

As you explain something to someone, make sure they got it by asking them to say what they have understood from you.

How To End A Meeting

end-meeting

Image: Robert McGoldrick 

At the end of the meeting, have a “closing round” to give each participant a chance to comment on the meeting and know where the group is at. At the end of meetings, have a closing round to give each person a chance to comment on the meeting. h/t @ev Click To Tweet

Ev Williams, CEO of Medium has a wonderful idea: The facilitator/host goes around the room asking everyone to make comments, say how they feel about what were discussed.

This allows people to get things off their chest and receive feedback about how the meeting can be improved. They might come up with ideas/ issues that are worth noted but otherwise ignored.

At Amazemeet, we have a section called “Off topics” so these points can be recorded – have you tried that?

Closing rounds can also get the ones who didn’t have a chance contribute to voice their thoughts. And most of all, these rounds can be fun and positive they”re a great way to better meetings.

So try that out and let us know how it went!

Originally published by Ev Williams, CEO of Medium

Meeting Scheduling: 4 Tips To Do It Right

meeting scheduling 4 tips

Often time, the way a meeting is scheduled determines how successful it is.

This month’s productivity tips focus on how to transform your usual meetings  into productive, short, and well-spent time – by reflecting on the old old ways of how they are usually conducted, trying to understand the design flaws no one questioned before.

Our featured leadership and time management influencers offer some tips to blow a fresh air into your stuffy, lengthy, and ineffective meetings.

Let’s dive in.

Parkinson’s Law in Meetings

time

A meeting is as long as it’s designed to be – start with the agenda, not time, and collaborate on making duration estimation.

Parkinson’s Law is stated as “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

In the context of meetings, the duration of the meeting is as long as it’s designed to be. If one sets out to have a 1-hour long meeting, it is usually the time it takes regardless of the significance of the agenda discussed.

For example : a manager wants to hold a 30-minute meeting to reach a decision, even though the decision can be reached in 5 minutes, chances are that the discussion will expand to fill the full 30 minutes.

To stop wasting time on this type of meeting, start with the agenda, not the duration.

Make it clear what the things are that you want to talk about – start with Purpose and Agenda, estimate beforehand, and together with other participants how long each item takes, then come up with the meeting duration.

Try this on Amazemeet’s canvas.

Start short meetings X minutes before the hour

clock

Efficient meetings are short ones. The easiest way to have a short meeting is to start it X minutes before the hour.

For example, a meeting at 8:40 that is scheduled to go to 9 rarely goes past 9.

One reason for this is most other events and meetings start on the even hour. So there is often an urgency to finish the short meeting.

And “odd” meeting start times are easy to remember.

I encourage everyone to set their device alarms a couple of minute before each meeting so they are not late.

From Jim Estill – a Leadership blogger and influencer at CEO Blog – Time Leadership

image: clock

Scheduling Meetings like Warren Buffett

Schedule meetings one day in advance so you get to determine how you spend the next foreseeable 24 hours as you feel like it.

Badly timed meetings are bad.

Warren Buffett has been said to usually not schedule his meetings more than one day in advance.

Someone who wants to meet him will be told to call in on Thursday if they want to meet him on Friday.

By doing this, he can determine how he wants to spend his time in the next 24 hours instead of weeks or months in the future. His schedule is therefore relevant, not prescient.

Try doing this for your next meetings, the ones when someone just asks for your time and attention – not dependent on other factors.

This won’t make you as successful as Buffett, but it gives you the power to decide how to spend your next foreseeable hours, and puts you into a more pro-active position in how to conduct your meetings.

Originally written by Jason Fried

image credit

The magical 30-minute meeting

pinapple-halved

Halve the time of your normal 1-hour meeting to experience more focus and success. h/t @peterbregman Click To Tweet

Often we allocate 1 hour for most meetings, phone calls or appointments. Why should that be our standard allotment for so many things?

When we halve that slot – compressing time – people are more likely to: focus on critical points instead of stretching to reach the 1 hour by doing unnecessary tasks and having going-no-where conversations (think Parkinson’s Law).

Moreover, everyone will tend to be on time and come prepared (now that you only have 30 minutes!). Every minute makes a difference.

Most importantly, compressing time spent on meetings and other tactical work gives you more unstructured time to spend on activities and people you love.

Originally written by Peter Bregman

image credit

The Red Pill – How We Are Doing Pricing at Amazemeet

We chose the Red Pill

Pricing can be complicated in any startup. Amazemeet is no exception, though we think a few things we have learned in trying to devise plans and prices recently have helped us get a better attitude to one of the most important aspects of launching a SaaS business.

Pricing can also be exceptionally simple – you can make numbers up out of thin air with little or no thought for whether anyone will pay that price for your product (what I call ‘the blue pill’).

We chose to do a bit more (what I call  ‘the red pill’). More research and more educated guesses to get data we could make decisions on. More importantly, we wanted a process to emerge out of setting and reviewing our pricing so that we could use it over and over again.

We’d like to share where we are and what we learnt trying to price our service.

Where we are now

We recently finalised our last round of pricing experiments and created a new pricing model combining the best bits of the various experiments and what best supports our current phase of our strategy (i.e conversion).

pricing-table-may-16

So how did we get here?


I’ve tried to distil the chaos of the last few weeks into 5 key learnings. If you are interested in the stuff that isn’t written – the emotional rollercoaster, the techie bits of experimentation etc, then please ping me here via comment or on twitter (@amazemeet) and I’ll be happy to share that.

1. De-stress pricing through iteration and experimentation

Pricing can be stressful. We found the biggest source of stress was to believe that whatever model we came up with had to work for everyone, forever!

If there is one enduring strength in our team it is that we are almost entirely pragmatic and agile in our thinking and in our execution. This has helped us develop a healthy attitude to risk. We use iteration and experimentation all the time for everything.

To take the stress out of pricing, we’ve accepted that:

  1. We can change it anytime if it isn’t working
  2. We will review it regularly to see if it needs to change
  3. It doesn’t have to be good forever, just until the next change.

Remember this:
The core of iterative experimentation is accepting that you don’t know something, you are doing reasonable things to learn more and that you can change at the next turn. Accept that you don't know, you're doing things to learn more and you can change at the next turn Click To Tweet

2. Understand who you are pricing for and design for them

This sounds like a no-brainer – especially if you have been more or less tracking certain segments or user and customer types. Just as different users want different features – Different customers have price levels they will pay - often regardless of how valuable your product or service is Click To Tweet

Amazemeet is a B2B service, we enable businesses of all sizes to have better meetings. This range presents complexity when we try and price to suit all businesses and keep us sustainable. The complexity comes primarily from the different price levels that specific types will support (large corporations might support higher levels, whilst small, modest companies support more modest pricing).

Complexity also comes from how those segments purchase stuff – large corporations often have restrictive purchasing policies that prevent the person with the problem from easily purchasing their chosen solution. Smaller, more independent business often don’t have that constraint.

Our pricing model had to support the price levels that would have credibility with the segments and navigate the purchasing restrictions purchasers in each segment to help them buy.

So for smaller sized companies and independents (like freelancers) we introduced a monthly plan and for the larger corporations where the effort of approving a $5 purchase is about the same as seeking approval for a $500 purchase – we introduced yearly plans to help them get the most out of that approval step.

3. Understand Your Goals for Pricing and Design to Achieve Them

We started out thinking pricing was simply about setting a price for your product and generating revenue – we were pretty mistaken. Sure it is about revenue – and so much more. 

So we thought a bit more deeply about our goals  – or what we wanted our pricing model to help us achieve and came up with:

  • help us to grow our user base (so pricing is not a barrier to usage)
  • help users become customers (so there is clear value to being a subscriber).

To achieve the first goal, we experimented with a freemium model – offering a free tier to let people try out the service (we believe we are the only ones with a meeting design model like Amazemeet on the market – it takes some getting used to!). This worked well – a little too well perhaps.

It would be silly to think it was just because we had a free plan that people joined. We are also lucky to have a naturally viral product.

We are seeing a stable growth in users and in organisers, but we were not seeing any growth in customers. When we spoke to users about the value they were getting from using the platform, they told us of improvements in clarity and follow ups. We’ve known that users found the platform useful (this has been fairly consistent feedback since the beta in June 2015) – what we struggled to determine was if it was also valuable!

Despite the success of the freemium model in helping us grow the user base, it created a secondary problem for us – which we encouraged by not differentiating plan features early enough. So we replaced it with a 7-day fully featured trial experiment and put all our existing non-subscribed users on the trial.

Whilst this has had little or no effect on the rate of sign ups, it does help to funnel serious users of our platform to a subscription plan. But it is early days yet – the first set are expiring this week and we are eagerly awaiting the result of that experiment.

Remember this:
Users *hate* anything being taken away from them. Especially if it was once free. Click To Tweet

Amazemeet_-_design_amazing_meetingsIncidentally we still have a free tier – it is just not publicly advertised. It offers unlimited meeting attendance but no meeting organising. It is the plan people revert to when they take no paid subscription.

4. Be willing to lose users – but understand why

There are few things more flattering than people signing up to use something you built.

But there are the right type of users and the wrong type of users. The right type of users use your service regularly – or as regularly as you intended. The wrong type use it much less than you intended and generally don’t come back and rarely tell you why.

As we experiment with Amazemeet – we recognise that the more specialised we become in how we design for the segments we are focusing on – including our pricing – we will inevitably lose some users. This is why it is super-important to not do too many things at once – because you want to know why you might lose those users.

For example, when we experimented with hard limits on the now-deprecated free plan, we saw some usage drop off. We recognised that there would be some users who wouldn’t upgrade to a paid plan once their 5 meeting limit was reached. We could even tell who might react like this by their usage patterns – they were not regular users of the platform and this restriction just persuaded them to stop.

This may be counter-intuitive, but I would rather have 1000 committed users than 10 million ghosts – and if I do anything to make the numbers that I base my decisions on that much clearer aligned with reality – I might just make better decisions.

Remember this:
Users are not all equally valuable. Knowing what makes a user valuable to your business helps you value and invest in that relationship better. Be prepared to cut back investment on those user relationships that are not helping you to your goal.

Be prepared to cut back investment on those user relationships that are not helping you to your goal. Click To Tweet

5. Regularly review the drivers of your plans and pricing and adapt them

We aren’t done yet and we aren’t there yet. ‘There’ being stable and growing revenue, but we have had the most positive feedback so far on usefulness and on value.

The goals of our pricing can change, the behaviours we want to encourage can also change. We will be moving to other segments – either geographically or otherwise. We might pivot our features or the vision. Each one of these changes will bring new drivers to our pricing model and cause us to review.

In anticipation of this – we ask ourselves every month – “Is this pricing model still the most effective one for our goals and constraints’. If the answer is ‘Yes’, we move on. If not, we go deeper and explore what the next iteration and experiments ought to be.

There you have it – this is how we are doing pricing in Amazemeet. At least for now. What would be a great help right now would be your honest opinion and probing questions about this.

Is there something that just doesn’t make sense about this? – I’d love to hear it.


Image by Philip Taylor PT {cc_name}

Mind Your HiPPO

hippo

When JC Penny stock shot to nearly one billion dollars after hiring who was referred to as “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,” the parade was all but booked on the corner of Money Street and Prosperity Avenue.

18 months later, after the failure of renowned business executive Ron Johnson, those same streets were barren,  littered only with the discount coupons they couldn’t even pay former patrons to use.

According to Business Insider, the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion,” or HiPPO is a plague that has affected many top corporations and moguls from Sears to former Clinton White House Aide, Jason Goldberg respectively.  This phenomenon is costing stockholders their investments and reserving a space in the unemployment line for an unsuspecting and once faithful and career driven employee pool.

HiPPO Beware

It is often suggested that the most successful entrepreneurs are those who surround themselves with more intelligent people.  Using this information, many major and upstart corporations looking for a boost in profit will seek out and highly compensate one of these individuals. With stacks of hundred dollar bills blocking their ear canals, the suggestions of others become unable to reach the HiPPO’s brain superiority.  

No one is listening, thereby allowing only one set of opinions are being heard.

Whilst surrounding oneself with more intelligent or knowledgeable people is a good start, being able to let their opinions flow and being willing to be challenged is vital for the best plan or decisions to emerge.

This humble leadership doesn’t just apply to the traditional role of the ‘leader’, it helps everyone whose perceived authority can unduly influence critical conversations.

Surround oneself with intelligent people is a good start, let their opinions flow is vital for the best decisions to emerge. Click To Tweet

Highly Intelligent Individuals DO Make Mistakes

The catalyst of failure for Johnson with JC Penny was determined to be something so simple and avoidable, it’s hard to fathom that it was even allowed to occur.

Forbes Online suggests that Johnson chose to follow his “gut” instead of proven focused group data in determining consumer preference. To state it simply, a multimillionaire believed that he better understood what a middle class patron wanted to purchase. In this case, the data was available, though it was ignored by a feeling.  Since JC Penny threw all of it’s “cents” into the pockets of Johnson, is it any wonder why when Johnson asked his subordinates if the plan was working, no one had the gumption to speak up?

Large Ripples The Of HiPPO Effect

The HiPPO effect creates ripples of intimidation as members in the board room learn to keep their mouths shut, eventually lose their voice, and become accustomed to the role of subservient rat to the Pied Piper.

Employees are disempowered, moral is destroyed, and accountability becomes a tale of folklore and mythology.

The goal of a company is reduced to the vision of one, and no matter how well that one is able to see, it could never compete with the strength in vision of a cohesive unit. Why have a board room or, better yet, a board, if the voices and opinions of those in and on it are irrelevant?

Hungry, Hungry, Not The HiPPO

Once a problem has been recognized, it must be confronted if it is to change.

This is often the most challenging proposition to implement and can largely determine the fate of an organization. Allow the opinions of the staff to be vocalized before those of the influencers, even if it requires a closed or silent voting session. Crowd voting has also become a popular method with the seemingly infinite resources of technology.

To diffuse the intimidation factor of the great HiPPO, these actions are imperative. Proper facilitation, idea implementation efficiency, and  restoring the voices of those who matter can bring the creativity and success back in the board room to which it belongs.

Originally published on Linkedin by Mike Sutton