Are efficient meetings really a route to better outcomes?

efficient meetings

Efficient meetings or effective meetings, which should be our goal? In this weeks blog we explore why sometimes we take the wrong path in our journey to fixing our meetings.

Efficient meetings or effective meetings? It’s a question we get asked a lot and both have merits depending on your goals and the challenges you’re trying to fix in your organisation. Now we can all accept that meetings take up a huge amount of time, a lot of them unnecessarily if the research is to be believed. But there are a huge number of other factors that derail meetings loosing employees engagement (read will to live) and striking dread into the calendars of attendees. Before looking at the merits of each approach, and sharing Amazemeet’s perspective, let’s consider what factors ensure better meeting and the kind of meetings we have. Or more importantly what factors may be missing that are making your meetings bad.

Meetings tend to fall into these categories

  • Status Update Meetings.
  • Information Sharing Meetings.
  • Decision Making Meetings.
  • Problem Solving Meetings.
  • Innovation Meetings.
  • Team Building Meetings

Depending on your goals it’s likely you have a problem with some of these, the obvious one that hurts efficiency are status updates, very often an email will suffice and problem solving meetings rarely prove effective if there’s little follow up.

Factors important for good meetings

These tend to fall broadly into before, during and after activities.

Before the meeting set the meeting objectives. invite the right people, don’t just assume ask them if they can activly contribute towards these. Have a clear agenda for how the meeting will play out.

During, assign a facilitator and assign time to topics that fall within the meeting scope. Take care to part conversations that explore tangents, you can come back to them. Note down actions and who will deliver them.

After the meeting follow up on the actions, share the follow up with attendees and be sure to set next steps.

Efficient meetings

Striving for efficiency is a great goal if you tend to have lots of meetings that ramble or could be done more easily via other forms of communication. Let’s face it, wasted time in meetings is one of the biggest challenges we face in corporate life, it literally costs billions every year. A well run efficient meeting, sticking to the agenda items and time keeping with a focussed agenda can work wonders. Try it next week, cut out everything that’s unnecessary and see how much time to do the things that are. An efficiency drive is exactly what you need if you feel you have too many meetings that go on far too long.

Effective meetings

Effective meetings are your goal if you have a problem with outcomes. A drive for effectiveness is particularly warranted if your meetings lack follow up and decisions don’t get implemented. If you get a sense that meetings don’t move anything forward it’s likely you’ve got an effectiveness challenge and you should pay close attention to how tasks are assigned and who is responsible for delivering on the follow up actions. It’s a great tip to have a facilitator who manages this after the meeting not just during. Make a person responsible for tracking the follow-up, keeping everyone informed and setting out what happens when the actions are delivered. Have a meeting to celebrate getting it done when you’ve moved through the phases!

The Amazemeet view

It’s clear there are merits of both approaches but my advice when uyou commit to having better meetings is pick one area to fix first. As your meeting efficiency imporves start to figure out ways to improve the efficiency. Remember nothing is perfect and don’t expect it to be from day one. Above all recognising your meetings can bet better is the key.

Make sure your meetings work with Amazemeet.

Finding a balance in the new normal.

Finding a balance in the new normal

We’re all trying to find balance in the new normal as we rapidly change our working behaviour.

So let’s preface this article by asking how you’re getting used to version 3 of Amazemeet? We’d love to know if it’s helping you have better meetings?

Back to the business at hand. It seems like we’re all in this together right now, which in some ways is great, everyones having to deal with the same change. For some it will be short-lived for some a new way of working is being ushered in whether we like it or not. Our experience at Amazemeet hasn’t really changed, we’ve always been a distributed business but for those just starting out on this journey, especially more traditional companies, it’s a brave new world.

We’re saving money that’s all that matters, right?

As many commentators more qualified than me have pointed out, this experiment with home/flexible working has been forced upon us and in most cases it’s worked out pretty well. The bottom line is, well the bottom line. If you’re a huge company with a lot of office space in London or New York then it’s costing you a huge amount of money every year. Some estimates reckon a desk in prime central London can cost upwards of £60,000/year, multiply that by 2,000 staff and the figures are astronomical. If you could halve or even quarter that demand. You do the math? But culturally many businesses and more importantly the people that work in them are still trying to find a balance. It’s great not having to spend hours commuting, but it’s also too easy to stay wedded to a computer long after you’d have left the office. Social interaction is also different, humans are after all tribal animals, we generally like spending time with other humans and that’s much harder to do online. But hey, we’ve got Zoom so we’re all good! Finding how to balance this in the future is going to present certain challenges for businesses. remote connectivity aside, how will they ensure that employees come together in a meaningful way and interact as human beings. This social interaction needs to be considered as working relationships are important for team cohesion and productivity.

The productivity fallacy

There are still people out there that think we’re more productive in an office. That’s been disproven so many times it’s untrue. In fact if you added up the time spent chatting at the water cooler, coffee trips and idly chit chat we are certainly less productive than you think. However, this is where the social cohesion in a businesses tends to be formed, that’s much harder to do online. What’s certainly true is that spending more time with family and having a better work-life balance is paramount. Happy employees are motivated, productive employees.

Connect don’t just meet.

Without the face to face interaction it’s super important that we make time to connect. Not all conversations need to be meetings and that’s especially true when we’re relying on tools like Amazemeet to plan and run our meetings. Making time to speak to colleagues is vital, it’s what keeps us sane, productive and moving forward. It’s a key part of the balance required to make remote working work.

Tell us how you’re finding a balance in the new normal?

We’d love to hear your tips and discoveries over the last few months? What’s worked and not worked and how you’ve started to find a balance?

Not using Amazemeet? Better meetings are just a click away.

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.

How do you fix your meetings?

fix your meetings

Do you even need to fix your meetings? The truth is the majority of meetings ain’t great so chances are you do.

 

Most people don’t think they need to fix their meetings. But, ask almost anyone in almost any company about meetings and you are likely to find far more negative feeling than positive. That may seem like fag packet analysis but the truth is the research doesn’t lie. Have a gander at our post The Hidden Cost of Crappy Meetings for more.

 

But how do you fix your meetings?

 

In my experience of working with some of the largest companies in the world, people end up doing some really bizarre things to fix their poor meeting culture.

“No more meetings” rule – as the title implies, no one books anymore meetings ever. This , of course, is total nonsense because the conversations people still must have are simply taken into a different medium like Slack where you might be having meetings whilst you ‘work’ at your desk.

“No Meetings” days – having given up on fixing meetings, this is usually an attempt to protect some time in the week for employees to focus on being productive.

“No meetings longer than ..” rule – with the intent that even if meetings are wasteful and uncomfortable, at least we aren’t spending too much time on them.

“Standup only meetings” rule – in the hope that participants will not take too long before their feet hurt.

Whilst I welcome any thing that might help people be more productive, make meetings more effective –  for heaven’s sake I wish they based their ‘corrective’ efforts on actual data.

 

So, how do you get data to fix your meetings?

 

To have data to analyse you’ve got to start collecting data. There are a number of areas we’ve highlighted that contribute to a successful meeting outcome, namely:

  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Agendas and contributions
  • Follow-up and task tracking

Each one allows you to focus on the key aspects of a good meeting. Having the right people invited in the first place, having a clear agenda, with time allotted to each element. Ensuring attendees are contributing, if they’re not they likely don’t need to be there, and the all important follow up. Each area represents a facet of the meeting that can be recorded and scrutinised once enough data has been collected. Outcomes can then be tracked back and correlated with the other areas of meeting performance to identify the kind of meetings that are succesfull. This can be used to shape future meetings and ensure that everyone attending follows a process you know will succeed. 

It also help to categorise your meetings so you can take a different approach, broadly most meetings fall into the following categories:

  • Status Update Meetings.
  • Information Sharing Meetings.
  • Decision Making Meetings.
  • Problem Solving Meetings.
  • Innovation Meetings.
  • Team Building Meetings

Each of these requires a different approach, some might be better served via different channels. Maybe you can use a Slack channel for status updates? Ultimately though each organisation works differently, by focussing in on successful outcomes you be able to shape your meeting culture just the way you want it and fix your meetings.

 

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings

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Distributed workforces; The new normal

new normal

Talking about the “new normal” seems odd right now as nothing is normal. What’s certain is that things are changing in the way we work.

So firstly what is the new normal. Well as a phrase it was coined post the financial crash of 2008. It basically implies that something abnormal has become normal. It’s kind of apt that it’s become the word on everyone’s lips right now just as it was in 2008/2009. Yes I’m old enough to remember that vividly.

Where distributed workforces are involved it perfectly describes right now as most companies hove a workforce spread across home offices, kitchen tables and bedrooms the world over. And guess what, for a lot of businesses it’s not really caused much damage or upheaval. In fact the bean counters are probably sat at home working out how much they can save on office rents!

For years the idea of distributed workforces has been something of a novelty. Pursued by the 5 hour work week converts and zanny start-ups looking to be different. But quietly behind the scenes some companies have been making it work, and work well. Take Automattic for example, they’re the commercial company behind wordpress and they’re worth $1 Billion plus at last valuation. They have 1,000 plus people working in 75 countries and are 100% distributed. They would have been considered an outlier 3 months ago, but now we’re talking new normal are they the blueprint for the future of work?

What’s interesting is how many companies that are finding the enforced change actually quite straightforward. This enforced lockdown, in the UK at least, has proved to be a great stress test of the vital infrastructure, internet and telecomms and it’s all worked. Virgin media notwithstanding. It’s no coincidence that the Microsoft teams ad has been playing on virtually every TV channel around the world at most times of the day. Why? Because some smart person has realised that things are going to change permanently and working remotely will be one.

It’s perhaps too early to say what will happen in three months, 6 months or longer but what is certain is that we’ve discovered, albeit through a rather terrible cause, that we can work this way. Technology has been our saviour, once again. Working remotely also has other benefits, no more 2 hours of commuting, more time with family and yeah sitting in front of a computer in your pants!

So where does Amazemeet come into this? Well it’s the perfect time for an AI base software that helps you have better meetings. One thing is for certain that distributed workforces need the tools to work efficiently and that’s where Amazemeet excels. It’s there every step of the way to help plan, execute and manage follow on for your meetings and it will do most of it for you. Nobody likes people not showing up, Amazemeet ensures attendees are at the meeting prepared and ready. Amazemeet manages the timings to ensure things don’t spiral and it makes sure everyone knows what their post meeting actions are. In short it’s your meeting facilitator, personal assistant and secretary all rolled into one.

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

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Amazemeet, introducing your new meeting facilitator.

meeting facilitator

Meeting facilitation is what makes Amazemeet special, so what is it?

The meeting facilitator isn’t just a nice to have it’s essential because the world we live in now allows us to have fantastically useless remote meetings in glorious 4k video with world class sound and precisely the wrong people, seamlessly scheduled at a time that suits, to have a meeting no one understands the need for. Or certainly that’s what we hear, it’s why we’ve created Amazemeet so you can start having better meetings.

To go forward we first need to go back. So a little bit of history … believe it or not, 50 years ago – we had much better meetings. Sure, there were fewer meetings and they weren’t online – but that is not *why* they were better.

They were better because they were facilitated – from start to finish – by trained facilitators. Almost every office had a secretary and this person was trained in lots of skills  – including how to run meetings. Fast forward to 2020 and there are far fewer secretaries in the world of work. Today they are called Executive Assistants and that title means different things to different people. The art of meeting facilitation has been lost somewhere along the way, maybe because we’ve made it far to easy to have meetings we just assumed we didn’t need it?

At Amazemeet – we are not afraid of tackling the hard things. We recognise that as more people meet online, the need for facilitation that leads to effective outcomes becomes even more critical. That’s why Amazemeet version 3 is all about facilitation.

Please welcome Maya – our AI powered meeting assistant and facilitator.

With Maya – every meeting organiser gets their own facilitator (don’t worry you can name it any name you like) – complete with an avatar.

The facilitator helps with the following:

  1. Guided Meeting Wizard: Maya will walk you through the creation of new meetings
  2. Regular Design Check Ins:  Maya regularly checks in with invited contributors and makes sure people show up
  3. Start-to-Finish Meeting Facilitation: Maya will start the meeting with an intro and guide your meeting through all the agenda – from start to finish with helpful prompts to make sure it runs smoothly.
  4. Time management: Some things do overrun necessarily, Maya will minimise the knock on effect. Suggesting dropping items from the agenda if there is a hard finish and automatically scheduling another meeting to cover those dropped items.
  5. Enforce Good Practice: e.g. Making sure that participants have read the pre-meeting items – because no one really wants to be on a meeting where we are all reading a document OR worse still  – have a document read to us! Maya will make sure you don’t knowingly start one of those.
  6. Post Meeting Follow up  – Maya will follow up on tasks and outcomes, keeping all stakeholders informed.

This is just the beginning, Maya will, over time, learn how you like your meetings to run and make improvements and suggestions tailored specifically to your preferences.

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.

Are we about to see a reset of meeting culture?

reset of meeting culture

Could current circumstances see a reset of meeting culture, are we about to witness a happy by-product of a terrible situation?

As we all being tackling online meeting could this be the catalyst for a reset of meeting culture? We’ve explored the hidden cost of crappy meetings and it’s fair to say we have too many and too many are bad. But, something interesting is happening. As we move to enforced home working for many of us our meetings have moved online and we’re having less of them. For some reason meetings on a whim tend to be less popular. Endless rounds of announcements can be done much easier via email or a messaging app. The meetings we are having are becoming more effective by default as we’re only pulling people in who need to be there and where we have more certainty over the outcomes we want.

Why is behaviour different?

It’s a strange situation because the technology that has led us into every increasing rounds of meetings is the very technology we are relying on to keep us connected. From my personal perspective an online meeting feels like a bit more effort, it feels like it should be more effective. Certainly that’s the case when it’s the only format we can actually use. When the technology is a support for face to face the behaviours we see are markedly different. Has this got something to do with people being alone? It’s a tricky question to answer but early indications are a positive one when you consider the amount of money we waste on bad meetings.

Do we just have bigger things to worry about?

Well without mentioning the C-word I think we can all agree that there are bigger things going on in the world than our daily stand-up. Depending on the length of lockdown though this will dissipate and we will have to get back to business as usual. Take Amazemeet for example, we are a truly distributed team working 100% remote. Our team is spread across Europe and Asia, apart from a general sense of worry our working process hasn’t been affected. Whilst most companies don’t work this way they are having to quickly get to grips with a distributed model. Once they get it down i’m sure many will wonder why they spend so much on office space! From a meeting culture perspective though i doubt they will fall back into there old habits, especially if there isn’t a face to face element.

Driving effectiveness

The opportunity that exists around a reset of meeting culture is massive. If we can move to a place where meetings are about effectiveness then we can save a ton of money. I mean billions of dollars, pounds, euros, we can also free up time to actually get work done and have more time to do things we really enjoy. It’s an exciting time especially for Amazemeet as we play a key role in helping drive that effectiveness.

Will a reset of meeting culture last?

So cop out answer, it’s hard to predict. What is certain though is that business behaviour is certainly secondary to what we do in our personal lives. Looking back on the 2008 financial crisis gives us some indication, people tend to gravitate towards things that are considered a sin; chocolate, alcohol are good examples. It’s fair to say after lockdown many of us will want to socialise again, but this doesn’t mean we need to slip back into bad habits at work. I’m sure most companies will have realised the benefits of more flexible working and less pointless meeting. Maybe we’ll see some bold executives and employees actually stand up and raise this. Hopefully we’ll look back on this period of time and draw positives as well as negatives.

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

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