"Let's schedule a meeting to discuss that."
Did you just shudder? You're not alone.
People often feel meetings are a waste of time. They start late, run long, present information everyone has already read, or go off the rails with a detailed discussion on some tangent that only matters to a few people in the room.
But sometimes you need time face-to-face where you and your colleagues can discuss issues, celebrate successes, go over challenges, and plan for the future.
To make your meetings less painful and more productive—from preparing for them to tracking action items—try these techniques.
Before a meeting
A successful meeting starts well before you step foot into a conference room or open your video conference program. Prepare the meeting agenda ahead of time to keep the discussion on track and minimize the potential for a meeting to go rogue. Invite team members into the planning with a collaborative meeting agenda where they add topics for discussion.
Doing this in advance and giving everyone the opportunity to suggest topics makes sure all team members are on the same page and lets them know their thoughts matter.
The document should contain important information like the meeting date, time, and attendees, plus sections for topics to park for later, follow-up tasks, and general meeting notes. If you're asking people to contribute ideas for discussion, include that section, too.
Automatically create an agenda from a Google Docs template when you schedule a meeting in Google Calendar
Rather than manually creating this document before each meeting, you can use Zapier to set up a workflow—called a Zap—to automatically create a new Google Doc from a template whenever you add a new meeting to your calendar.
Tip: Learn how to create a template in Google Docs.
For example, if you use Google Calendar, you can set your Zap to search for new meetings containing certain keywords (like
project check-in). When an event matches the criteria, your Zap will create the agenda.
To get started, head to our page on connecting Google Calendar with Google Docs, and select the connections you'd like to use. In this case, it will be New Event Matching Search on the Google Calendar side and Create Document From Template on the Google Docs side, as shown in the image below. Then, click the blue Connect Google Calendar + Google Docs button, and you'll be taken into the Zapier editor to set up your Zap.
Automatically create a Google Docs document every week
This strategy is best for recurring meetings. Use the native Schedule by Zapier app to create your agenda every day, week, or month, rather than tying them to when a new event appears on your calendar.
You can then share your agenda through a project management tool, such as Trello, or notify your team in Slack that the agenda is ready for them to look at. You can also set a due date so everyone knows when they need to have their additions in place.
Alternatives to G Suite If your team doesn't use G Suite, you can still use this strategy with the other apps your team uses. One alternative is to use Evernote and Outlook. You can use Zapier to create a new note in Evernote when an Outlook meeting is scheduled. The note would be available to all team members and include space for them to contribute their ideas and topics. You can include due dates in Evernote as well and keep all the notes organized in a notebook for all meetings.
Note: Team collaboration in Evernote requires an Evernote Business plan.
To set up this workflow, head to our page on connecting Outlook with Evernote, and select the connections you'd like to use. In this case, it will be New Calendar Event on the Outlook side and Create Note on the Evernote side, as shown in the image below. Then, click the blue Connect Microsoft Outlook + Evernote button, and you'll be taken into the Zapier editor to set up your Zap.
During a meeting
Once you've got your agenda set, you'll want to stick to it. Before the meeting, set time limits for discussion items, and flag topics during the meeting that need more attention or a longer discussion. This helps keep the meeting on track and ensures everyone has time to discuss the topics they added to the agenda.
It’s also helpful to schedule follow-up tasks as they come up during the discussion. This makes sure everyone knows what is expected of them as soon as the meeting ends and reduces the possibility that someone will forget what's needed as they rush off to whatever's next on their calendar.
If you have your task or project management tool open during the meeting, you can add tasks to their list in real-time. You could also set up a Zap that will do the task creating, assigning, and scheduling in the tool for you. With this method, it's easy to give someone the job of capturing all action items in one place, and rely on Zapier to log them in your task or project management tool.
One technique is to add tasks to a Google Sheet along with the team member’s name and other important information (like the due date), and then connect that sheet with your task management app. When the meeting is over, you'll find that Zapier has automatically added all of the tasks to everyone’s task list before they even get back to their desks!
Here are a few templates to get you started.
Use these techniques to set up your meetings for success. You may find team members less likely to lose interest and keep them from thinking, "This meeting could have been an email."