As the Chief Marketing Officer of Time Doctor, I find myself constantly combating two trends within a growing company.
- I have less and less time for meetings.
- My team is getting further and further apart.
What makes Time Doctor unique is that the co-founders reside on two different continents. I’m from Toronto and my cofounder lives in Australia.
And as we’ve added team members, we’ve made a conscious decision to acquire the best talent we could, regardless of location.
There are three of us during our Monday night marketing meetings. Our director of marketing who lives in the Philippines, our content marketer, who lives in New Jersey, and I get together at 9 PM Monday night (Toronto time).
By this time of the night, my content marketer and I are brain fried, and our director of marketing is just waking up. We even hear a rooster in the background.
I want to be done for the evening and the director of marketing wants to get on with his day. We need to accomplish a lot in as little time as possible.
Here’s how we do it:
Crystal Clear Agenda
Even though our marketing meeting is a weekly meeting, I generally like to give everyone a reminder as to what we’re going to be.
Everyone who attends the meeting knows exactly what we’re going to discuss.
The email I typically write is informal, but you’re free to swipe it for your business:
Just letting you know that we’re going to run over the conversion rates on the blog from last week. I want to increase them by 10% over the next two months.
This email does two things:
- It states what we’re going to discuss.
- It hints at the overall goal of the meeting. We’re going to brainstorm and assign tasks that will help us increase conversions on the blog by 10%. The team knows that going in.
Limit the Number of Attendees
A meeting with two people is ideal. A meeting with three people is good. A meeting with four people is OK.
But after that, the quality of the conversation starts to deteriorate. People get sidetracked, ideas bring the group off topic.
And after a few short minutes, the whole thing is spiraling out of control.
Everyone Gets a Turn
Because we have a weekly meeting and clearly defined action items, I start off every meeting with “What did you do? And how did it go?”
In this way, the members of the meeting get to hold each other accountable.
As a marketer, I know that most of the things we try are not going to work out. So, when I say “hold each other accountable”, I’m not always looking at immediate results. I want to see what my team members tried, what their approach was, and what they learned.
That way the group can then build upon it.
I firmly believe that progress can only be made by trying new things, failing, and learning from our mistakes.
As long as they document their results, I give each member of the team the freedom to experiment as much as possible.
By giving everyone a turn to speak, the collective group becomes that much smarter.
Assign Action Items
One of the biggest mistakes that I made early on in my career was not assigning specific action items at the end of each meeting.
What is each person going to do to move toward the goal you’ve set forth in the agenda?
This is everything from publishing a new blog post to running an A/B test on one of our popups, to developing an entirely new offer.
By the way, I have found that if a person is not assigned a specific action item that moves the company forward to achieving the goal of the meeting, then chances are they didn’t need to be there.
Share Meeting Notes
The best thing I have ever done to make meetings more efficient is to share the notes in a public space.
We use a simple Google Doc that everyone who attends the meeting has access to.
The document is structured like this:
Meeting Goal (This is the reason why we’re having this meeting)
Assigned Tasks (This is where we list each person and what they need to accomplish before the next meeting)
And that’s it.
We refer back to this document each meeting to see if we’re moving closer toward our organizational goals.
Tools We Use
Online Meeting Software
However, we choose to use Skype. Granted, it’s not the greatest software. There are some call quality issues to deal with, but it gets the job done.
Since we only meet in groups of three or four, Skype is perfectly suited to handle the volume of people in attendance.
Skype also allows us to easily transfer files, and share our screens so we can collaborate.
And best of all, Skype is free.
We are obsessed with Google Docs. It’s the ultimate collaboration tool.
After we are done with our meeting, the person who is recording notes simply sends out a link to all of the attendees with a summary and action items for each person in attendance to complete by the deadline we’ve decided on.
Finally, to schedule our meetings, we use Google Calendar.
If your meeting in non-recurring, I would highly suggest that you set a notification to go off 30 minutes prior. If you’re like me, you lose track of time during the day. The reminder is a way for me to ensure that I won’t forget to attend my own meeting.
Start on Time
Unless they were doing absolutely nothing all day (highly unlikely), members of your team have to stop what they are doing and rearrange their day in order to make your meeting.
In order to be considerate, I always ensure that meetings start on time, even if some members are late.
I have found that when I wait for the late team members to arrive to the meeting, I condition them to think that it is OK to show up late.
However, if I start the meeting on time no matter what, members of the team make it a point to be punctual so they don’t miss anything.
Set an End Time
For the same reasons that you should start a meeting on time, your meeting should end on time.
Once again, your team members have a busy day ahead of them. And most of the time, they just want to get their work done, so they can spend time with their families.
If your meeting runs late, you’re cutting into their time.
And let’s face it. That’s just rude.
Why Meet When an Email Will Do?
Before you even schedule a meeting, first ask yourself: “Do I even need to have a meeting, or can I simply write an email?”
By asking this question, I can’t tell you how many man-hours I’ve saved me and my team.
So many times, we can get the information that we need simply by asking a question in an email, and disseminating that to other members in the team.
This takes a matter of minutes, which compared to a meeting can use several man-hours.
The quickest way to discourage feedback from the attendees of a meeting is to tell someone that their ideas are stupid.
I can’t tell you how many meetings that I’ve been involved in that this happens.
Eventually people get gun shy about sharing their ideas and go silent.
In order to encourage people to contribute, take all ideas in stride. What may seem like a bad idea today, might actually be a brilliant idea tomorrow.
At the end of the day, I will always consider meetings a necessary evil within the company.
I’m in a constant battle to find time.
And as an organization we are fortunate enough to be in position to bring in highly talented people from across the globe.
By using these ten strategies, I’m able to hold an extremely productive meeting in 30 minutes.