by Cory Treffiletti, Chief Evangelist and CMO for Voicea
Did you know more than 15% of any organization’s time is spent in meetings? 99% of the time this headline is followed by a statement of how much meetings can suck. I am 100% positive this is not how I want to think about it. I am someone who doesn’t think my cup is half empty or half full. I am the kind of person who is happy to have a cup with which to get water and my goal is to make sure everyone has the right kind of cup to work with.
If you dive deeper into the information about meetings, you find that 35% of a middle manager’s time is spent in meetings. As you work your way up the hierarchy, you start to spend as much as 50% of your time in meetings. Maybe more. If as your experience level and position grow in a company, and you spend more time in meetings, is there a correlation between meeting value and influence in an organization? In other words, meetings are intended to be valuable. In fact, they are possibly the most valuable part of anyone’s day. The issue is how do you turn what is talked about in a meeting into something of immediate value without creating too much additional work. Simply out, how do you turn talk into action quickly, efficiently and effortlessly?
To maximize the time spent in and after a meeting, you have to do 3 things.
- Focus on the conversation
- Translate conversation into clear actions
- Activate those actions where people “get stuff done”
In a meeting you are intended to collaborate on a topic. You get multiple people into a room or on a call to tackle a topic because more brains are better than a single point of view. The challenge is that being in a room doesn’t mean you are removed from other work that needs to be done. Too often we are in a room, but our computer screen is open, or our phone is on the table. These devices create notifications and distractions that make it hard for you to be focused, present and in the moment. These distractions make it hard for you to apply your brain to the task in front of you. If you do manage to overcome those distractions, you are still too often balancing your own engagement with note-taking for later. This can result in you either missing key elements or not being able to add value by processing the current conversation. You are more focused on what happens later than what is happening now.
To overcome these challenges, you have to take the following steps:
1. Establish a set of rules, or a “Meeting Manifesto”, that guides participation and sets expectations for meetings.
This can a simple set of guidelines such as “no open laptops” or “no phones face up” so that people know they are expected to focus in the meeting. You can also set expectations for who should be in a meeting, what topics do not require meetings, and more.
2. Designate someone or something (like AI) to take notes.
Having a single person or entity focused on creating a record of the conversation allows the rest of you to have something to go back to. That record, or source of truth, gives the attendees something to come back to or clarity after the meeting. In our case, we obviously recommend using an AI to capture the important moments and record and transcribe the entire conversation for later.
3. Be respectful of people’s time.
When they are invited to a meeting, start the meeting on time. If people are late, don’t wait or start over. You can subtly recognize the people who are abiding by the guidelines you’ve established, and they are setting a good example of how to be engaged in a meeting.
Translate to action.
The not-so-great secret is most people take bad notes, if any notes at all, in a meeting. Most people don’t have much information to work with after a meeting other than what they remember, so their follow-up can be less effective than it should be. This is coupled with the fact that in many cases, the people required for follow up are not even in the meeting. There are extended team members required to get work done who are influenced by what is discussed in a meeting but may not have been in the room when the topic was discussed. These are both examples of why you need a record of the conversation that can not only provide context, but also create clarity in the actions that need to be taken, and by whom.
Translating what was said into clear and definable actions is key. If you do this well, then you dramatically reduce the time spent after a meeting. After a meeting is when people are trying to find out what happens next, who does what, why they are doing it and what elements may be influencing what they need to do. That source of truth for the conversation gives everyone the same accurate information to work off of. It means you remove confusion and reduce swirl. The fact is swirl creates inefficiency. Swirl is the nemesis of productivity.
To translate properly and reduce swirl:
1. Identify no more than 3 clear actions from a meeting.
If you go forward with too many things to do, you risk overloading the next meeting with too many things to follow up and you risk creating more work coming out of a meeting than you had going into it.
2. Make sure everyone involved has the same information to work from.
The worst thing you can do is give separate pieces of information to different people or you risk the “elephant in a dark room” issue where different people are touching different parts the elephant and might think they are engaging with different problems rather than a single animal.
3. Organize the recap, actions and notes quickly.
You want to follow up while the content is fresh in people’s minds. You want them to recall all the key elements while they still can.
For us, it’s about giving the user control to make sure what you identified as important is easily turned into actionable content. In the past a meeting was a temporal, ethereal moment in time. Now it becomes a tangible, actionable piece of content for the organization.
Once you know what needs to be done, and who needs to be doing it, go to where they work. The last thing people need nowadays is another platform where they have to get work done. They need to have the action items in whatever system of record they and the tea, already works in. In our case, it’s about making sure action items and meetings highlights are delivered to your email, your project management system, your note-taking platforms, etc. It’s about where you work and where your team collaborates most often. We try very hard to make sure you only need to come to our platform to curate the notes if you so choose, but otherwise what happens in a meeting can be pushed to where you get work done. In that way we approach the topic from a “voice first” perspective and this is likely where most UI is going to go in the years to come.
As you work your way up the chain in an organization, you spend more time in meetings. With your career level, you become more influential in an organization and the best way to be successful is to set an example of how you approach collaboration and time in and after a meeting. Your colleagues look to you to find ways to be productive and creating a strong, highly productive and positive meeting culture is one way to do that.
I am 110% positive about that!
Cory Treffiletti is the Chief Evangelist and CMO for Voicea (formerly Voicera), a voice AI and productivity technology company based in Mountain View, California. Voicea leverages AI technology to harness voice in the workplace and increase productivity through, EVA, the Enterprise Voice Assistant. Voicea is backed by leading investors including Battery Ventures, Cisco Investments, e.ventures, GGV Capital, Greycroft, GV (formerly Google Ventures), M12 (Microsoft Ventures), Salesforce Ventures, and Workday Ventures.