What Happens After the Meeting?

Conference calls have without a doubt become a regular a part of daily business, and the number of these meetings that business people join each week seems to grow year after year. According to a 2015 study by Research Now that surveyed business users on their personal and company habits around remote meetings, 68% of respondents said they were on anywhere from one to five calls each week, with another 20% joining between six and 10 calls.

Why Do We Meet So Much?

The motivation behind almost any meeting is momentum. We want to keep our businesses moving forward. If you're in sales, you want to advance opportunities through the pipeline. If you're in project management, you want to build on projects without delay or distraction. If you're a lawyer, you want to close the deal.

As companies and teams have become more distributed and mobile, remote meetings have emerged as the de facto way to connect everyone and keep activities and business on track. But for many of us, our calendars are awash in a series of meetings that, while each important in its own right, can blur into a series of indecipherable conversations.

Can We Meet Better?

Despite best intentions, it's not uncommon for meeting hosts to fail to clearly record decisions or discussion points, leaving guests with only a vague recollection or understanding of goals and next steps. By the time the group reconvenes a week or so later, you'll inevitably need to rehash one item or another -- momentum stalled.

Best practice for running effective meetings is well-trodden ground. At one time or another we've all learned that certain habits create productive calls -- making sure the right people are invited, having a clear agenda and goals for the meeting, keeping the conversation on track by moving tangential topics offline, recording minutes, and agreeing on next steps before breaking.

However, the reality is that some people are simply better and more committed to such best practices than others. And this inconsistency can create a challenge when it comes to moving things forward.

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Like a Good Golf Stroke, It's All in the Follow Through

One solution to help create more consistency and improve the outcomes of remote meetings is to let your technology do some of the work for you. Several of today's remote meetings products will actually guide you through the components of meeting best practices so you don't have to remember to initiate the follow-up yourself. This may seem like no big deal, but when you are booked back-to-back for a good portion of your day, finding the time to go back, reach out to the group, and clarify next steps can quickly get lost in the shuffle.

Check to see if your remote meeting solution includes a feature which may be called something like "call-end email." This type of feature not only summarizes who attended the meeting, the decisions made, and agreed upon next steps, but also provides meeting artifacts that will help move projects forward between meetings and ensure everyone is prepared before the next call. Artifacts are any supporting meeting files or links that will be useful for attendees to refer back to later. These may be agendas, presentations, or documents shared during the meeting, or links to shared folders or channels in Box, Google Docs, Salesforce.com data, etc. A meeting artifact could also be a recording of the meeting.

The content in the call-end email could be further useful for all attendees when inserted into other mainstream project management, workflow, and business collaboration tools such as Basecamp, Jira, Slack, or others. Additionally, with an automated call-end email, even those absent on any given week can catch up without delay, having the decisions made and required next steps in hand.

And finally, consider adding appropriate members of your senior management team or other relevant stakeholders who may not regularly attend your meetings as recipients of your call-end email as a way to get additional buy-in on your initiatives. This can go a long way in accelerating and improving overall results.

Finding easy ways to smooth out the follow-up process after the call will not only keep you moving in the right direction, but will help you get there faster. Most companies have more than one tool for remote meetings. Taking a few minutes to look into the features of each could solve hours of work and frustration down the road. Selecting the best technology for the job will provide greater clarity and lead to stronger accountability all around.

Achieving truly best-in-class collaboration takes both teamwork and technology. The right combination will undoubtedly lead to greater efficiency, better results and happier days. And who knows -- with better follow-up, you may even end up attracting those absentees or reducing the total number of remote meetings necessary in the long run.

After all, we all want fewer meetings.