Everyone in business knows that meetings can be the most inefficient elements of the business machine. We’re all familiar with that feeling of wasting time in a meeting that could have been an email.
Far too many business meetings have agendas that are too vague or unfocused, go on for too long, and result in everyone leaving the meeting feeling uncertain about what they have accomplished and unclear about their next tasks. Composing the minutes is a tiresome chore which no one is willing to take on, and no one responds when a date for the next meeting is proposed.
One study found that the average business loses 31 hours every month in unproductive meetings, and that overall, unnecessary meetings cost US businesses $37 billion in the past year.
The good news is that meeting management software (or a board portal as it is sometimes called) can change much of that, but only when you use it wisely. If you only use it to circulate the agenda and materials, then that’s a great start, but you’re not getting maximum value out of your software, and your meetings aren’t likely to change any time soon.
Here’s how to make the most out of your company’s meeting management software, so you can enjoy more productive and more efficient business meetings.
Before the meeting
Most companies go about scheduling meetings using endless email threads, where everybody lists their availability ins and outs until eventually, someone steps up and reconciles it all to suggest a time that works for everyone. By using your meeting management software to streamline scheduling, you can be exempt from these frustrations, and you can also send and automate email reminders so that no one forgets about the meeting. If you use a meeting management software like ContractZen, all attendees have easy access to each other’s contact details, as well as a map of the meeting location.
You can also securely share resources with everyone involved. You can send materials in various different formats, such as PDF, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, audio, video etc. to enable each participant to prepare for the meeting in the way that suits them best. By making it easy for participants to access the relevant resources, you raise the chances of everyone arriving at the meeting fully prepared and ready to contribute to a valuable discussion. And by keeping these files housed on a secure, cloud-based platform, you’re also able to avoid the security vulnerabilities associated with email. ContractZen also makes it easy to download a “meeting book” version of the agenda, meeting details and uploaded files, automatically compiling everything into a single composite PDF file.
Use your meeting management software to set your meeting up for success with a structured but flexible agenda. Include specific goals to keep the meeting focused, and make the most of time boxing to ensure that you don’t run out of time for the most important issues.
Sharing the agenda before the meeting is good, but collaborating on it is better. Meeting portals enable you to kick your meeting prep up a gear by inviting people to contribute agenda items and conduct discussions in a centralized location.
Everyone concerned can share their opinion directly on the agenda, or can make use of a dedicated area for taking personal pre-meeting notes, reducing the risk that you’ll forget to table a vital issue for discussion and lowering the impact of your own personal bias, which might lead you to place certain items higher or lower on the agenda than they really deserve.
During the meeting
Don’t overlook your meeting management software while the meeting is in progress, because there are still many ways that you can use it to streamline the meeting itself.
Meeting management software enables all the participants to take notes within the portal. Use the agenda and your notes during the meeting to keep all the relevant reference materials at your fingertips. If you discover that you need an expanded version of a report, or someone asks a question that you hadn’t prepared to answer, you can access the right documents and data immediately.
The secretary of the meeting, or whoever else is responsible for taking minutes, can record decisions and dissent directly in his or her personal notes area as the conversations occur, converting the agenda into shorthand minutes in real time. Action items recorded here can be reviewed and assigned as tasks with deadlines with a single click at the end of the meeting, preserving accountability.
After the meeting
Modern meeting management software offers great value once the meeting is over. You might use it to circulate the minutes around people who were at the meeting, and to share the minutes with those who weren’t at the meeting but should be informed of its course and the decisions that were taken within it.
Stakeholders can leave comments and add their own notes to specific sections of the minutes, or they can mark the minutes as having been reviewed. The designated meeting secretary has the option to ask all participants to sign off on the meeting notes, and once that’s complete, the minutes become part of your company’s document archives, discoverable by advanced search or by navigating according to meta tags. Additional materials can always be added to a document library in the meeting portal, to keep stakeholders informed and engaged between meetings.
But if that’s all you do with your software, you’re not maximizing its capabilities. You can also add comments about unresolved topics, and share resolutions from previous meetings so that they’re easily accessible to those who need to read them, while preserving confidentiality and remaining compliant with data regulations.
This is important both to meet the rising demand for greater transparency in business, and so that due diligence can be performed quickly and easily when needed, using a virtual data room to share minutes and other documents safely with external stakeholders as required.
In addition, all participants can view and digitally sign the minutes within the meeting management portal. This saves time, improves document sharing, and enables a better audit trail. This also means that we finally have a fully paperless meeting process.
Good meeting management software goes the extra mile by supporting task management functionality. This makes it easy to harness the energy of the meeting by instantly assigning responsibilities, setting project timelines, and following up on assigned tasks without dropping the ball.
Meeting management software offers more than meets the eye
Meeting management software has advanced a long way, bringing features you can draw on before, during, and after the meeting. This helps everyone prepare for the meeting; complete and sign minutes; assign and follow up on tasks; and keep relevant documents accessible, yet secure, after the meeting is over.
The idea is to expedite scheduling, to empower secure file sharing, to ensure alignment, and to maximize collaboration and accountability. Likewise important is the need to minimize the friction associated with follow-up task assignments, approving minutes and incorporating meeting materials into the company’s archives.
Make sure that you maximize all the value of your meeting management software, so that boring, unproductive meetings are a thing of the past.
ContractZen is a Finnish cloud technology company founded in 2014. Its all-in-one SaaS solution includes metadata-driven contract management, all-digital board portal, virtual data rooms (VDR), secure e-signatures, and more. Secure and easy to use on any device, ContractZen improves corporate governance and business operations by reducing costs, accelerating processes, and minimizing risks.