You probably use business tech tools all the time.
After all, they’ve helped businesses work more productively for decades.
From Microsoft’s first Office products to Slack, businesses need tools to operate effectively.
That said, business tools can be a double-edged sword. Take Slack; with the app, you might find yourself mindlessly chatting with co-workers instead of actually getting work done.
The same applies to meeting tools. If you don’t use them strategically and in a structured way, you’re missing out.
Why do you need meeting tools?
Meetings can be a real pain.
They are expensive both in terms of direct and indirect costs. For example, they take up work hours and bad meetings reduce productivity. At the same time, it goes without saying that they’re inevitable for successful teamwork.
Meeting tools help you with this exact pain point – ineffective meetings. With meeting tools, you can manage your meetings and make them more effective and structured. Meet-O-Matic, Minute (our own tool!) and NeedToMeet are some of the tools that help you do just that.
But, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you start using meeting tools. They don’t automate meetings, and if you don’t use them in the right way, they won’t help you manage your meetings.
The following points will help you use meeting tools in an effective and productive manner. Keep them in mind the next time you set up a meeting and your meeting will actually make a difference.
Only use meeting tools that you need
Here’s a reality check for you if you love hoarding apps:
You don’t need them.
Or, more specifically, you don’t need ALL those apps. Pick the tools that are most relevant to your needs and focus on them.
If you use too many apps, your team members will eventually get overwhelmed, and you’ll end up not using any of them. Your tools are there to support your work, not steer it.
So how do you figure out which meeting tools you should download and actually use?
Think about your meetings. What’s usually the most obvious problem?
Are you spending too much time in meetings? Are you not following up on your meeting agenda? Or are you just not creating an actionable agenda?
There you have it; by answering questions like these, you’ll figure out which problems you need to solve. Choose your tools according to your needs.
For example, our own tool, Minute, can be used to plan your meeting, collaboratively work on meeting items during the meeting, and help you follow up on agenda items after the meeting. In the same way, Skype, Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting can be used to hold a virtual meeting, and Evernote can be used for your personal meeting notes.
You might notice that there are some tools that you don’t use to their full potential. These tools are clearly not helping you, and subsequently, you should determine if they’re worth using at all.
Develop habits to start making the most of meeting tools
While it’s easy to download an app, using it on a regular basis is not always that straightforward.
Often, you’ll de-prioritize the app when other work tasks come in the way. Subsequently, you don’t use the tool to its full potential, or you use it half-heartedly until you forget all about it.
Just like you have a habit of checking your emails, you should develop a habit of using your app, learning how to use properly it and, if you’re a manager, educating your team about it.
Here’s what you can do to develop that habit:
- Learn how to use the tool in smaller chunks. I get it – it can be time-consuming to sit down and start learning how to use a tool. Instead, break up this habit into smaller chunks. Start by learning how to use one feature properly and then expand to use all the features you need.
- Start small. By using so called tiny habits, you can take small steps to reach your goal. Make it easy for your team to start using the tool by first using the tool in the simplest way possible. For example, you can use our tool, Minute, to plan your meetings. When your entire team is on board, you expand and start using the tool in a more varied way.
Keep focused when you use meeting tools
There’s one major problem with a lot of business tools, including meeting tools:
They can be major distractions.
Take digital communication tools, like Slack. If you’re using them for organizing or holding meetings, there’s a clear risk that you’ll get defocused when chatting with your co-workers.
To prevent that from happening, do the following:
- If you use Slack, it’s easy to get distracted by all the different Channels that you belong to. To prevent Slack from becoming a time suck, you should only use Channels you really need. So, for example, use Channels where you discuss meetings with your co-workers and mute all other notifications except those where you are personally mentioned.
- Email is often used to manage meetings, but many struggle with using email productively. Here you need to adopt best email management practices. For example, set out specific times when you check your emails. Plus, you can automate emails when it comes to meetings for example by setting up recurring reminders.
Tailor your tools to fit your needs
Lots of business tools have plenty of features.
So many that you probably don’t need all of them.
That’s why you should define how you and your team can best use the tool so that it fits your needs. This way, co-workers don’t spend their time figuring out how to properly use the tool or app.
Because some tools are key to how productive your team is, you should start by carving out guidelines and best practices. They help your team members quickly get on board with how your organization uses the tool.
But, what should these guidelines look like?
First and foremost, keep in mind that you only need to create guidelines for tools that you use on a regular basis and that truly affect your team’s productivity.
Next, define which features you use the most. Write down (or create a video) where you go through how your team uses those features. Don’t forget to include any special hacks that help you and your team use the tool more effectively.
When you have your guidelines in place, it becomes a lot easier to use the tool as effectively as possible.
Encourage team members to use meeting tools
Usually, you get the most out of meeting tools if all team members use them.
But, getting your co-workers to use a new tool is easier said than done. In general, people resist change. Having to learn to use a new tool changes familiar work routines. Without a clear benefit, your co-workers might be less enthusiastic than you are about a particular tool.
If you’ve followed the steps outlined above, you know that you shouldn’t use tools because they’re nice to have, but because you need them. When you start using a new tool, write down the specific benefits you hope you’ll gain. For example, you might increase productivity by helping your co-workers manage a task.
Next, share your goals with your co-workers. This way, they will be much more motivated to start using the tool, because they now have clear goals to work for.
Together with your team, you’ll figure out how your team can use the tool in the best and most effective way.
Be extremely clear and brief when communicating through your meeting tools
When taking meeting notes, creating an agenda or following up after a meeting, you might feel that you have a clear image of what steps you and your team should take next.
But don’t assume everyone else does. There might be misunderstandings, or some things might have been lost in translation. Either way, your meeting tools facilitate communication, but they can only do so much.
It’s up to you to keep your communication clear and brief. That way, you make sure that your team is kept in the loop whenever you use your meeting tools.
Start using meeting tools to improve your meetings
That’s it! You now know how to use meeting tools to truly increase your team’s productivity.
Meeting tools can help you and your team work better, and they help you manage effective meetings. But, you need to use them in a strategic way.
The next time you organize a meeting, start applying these tips.
You might end up reducing costs and increasing overall productivity.