As technology continues to change how we work, one of the main holdovers refuses to go away. While meetings undoubtably serve a very important purpose, many people find themselves wasting time and desperately searching for alternatives.
Fortunately for you, Google Apps provides a ton of options for improving the meeting experience from the planning / scheduling phase to the follow-up. Check out 5 of our favorite tips designed to save you time and let us know in the comments what you do to save time in meetings!
1. Turn your scheduling into a breeze
We know how busy your days can be – with daily standups, appointments, conference calls, and other meetings cluttering your schedules at work. Your Google Calendar probably looks like a multi-colored palette of all the day’s happenings, and you’re struggling to find ‘white space’! Have no fear – your savior is here. With the “Find a time” feature on Google Calendar, you can easily schedule a meeting time that accommodates all your co-workers’ schedules, too.
When you make a new event in Google Calendar (or open an existing one), simply click on the “Find a time” tab. All you have to do is enter the email addresses of the meeting’s attendees (you can select up to 20), and their calendars will magically appear on your screen. As a result, you can easily select a time that works for everyone by complying with all their schedules (Your meeting guests will have to share their calendars with you, or make their calendars public, in order for this to work).
2. Have all the relevant files ready to go beforehand
How often do you waste time scrambling through your e-mail or hard drive for documents, presentations, spreadsheets, or other files during a meeting? Your time is precious – we know that. So, make it easier for yourself, and everyone else – accumulate all the necessary files for the meeting before you even begin. You can easily attach documents to your Google Calendar invite right as you’re drafting it up with the Event Attachments Lab.
The meeting attendees will see these files in the invitation e-mail they receive to the meeting, under the “More details” section in their invite. As a result, you’ll easily be able to access the files pertaining to that particular meeting not only during the meeting itself, but also in the future if you need to double-check something or track something down. All you need to do is click back to that specific date on your calendar, and you’ll see all the files.
3. Hangout with your co-workers…literally
Video conferencing has become an increasingly popular medium for holding meetings, conference calls, and other collaborations in the workplace. However, many of the existing tools do not allow multi-person conferencing, and do not offer the ability to collaborate on tasks and/or documents during these calls. Google Hangouts is your best solution to this, and all you need is to set up a Google Apps account. Best of all, it’s free.
Google Hangouts give you the ability to create a Google Doc (or Sheet, Form, Presentation, and / or Drawing) during the Hangout itself! This could be a meeting agenda, action items, or a draft proposal of a piece that’s being discussed on the Hangout. All you have to do is click on ‘Google Drive’ on the left-hand side of your screen, and then simply choose ‘Create Shared Notes.’
4. Follow up, follow up, follow up
A meeting is essentially useless if the attendees leave unaware or unclear of what has been done, and what needs to be done. In order to combat this lack of clarity, be sure to mark every agenda item in your meeting minutes as either a follow-up or an outcome. This simple distinction will increase productivity and efficiency all-around. Share the Google Doc with the rest of the meeting guests, and ensure they are easily able to tell what they need to do.
For even better clarity, you can note on the Doc who exactly needs to do what. In addition, be sure to track changes on the document if your team members will mark off what they’ve done from the follow-ups. You can also choose whether certain team members will only be able to view, comment, or edit the document. An alternative option is to use Do, which allows you to visually mark followups and see all of your meeting takeaways in one place.
5. Be resourceful
A little-known feature of Google Calendar is that it has the ability to not only add guests to a meeting, but resources too. This could be anything from projectors to cables to meeting rooms. When creating a meeting in Google Calendar, the individual sending out the invite can add resources to the meeting with an easy click.
Simply click on the ‘Resources’ button, next to the ‘Guests’ button on the screen which displays the event details. The information on these resources will be included on the invite email, so questions of confusion surrounding meeting locations, rooms, or equipment do not need to be answered. And that means less emails, too! (Note: Calendar Resources must first be set up by Google Apps Administrators in the Admin Console)