Tag: Meeting Management

The Paperless Meeting

night-office-shirt-mailWe’ve all read about “The Paperless Office” first coined in 1964 by IBM to sell their video display terminals. Over time this term has become understood as the replacement of paper documents with electronic ones, using scanners and document storage software. We still have a long way to go before we reach this goal, but the tide has definitely turned. There is less paper used in business today than 10 years ago. Why the decline? Perhaps the biggest influence is the increasing ease with which electronic documents can be shared. Just generating a document with a PC doesn’t reduce the amount of paper you use if the only way to share it is to print it!

Sharing Documents

At SmartDraw we began sharing documents many years ago by attaching them to emails. This works but it’s quite difficult to manage the resultant multiple versions of the same document. About 10 years ago we installed a central document storage system (Microsoft’s SharePoint) and we began emailing links to one copy of a document in SharePoint instead of emailing the actual file.

These days we increasingly use cloud-based software to create documents. This makes sharing even easier, since the person with whom we are sharing doesn’t need to own and install the app that created the document.

While this solved our problems sharing documents while working alone at a desk, it didn’t make it easier to present and capture information in our meetings.

The Meeting Problem

In a meeting you typically print copies of minutes, plans, reports and other documents that present the information needed, and distribute a copy to everyone there.  Decisions and new action items are recorded in notes taken at the meeting. Perhaps someone assembles the notes and distributes them to the attendees later.

This is the same process we’ve used for the past 50 years or longer, and it was the process we used until about ten years ago. Now our meetings involve no paper at all: No printed minutes, no reports. No handwritten notes. I began this change by using the paperless method with one regular meeting, and it quickly spread throughout the company, because it worked so well.

Meeting Without Paper

Our product, SmartDraw, is software that people use to create diagrams. In 2007 we added automatic formatting to a number of diagram types, including mind maps. For the first time it became possible to create and edit a mind map as quickly as you can type. So instead of showing up to our weekly management meeting with a printed list of action items from last week, I decided to make a mind map of tasks assigned to each member of the team and display it using the projector we had in the conference room.Operating_Committee_MindMap

In real time, I deleted tasks that were completed and added new ones that we decided on. Everyone could see what they, and the rest of the team, were tasked with and how much progress had been made since last week. Communication was 100%. Capturing information and assigning new tasks happened instantly.

The SmartDraw file we used was stored in SharePoint and everyone had access to it, so they each had a copy of the action plan for the week. Next week we would open this file and update it at meeting.

Today we follow the same process but we use SmartDraw Cloud to create mind maps and share them. It’s just more convenient and we can more easily access the file from anywhere, even our phones.

Why a Mind Map?

So why not just project a Word document showing tasks in outline format? Like this:

Text Outline_Operating_Committee

We could have done this, but text outline is much more difficult to work with and view. Trying to drag items around from one person to another is tricky. A mind map is a more visual representation of an outline that is easier to edit and view than a text-based version.

We also display other document types in meetings: Excel tables and graphs, other SmartDraw diagrams like flowcharts and Gantt charts, but rarely Word documents.

What you need to make the paperless meeting work

  1. A high quality display in every conference room

You need either a large high resolution TV monitor or a good projector in your conference room so everyone can see the detail on the screen. You need a display resolution of at least 1600 x 1200.

  1. A permanent computer in every conference room.

Each conference room should have a good quality PC permanently installed and hooked up to the display. You don’t want to futz with someone’s laptop at the beginning of the meeting. Just log in and get started. It should also have a fast connection to the Internet.

  1. A wireless keyboard and mouse

Attach a wireless keyboard and mouse to the computer in the room. Have a set of each in each room. Change the batteries every month. Don’t wait until they are dead.

  1. Central storage for documents

Any document shown at the meeting should be accessible and shareable from the conference room PC. Store these documents in the cloud or in a behind-the-firewall common location like SharePoint.

  1. Mind Map software than can edit in real time

There are now other programs beside SmartDraw that can do this. Use the one that best fits your needs.

  1. A designated driver

We have found that this format works best when one of the meeting attendees operates the keyboard and edits the mind map. Sometimes this is the same person for the whole meeting and sometimes it works best to pass control among the participants if they will have the floor for a while. If someone else wants to say, add an item, they ask the driver to do it. “Let’s add an item for the PR campaign…” for example.

Paperless Mtg Floor Plan

The physical requirements, 1-3 are key. When we want to use this format for a meeting at a customer’s facility we are often amazed that many conference rooms don’t have an adequate computer setup.

The Benefits of a Paperless Meeting

While paperless meetings save paper and trees, the greatest benefit is in communication. Every participant can see exactly what is expected of the whole team, what has been accomplished and what decisions have been made in real time, and has a permanent record to review later. It’s made a significant contribution to the agility and success of our company and can do the same for yours.

Make Your Meetings Matter: 6 Tips to Run Effective Meetings

Purchased Image

Meetings are an essential part of every organization.  Whether they’re team check-ins or department updates, the routine meetings held every week or every month are the hardest to get fired up about.  Engaging, productive, and valuable meetings require a clear goal, open dialog, as well as a strong leader to manage the meeting effectively.  Just let SmartDraw’s automated Project Planning template guide you through the 6 tips of running effective meetings and you’ll be making your meetings matter in no time.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #1: Outline the Purpose

One of the most important tasks to improving your management skills and your ability to run effective meetings, is to begin with an outline of the purpose.  Every meeting should start with a “statement of success,” a clear definition of the best possible outcome of the meeting.  The mere act of stating the ideal result can inspire participants and increase the productivity of your meeting.  Use the mind map to brainstorm the primary objectives of the task at hand.

mind map view

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Popular Category in the Left Panel, select Project Planning.  The template defaults to the Mind Map View.  In the Main Topic shape, enter the focus or name of the project. Click Ctrl+ Right Arrow to add your main objectives.  Click Enter to create additional objectives.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #2: Distribute Agenda to Key Players

Only invite key players.  They are the individuals who have the ability to contribute as well as gain value in participating in the meeting.  The key players include team members who will work directly on the project in question, decision-makers who have the authority to move ideas forward as well as remove barriers, and specialists who have advanced knowledge or expertise that the group requires in order to understand an issue.  Send the agenda to your participants at least one business-day prior to your meeting, if not sooner.  This will allow participants to provide feedback as well as time for any adjustments to the agenda.

email project team

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Quick Access Control Menu, in the top left-hand corner and select the Send Email control.  The mind map agenda you create will automatically appear in the body of the email, the SmartDraw (.sdr) file will automatically attach to the email and the title of the .sdr file will appear in the subject line.  If participants have feedback or would like to make modification to the agenda, they can simply open the .sdr and send it back to you with their edits and feedback.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #3: Document and Validate in Real-Time

Since effective meetings are designed to facilitate two-or-more-way information sharing, it’s crucial to get honest input from everyone.  As the meeting leader its your responsibility to ensure everyone is heard. Keep track of every idea and thank people for their input and ideas in front of the group.  This can easily be achieved by documenting them directly into the mind map agenda found on the Mind Map View of the Project Planning template.  While you’re documenting meeting notes in real-time, your attendees validate whether their thoughts and ideas were captured appropriately by viewing the notes projected on the screen.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #4: Close with a Plan of Action

Effective meetings should close with a clear result.  So, rather than just establish that a problem exists, an effective meeting should also establish how it is going to be resolved and who is going to do what in order to solve it.

Since the views dynamically update one another, you’ll notice that the “before” screen capture indicates that the breakdown of the major objectives that were created during the meeting are categorized as “unassigned.”  It is at this point that you may invite participants to volunteer or you can delegate tasks.  The result is the “after” screen capture.  This is the team’s plan of action.  It can be easily emailed to the team using the one-click email control in SmartDraw.

delegating tasks

SmartDraw Tip: Select the Assignment View.  Click and drag tasks to the appropriate participant.  Once the meeting is complete, email the diagram to all participants.  Participants will have the newly updated mind map including their respective task assignments.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #5: Ensure Accountability Through Transparency

The proof of how effective your meeting management skills are is in the management and final outcome of the project.  You can ensure accountability with the Assignment View.   In this particular view, every member of the project team can update their task progress by noting the level of completion of each task respectively.  Depending on how often it is updated, this view may even lower the frequency of status update meetings.  If shared centrally, this diagram provides the transparency for members of the team as well as the project lead regarding the progress of the project.

views of project2

SmartDraw TipThere are two ways to update the progress of a task.  Option A: Select the specific task to be updated.  Navigate to the SmartPanel.  In the Task Details, select Task Progress.  Select the appropriate value in the drop-down menu.  Option B: Right click on the specific task to be updated.  Navigate to Task Progress.  Select the appropriate value in the menu.

MEETING MANAGEMENT TIP #6: Tailor the Amount of Information Presented Based on Your Audience

As the project lead, you may need to report the progress of the project to your stakeholders. Based on your audience and the level of detail you wish to share, you may choose to present from the Assignment View, Project Chart View, or Timeline View in your next stakeholders meeting.

project view

SmartDraw Tip: Since all four views (Mind Map, Assignment, Project Chart, and Timeline) dynamically update, the changes made in the Assignment View will reflect in the Project Chart View and vice versa. To view the task progress in a Gantt chart format, simply select the Project Chart View.  

timeline view

SmartDraw Tip: Since all four views (Mind Map, Assignment, Project Chart, and Timeline) dynamically update, the changes made in the Mind Map View or Assignment View or Project Chart will reflect in the Timeline View. To view the project in a timeline format, simply select the Timeline View.  
Learn how to use the Project Planning Template for your next meeting.  Click here for your FREE “Make Your Meetings Matter Using the Project Planning Template” Job Aide.

The Effective Meeting Toolkit

https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-people-meeting-connection-30342/“That meeting was a complete waste of time.”

“Why do our meeting discussions wander so far off track?”

“We had a meeting but did we actually accomplish anything?”

Do you ever feel this way about your meetings? If so, you are not alone. Check out these statistics from a Robert Half Management Resources survey (right):

Meetings should be productive. Otherwise, why should we even have them? They certainly should never, ever be viewed as a waste of time.

There are a variety of things you can do and tools you can use for better, more productive meetings. These tools are extremely inexpensive when you consider the potential time savings alone. Increases in productivity and bottom-line results make them a must-have for anyone wanting to maximize meeting effectiveness. We’ve put together a list of some of them for you.

Effective Meeting Toolkit

In the business world, time is a precious commodity. Businesspeople spend a lot of time in meetings. Not to mention time spent on the preparation, and follow-up. Successful meetings are collaborative, efficient, productive and empowering. And although there are varying types of meetings that exist, the toolkit below is aimed to keeping the majority of your internal and external meetings on task and completing on time.

Pre-Meeting Tool Assortment and Preparation

It’s important to set the tone, establish an agenda and communicate the goals preparing discussions prior to the meeting. Otherwise, the meeting is at risk to becoming a time suck for everyone right out of the gate.

SmartDraw-boxshotSmartDraw – Need to create a quick agenda that visually illustrates the interconnectivity of the serious topics and their importance?  SmartDraw is the tool for you. Leverage the power of the mind mapping feature. It’s automated and easy to use in a collaborative environment. Its “one click” export controls let you publish your mind map agenda directly to email and circulate to your team for review before the meeting. This helps everyone understand the purpose of the meeting and sets the framework for achieving a desired result.

Prior to the meeting, be sure you’re comfortable with the hardware available to you. This may include projectors, conference calling, speaker phone features, and WiFi internet access. Don’t rely on your IT department to have this set up and working properly. Make sure it runs with your laptop, iPad, smart phone, or other hardware you are bringing. Otherwise, you risk not starting on time and losing engagement right out of the gate. If your meeting requires involving participants from outside the office, try using these virtual meeting conferencing tools:

join.me-logojoin.me –  Drop into a real-life meeting from anywhere. Join.me is a terrific way to get everyone on the same page, whether you all are in the same room or not. Whether you need to collaboratively review documents, run a training session, demonstarate your products or services or simply have a status meeting, join.me is a simple screen sharing tool for planned meetings or meetings that arise in an instant.


meetingburner1MeetingBurner is a fast and more agile conferencing solution that is also lighter on the corporate wallet and doesn’t require and download or pre-meeting set-up. Meeting Burner features one-touch recording and sharing for use on social media channels or for participants not attending the meeting live.


Meeting Execution Tool Assortment

Once your meeting is underway, the goal is to keep it collaborative. Using your original mind map agenda that you circulated, convert it within SmartDraw to a project chart and begin assigning responsibilities and tasks that originate from your meeting discussions. This allows everyone in the meeting to know what they will be responsible for when the meeting is over as well as the time table for task completion.

Here are a few other tools that can also help facilitate meeting participation and expedite specific tasks:

EvernoteLargeEvernote – Participants that are engaged and remain productive following the meeting typically take copious notes. So, whether you are the meeting facilitator or participant this free app is great for ensuring you quickly capture your latest random idea that may be part of or outside the meeting discussions.


adobe_echosign_1EchoSign – If your meeting requires contract documents to be signed at the end, than you need to have this app. EchoSign allows users to send, sign and manage documents from the application interface. You will eliminate the need of paper from your travels as well as expedite the process of sending and receiving documents from your team to your client, and back again.


Meeting Follow-Up Tool Assortment

Once your meeting is over, be sure to circulate your project chart (or mind map) around to your fellow meeting participants so they have a copy of the official project and tasks. Communicating everyone’s responsibilities ensures accountability and clarity. You then automatically have your agenda for your next meeting to discuss the status of the various tasks that were assigned to your team.

Once you have a clear idea of you and your team’s various responsibilities think about employing a virtual assistant to keep you organized and focused especially if you are mobile much of the working day. Here are few of the best:

Speaktoit-LogoSpeakToIt – SpeakToIt offers much that you would find in Siri – talk to it and it will perform actions. You can dictate an iMessage, open web site, create calendar entries, engage email, maps and other productivity-oriented apps and a myriad of other tasks.

Calendars 5 – The newest calendar from Readdle isn’t just for finding the date – it is a full-fledged task manager and organizer. One signature feature is its support for “natural language.” You can type “Meet Susan in her office at 2:00” and it will create an event, which is much faster than tapping through a menu to create an event.

Do you have other suggestions? What meeting essentials would you add to this toolkit? Let us know in the comments section below.