How Companies Are Using Web Services to Make Meetings Efficient There are dozens of new web apps that make meetings much more productive.

By James Parsons

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Luis Alvarez | Getty Images

Meetings have been such a long-standing problem with business that they're the butt of endless jokes. These days, though, effective companies use a variety of different services to keep their meetings short and to the point. No more hours lost to droning slideshows, playing with your smartphone under the table and watching the clock more than the manager.

Perhaps one of the best tools is the advent of high-quality video meetings. Anything from Skype and Discord to GoToMeeting can allow robust multi-person calls with an associated text channel.

Who said that?

Virtual calling with video helps eliminate several common meeting issues. With conference or voice-only calls, for example, it can be difficult to identify a speaker. If more than one person on staff has a similar voice, the problem compounds. Modern meeting software, however, can show precisely who is talking at once, which brings clarity to the entire situation.

Related: Let's Give Meetings a Much-Needed Makeover

I've had clients use services like these in several meetings, and they're one of the most useful features I've used. When you have a visual respresentation of who's talking, you'd be amazed at how much more productive the call is. Conclusion: much more time is spent figuring out who's saying what than you'd think.

Even without video calling, many modern meeting platforms have individual user avatars, which will indicate when that user is talking. Again, it minimizes confusion and cross-talk.

Who's taking minutes?

Any accompanying text chat, like what you get through Skype or an associated Slack channel, can bring further clarity to meetings. Text chat allows for two things; side conversations and active minutes.

With side conversations, two people can discuss side elements of a meeting topic without bringing it up in the central meeting. This can help users who are lost gain clarity without disruption, and it can help two people work out another meeting time or wrinkles in their projects without taking center stage with a topic only relevant to them.

Related: 7 Tips for Mastering the Fine Art of Following Up

Actively taking minutes in a public chat helps alleviate another problem; confusing minutes. It's distressingly common for the person taking meeting minutes to leave out crucial details, leading to rehashes of information at future meetings, wasting time. One central employee can be tasked with keeping minutes, while others can interject with information specifically relevant that might not be covered immediately.

When's good for you?

A cloud-based calendar app can help a lot as well. If you have your schedule at your fingertips, it's easy to then find open slots for future deadlines and pin down exactly when you're available for certain duties. Calendar apps can also warn users before a meeting is going to begin, and can include timers and even room-based automation to enforce a shorter meeting.

On top of software allowing increased clarity, other apps can assist with productivity. How often have you gotten out of a meeting and had to ask a coworker for their email to send them a crucial file? How often have you been on the receiving end of that interaction, waiting for a file to arrive?

File-sharing apps, even something as simple as Dropbox, can be used during a meeting to drop a file in an accessible place the moment it's mentioned. Couple that with the Slack channel and a file link can be dropped immediately when it's necessary.

Related: Data Doesn't Lie: Shorter Meetings Can Make You 3X More Productive

How much time do you have?

Even simple apps like timers can keep a meeting on track. One persistent problem with many business meetings is they run far too long. The longer the meeting, the harder it is to keep paying attention, and the less likely anything productive is going to happen. A timer can bring a hard limit to a meeting.

Of course, a timer is difficult to adjust to when it's first implemented. The initial meetings will often have elements run long and others get cut off; the trick is to enforce the timer, not the agenda. After a few iterations, whoever is running the meeting will figure out where productivity drops off, and when specifically to change the subject. For even more agile meetings, you can implement a timer for each individual topic, allotting only a few minutes for each item to keep it as short and simple as possible.

Everyone does meetings differently, and everyone can stand to improve. It's worth looking into apps to find avenues for that improvement. Just remember; at the end of the day, time spent in meetings is time not spend on actual work, sales or improvements to the business.

James Parsons

Content Marketer and Author

James Parsons is an entrepreneur, marketer, web designer, growth hacker and Apple fanboy. When he's not writing at his blog, he's working on his next big project.

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