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Bad Meetings Can Kill A Good Project: A Survivor’s Guide

A bad meeting can kill a good project. And it’s only gotten worse during the pandemic, because now meetings are almost always virtual. Think about a time within the last year where you sat through a really, really bad meeting. I bet the memory is clear in your head.

These meetings actually happen a lot. Over 40% of people confess to multitasking during meetings, and 69% of people check their email during a video call.

Bad meetings derail progress on a good project because projects start in meetings. Maybe it’s your brand’s big ad campaign for 2021, or a new product launch. If you’re meeting properly, you should be actively getting work done on the project in the meeting, which saves you time on the other end.

This is at the very core of what I believe in and why I work in the collaboration space—there’s a better way for us to work together, and the secret lives in your Google Calendar.

I’d like to outline a very simple formula for ensuring project success. It’s four-fold:

  1. a kick-off meeting,
  2. real-time note taking,
  3. traceable next steps, and
  4. repeatable, formatted backlog.

I’ll go into detail on each part of the formula below.

1. The Golden Ticket: A Kick-Off Meeting

A kick-off meeting can seem like a prerequisite hoop every team has to jump through before actually getting to work on a project. That’s far from the case — kick-off meetings are actually your golden ticket.

To start, you’ll need a meeting leader. They will set the agenda for the meeting and send out an overview of all meeting topics and goals to attendees. For something like this, using a note-taking app that syncs with your calendar, like Hive Notes, is the easiest method.

Hive Note Collaborative Meeting Screenshot

Hive Notes is a collaborative meeting note experience that connects to your existing calendar events.

Once you’re in the meeting, follow the agenda. Give everyone in the room time to share their thoughts and opinions, and provide a collaborative, editable document where people can drop additional feedback that they might not have gotten to share live in the meeting.

Also, get on video. 73% of communication is non-verbal, and coming face-to-face with your teammates will make collaboration easier.

2. The X Factor: Something More Than Chat

Meetings over Zoom are hard. It’s tricky to figure out when to talk versus when to listen. Plus, chatting in real-time in Zoom only gets you so far — the messages disappear once the call is over, and you’re not able to record any real notes or next steps.

Instead, try using collaborative notes, and finding a note-taking platform that allows each participant to add their thoughts and next steps in real-time.

Screenshot Example Of Real Time Collaborative Note on Hive Notes

An example of real-time collaborative notes via Hive Notes.

Real-time notes democratize meetings. You can have ideas and share them even if you’re not speaking. And let’s face it, no one person wants to be the sole note-taker.

Worse yet, if everyone takes their own independent notes, you’ll be stuck with 6 different versions of meeting notes with varying levels of accuracy. Collaborative notes are also a fun way to get people involved and hold everyone’s attention.

3. The Rocketfuel: Traceable Next Steps

While you’re taking notes throughout the meeting, assign the actionable items to your teammates. Everyone in the meeting can see the next steps being assigned in real-time, which clears up any confusion, holds people accountable, and ensures that your meeting wasn’t in vain.

We forget most of the information we learn within 60 minutes, so those real-time notes and follow-ups will be even more important in the hours and days following your kick-off meeting.

4. Unlimited Refills: Rinse and Repeat

When you kick off your projects with a structured meeting and trace all next steps after the meeting wraps, you’ve set yourself up for something I like to call “rinse and repeat.” You’ve created a repeatable formula that can be applied throughout the entire project — and beyond.

A framework for note-taking and tracking has also been created through whichever note-taking app you’ve chosen to use. Take Hive Notes for example. You can add multiple entries into one meeting note, and sync them up to your Google or Outlook meeting invite. It’ll use AI to match the recurring meeting to the meeting note and open up a new section for each follow-up.

Hive Note Meeting Reminder Screenshot

Hive’s automatic meeting reminder syncs with Hive Notes and Zoom.

Because you’ve been tracking all next past next-steps and assignees in this note, you’ve got a full overview of all tasks completed by teammates throughout the project. Now, when you go to start your next project, you can even use your old project notes as a framework for the next one.

How To Avoid A Virtual Meeting Disaster

Now that I’ve shared all my secrets, here are a few things that I think you should absolutely avoid. They can derail the meeting and project flow.

  • Don’t arrive late: We know that life happens, but try to get onto a meeting within two minutes of it starting. Being late will just lead to more confusion on your end, and you’ll miss valuable intro information. Even the best notes can’t convey exact meeting sentiments.
  • Facilitate, don’t dominate: Everyone should have the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions, so one person shouldn’t take over the conversation. Even if you’re facilitating or leading the meeting, you should introduce new topics or items for discussion while leaving plenty of time for people to chime in.
  • Stay on topic: When you’re meeting on a project-specific basis, try to keep 90% of communication to that project only. This will help maintain the integrity of the meeting and keep everyone’s attention focused. If people sense that the meeting is being derailed, they’re more likely to start multi-tasking and will lose interest.

Meetings Aren’t That Bad After All

Instead of dreading your next team meeting or project kick-off, I think you’ll now be able to see meetings for what they are: a way to supercharge your project and begin your work collaboratively. You can crowdsource the work — if you’re leading the project, this is the best case scenario.

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John Furneaux

About John Furneaux

John leads Hive as CEO and co-founder, and received his MA in Mathematics and Law from the University of Cambridge and is a keen pilot and cyclist. Starting his career as a strategy consultant to Fortune 500 companies, he saw the serious challenges teams faced while trying to work together effectively. It was the catalyst for a career-long specialism in the tools teams use to achieve their goals productively.

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