Magazine excerpt: The tools that help make meetings happen

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Written by Jon Kennard on 2 August 2017 in Features
Features

For our technology edition of the magazine, Louise Doherty talks meeting tools that make her life easier.  

As learning and development professionals, you already know that, sometimes, a face-to-face meeting is the only way to achieve your goals. From sensitive management issues to cultural initiatives or change management programmes, there’s something that an in-person meeting can achieve that emails and video conferences just can’t.

However, making these meetings happen can be really tough. If you’re lucky you might be able to delegate the long, thankless and arduous task of email tennis to a PA, but if you don’t have one or want to take control of an important meeting yourself, it can feel impossible to get something confirmed and in the diary.

The secret to making any plan happen – not just business meetings – is to suggest the plan that works for everyone the first time. You want to take all the friction, hassle and thought out of the planning process, and just suggest something the other person or people can say yes to quickly.

You need to make it easy, because even the smartest employees don’t want to think. That’s easier said than done. Our statistics show that the average plan takes nine apps, 22 app switches, 77 swipes, 13 minutes on the phone and 10 texts.

The secret to making any plan happen – not just business meetings – is to suggest the plan that works for everyone the first time.

And 40% of the time, that brilliant idea you had to get people together fails completely. Since no one’s psychic, how do you suggest the right plan the  rst time? It might seem like a bit of a dark art, but ultimately it’s surprisingly simple. You just have to get people to agree on four things – who, what, where and when. And quickly.

Decide ‘what’

First you’ve got to decide what kind of activity is going to be attractive to the people that you want to attend. Is it a lunchtime coffee, casual dinner or drinks after work? Or do you need a shared interest to bond over, or a larger group to get together for an activity out of work hours?

Do you want the vibe to be special and memorable to all-out impress, or are you going for an understated, unpretentious, personal kind of atmosphere to really get to know them?

You can get ideas for things to do from websites like Time Out, which has inspiration for lots of activities in most major cities, or on-the-go using the BarChick text message service which recommends bars in London (only) based on the vibe you’re going for.

Decide ‘when’

Next up, you need to make sure the right people can make the time you choose. Scheduling is an absolute nightmare – partly because the etiquette is that you have to ask for availability, and wait for a response. It gets messy and long – the more people you have the more you might be tempted just to set the date and be damned, but you risk your key people being unavailable.

Asking for each person to email you their availability can lead to a flooded inbox, and the nightmare of trying to plot out each person’s availability on a spreadsheet in the hope of finding the elusive mutually convenient date. So, this approach is best avoided. One option is to offer a few (say three) dates and times, then ask each person which one works best for them.

Something like Doodle can help you work out who is available when, and can collate the information in one place. However, it can be tricky to get people to actually fill it out, and it doesn’t really work for smaller or more casual groups.

There are services like x.ai, a robot assistant that claims to organise meetings for you, but many users report their contacts being irritated by “computer says no” moments, and the pomp of getting a robot to organise your lunch meeting.

The tools

This piece is an abridged version of a feature from this month's magazine. To read the full article click here (subscription required) 

 

About the author

Louise Doherty is founder of PlanSnap. To find out more, visit www.plansnap.com

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