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Planning Software Improves Meeting Effectiveness Print
The problem of unproductive meetings is not new.
Despite an abundance of research done by qualified and experienced professionals and the publication of numerous books and articles, people often leave a meeting wondering: What was I doing there?

Did we really need this meeting?
What did this meeting accomplish?
If you have asked yourself one of these questions, you may be interested in learning how new computer technologies can improve your meetings’ effectiveness.

What is the problem?

Meetings are expensive, especially for companies with high numbers of administrative personnel.
Two parts contribute to a meeting’s budget.
First, there are the direct costs of a meeting, including travel and accommodation costs for participants, facilities, hardware, etc.
The second part is indirect and consists of participants’ time spent on a meeting translated into a monetary value.

The direct costs of a meeting can be minimal in cases where all participants are at the same location and the meeting does not require expensive facilities or hardware.
And even in instances when travel is required, the direct costs can be significantly reduced by introducing new technologies, such as tele- or web-conferencing.

The indirect costs, however, are always present.
As long as we personally participate in a meeting, whether it is done over the phone or via the Internet or in a meeting room, we still spend our time, and we want to see the results that we expect.
If we make meetings productive, then the return on the decisions made during the meeting will surpass the amount of money spent on it.

Where does the problem originate?

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to help someone who does not realize how much money is being wasted.
Companies fail to recognize the problem because ineffective meetings have no direct effect on the company’s budget.
Consequently, they ignore the fact that it affects the organization’s productivity and the employees’ time. Oftentimes, the source of the problem lies in the fact that people are accustomed to having meetings this way. They come to work every day, pour coffee and go to a meeting, without knowing the meeting’s purpose or their role in it.
This common attitude, a blind participation in an unguided and useless process, is at the heart of the issue.

Most meeting failures stem from two sources:
bad initial planning and poor conducting.
Realising this, organizations are trying to find a solution.
They usually start looking at different forms of training to teach employees better practice for effective meetings. The number of courses as well as the number of books on how to prepare an effective meeting is enormous.
This, together with the low cost of training, leads managers to believe that training is a sufficient solution.

Is training enough?

Courses and books are the perfect resources for theoretical knowledge, but it must be practically applied.
This is difficult if you don’t have right instruments. What do I mean by instruments?
Let’s take an example.
Every meeting specialist will tell you that preparing an agenda is essential to holding a productive meeting, but what tools can you use to actually prepare an agenda?
You have several options. You can prepare a text document, print it, and bring a copy for each participant.
If that is inconvenient, you can send the agenda in an e-mail attachment.
This method can be messy, though, because you must ensure that everyone receives the message and no one offers opinions or suggestions.
If you are trying to plan several meetings simultaneously, this becomes a nightmare.
Even if e-mail works for you, how convenient is it to create an agenda in a text editor? What if you want to switch the order of two items or adjust an item length?
The hassles continue.

How can software help?

Good meeting planning software is the shortest way to improve meetings and increase their productivity.
Compared with training, it provides a more visible outcome, while the application of theoretical knowledge still requires personal validation.
Computer software not only simplifies the common steps of the meeting process, but it can also guide a user through each step by helping them to perform required actions at each planning stage. The difference between training employees to conduct productive meetings and implementing meeting planning software is similar to the difference between a direction sign in the middle of a field and a paved road.
The first one gives you an idea of where to go, but it is up to you to follow this direction;
with the second one, you only need to stay on the road, and you will reach your destination in the shortest time possible.

Of course, software requires preliminary training, but this replaces sending employees to seminars and classes on how to conduct effective meetings.
It covers all phases of meeting planning and includes demonstrations of how they can be performed using software.
The combination of initial training and implementation of meeting planning software is a perfect bundle to improve an organization’s meeting productivity.

Because the level of meeting productivity is different in every company, the return on investment into meeting management software will vary depending on the organization’s existing meeting planning practices.
Regardless of the goal you are trying to achieve, whether you want to introduce the latest technologies of meeting planning to increase meeting productivity or would just like to improve meeting documentation management, the right meeting management software will significantly enhance your ability to accomplish the desired tasks.

2004 © Natalia Katchoura. All rights reserved

About the author:

Natalia Katchoura is president of Effes Technologies Inc., the creator of MeetingDesigner — online meeting management software that helps organizations to plan, organize and manage productive business meetings, covering all steps of effective meeting design.
Start using FREE MeetingDesigner Personal edition today, and experience how it can improve meeting management in your organization.

Effes Technologies Inc., based in Montreal, Canada, focus on improving organization efficiency and productivity by bringing innovative implementations of software technologies to business.

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