Better Meetings with Agenda DefenderPosted by Dylan Beattie on 02 December 2019 • permalink
Have you ever been to one of those meetings that has an agenda something like this?
13:00 Update from CEO (5 mins)
13:10 Update from CFO (5 mins)
13:20 Update on the Singapore project (Alex)
13:30 Update on the OAuth2 project (Chris)
13:45 Any other business
Everyone arrives on time, you kick off at 13:00 as scheduled… but then after twenty minutes, the CEO is still talking, the agenda has been completely forgotten, and you’re all trying to work out whether they’re going to just skip everyone else’s updates so they can wrap up at 2pm as scheduled, or the one-hour meeting is just going to drag on and on until it’s taken up most of the afternoon and that’s the day wiped out?
I have. And, yes, on a handful of occasions I’ve been the person doing the talking – sorry! But sticking to an agenda when you’re talking is hard – like a lot of so-called “soft skills”, participating in meetings effectively is way harder than most people think. Being able to plan and deliver a five-minute update in five minutes, or a half-hour presentation in exactly half an hour, is a skill that takes time and effort to improve.
So I built a thing that can help. It’s called Agenda Defender, it’s at https://agendadefender.app, and it can help you and your team keep your meetings on schedule.
First, type (or paste) your agenda. Local times, 24-hour clock, one line per item, with the finish time as the last entry.
Click “Let’s go!” and it’ll turn each agenda item into a live progress bar. And that’s it.
Sure, one little web app probably isn’t going to fix dysfunctional communication styles overnight – if you work somewhere where long rambling meetings that wander all over the place are a regular occurrence, introducing something like this might come as a bit of a shock. First few times you try it, you’ll get some resistance – especially from those people who think having a slot on the agenda means they can talk for as long as they want. But if we’re going to improve, we really need two things – feedback, so we know what we’re doing wrong, and incentive, so we have a reason to pay attention to the feedback. And once you’ve tried running meetings with Agenda Defender a few times, folks will get the hang of it – the live schedule will make it easier to pace yourself when you’re speaking, and the fact everybody can see who’s hitting their scheduled slots gives everybody an incentive to keep things on track. And if you do need to reschedule, or shuffle things around mid-meeting, no problem – just edit the agenda and start again.
Tired of meetings that should have been an email? Fed up with delivering features that you thought were perfect, only to hear “um… that’s not quite what we wanted”? Wasting time on writing documentation nobody’s ever going to read? Check out my Communication for Developers workshop, and find out how I can help you and your organisation build the right thing, faster, and go home smiling when you’re done.