In 1896, the people of Detriot were treated to a spectacle - an invention that would go on to change the world. On an early June morning, Henry Ford test-drove his first four-wheeled vehicle called the Quadricle. Little did he know that this invention would lead to the founding of the Ford Motor company and billions of cars all over the world.
When talking about business, Ford famously said: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” Whether you’re a CEO, executive, freelancer or manager, you know working with others is crucial to getting results. It’s why what Ford says here is important. You can have all the meetings in the world, but having them is only the start - productivity is the key. So, how do you keep people on the same page when meeting scheduling online? Let’s find out.
Understand your audience
Before you even start to consider scheduling your meeting, you need to know who is going to be there. It’s one of the most important aspects of making sure everyone stays focused. Inviting the wrong people will only lead to unproductive meetings and off-track conversations.
It may seem like a no-brainer but start by identifying who you need - not who you want. As much as it can be nice to have a friendly face in a meeting if they aren’t adding value, why are they there? Be sure to plan ahead - whether that’s someone in your company or external - and think about how their contribution will move the meeting forward.
If you’re a freelancer, you will often have to meet with new clients. It’s worth taking time to find out a bit more about them and who the person making the key decisions is. Tailor your sales pitch to what will work best for them to maximize your chance of success. If you’re unsure, it’s always helpful to make a poll to find time with a friend to chat it through.
Once you know who you’re meeting with, you need to be sure you know what your expectations are. For example, you’re a project manager. What actionable results do you want to take away and be able to follow up on to move things forward?
You also want to make sure you know what you need to tell attendees to prepare beforehand. If there are particular reports to read or specific items needed to participate - they need to know that. This is especially important when it comes to remote meetings.
Getting people together with the right tools
Now you know who you need to get to your meeting, the challenge is how. Manually emailing back and forth will feel like a neverending minefield that you’ll be very lucky to find your way out of.
Doodle is a scheduling tool that should make this much easier. Let’s say you're a busy entrepreneur. Group Poll will let you select times you’re free to send to your invitees to find something that works best for everyone. It can even send automatic reminders that will make sure you get the responses you need and no one misses the event.
If you’re a freelance consultant and need to be more flexible with how your clients get in touch with you, Booking Page will make it easy. Simply choose the times you want to be free and send them a link. They’ll book a time that suits them. You can make multiple Booking Pages to suit a variety of clients where you ask for all the information you need before - letting you prepare as needs be.
Using a tool like Doodle also links to your calendar, so you’re never at risk of double booking. Say you’re a Google Calendar user, connecting it to Doodle means that when you have something already scheduled - no one will be able to book that time with you.
A scheduling app for business is going to be essential to navigate your busy schedule. It will free up so much time that would normally be used going back and forth with people. This means you can focus on growing your business.
Setting an agenda
You’ve done your prep, sorted out who you need and got a time booked to get together. What next? Well, if you want everyone to stay on the same page you need to have a meeting agenda.
As well as letting your invitees know of any pre-meeting reading, an agenda will make sure they know what is being discussed and stick to relevant topics. A big mistake people often make is to have a plan in their head, but not communicate it. Be sure to write out what’s being covered and send it around when the group meeting is confirmed.
It’s also essential to keep the agenda to the point. A brief description of each topic and having them ordered by priority is key to making sure you get through the things you really need to. If you can, include who will talk about each section or where you what action to be taken. Timings can also help if you know you’re tight on time, which can often happen if you’re scheduling with lots of people.
Finally, be sure to allow meeting feedback on what you want to cover. You could have forgotten something that is key to what you want to cover. It also helps to reinforce the idea that you’re open to an honest discussion.
Getting more efficient
Even with the best intentions, meetings can still get off track easily. There’s always room to make them more productive - especially to keep people on the same page.
Don't be scared to use technology to facilitate your meetings. If you want an expert to dial in remotely, use a video conferencing tool. Or consider a digital whiteboard where people can add sticky notes to the meeting plan to make it easier to follow up.
How you act in the meeting is also going to be important to get good results. Be open and welcoming to encourage active participation. Set some ground rules for how the meeting is going to be run and make sure even the quietest person in the room gets a chance to contribute. This will get the team to collaborate effectively.
Don’t be scared to have a timer and move discussions on. Sometimes, not everything can be decided in a meeting. Be prepared to move topics into a follow-up that can happen with relevant people after. You can even use Doodle to plan a quick poll for that too.