The Meeting Minute


Business Tips Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Less Meeting

The Lunch and Learn

Posted by | Business Tips | No Comments

How do you get the smartest people at your company to share their expertise without taking additional time out of their already busy schedules? After all, it’s a rare occasion when employees in marketing, sales, and services (etc.) actually get a chance to interact and share new ideas. I mean, who has the time to learn something new when your schedule already looks like swiss cheese?
Sure, being an expert in marketing may not require you to understand programming trends (and vice versa), but it certainly helps to learn about the challenges other departments face and gain beneficial knowledge about different professions in the company. As the business world moves forward, it’s no longer viable to just be a great marketer or sales manager. People that see the big picture tend to move up faster and are often the most respected leaders.
This is where the ‘Lunch and Learn’ comes into play. As we learned last week, food brings employees together and convinces them to do extraordinary things (like attend meetings). Some companies are starting to take this free lunch idea and use it as an incentive to get employees to spend that hour lunch break learning about new business trends and topics.
Pardot, a marketing automation company based out of Atlanta, GA offers a bimonthly ‘Lunch and Learn’ where employees happily dedicate an hour to quality food and education. As a marketing SaaS company, topics range from email deliverability to understanding the sales process. It creates a culture of collaborative, well-rounded employees that are educated on an array of industry topics.
How to implement:
  1. Ask for volunteers to present information about areas they are experts in. This gives them a chance to show what they are passionate about, without feeling obligated.
  2. Schedule some dining options during a day that most employees can attend (avoid holidays and fridays where most people will be gone).
  3. Have volunteers create a presentation about their topic using materials they are comfortable with (powerpoint, keynote, video software).
  4. Be amazed at how many employees actually want to learn more about different areas of your company.
  1. Start off slowly- don’t offer too many too quickly. It can be overwhelming to spend most lunches in the office. This should be a special treat!
  2. Leave ample time for people to sign up and clear their lunch schedules.
  3. Offer recordings of the presentations for those that cannot attend.
Any other tips?

“Will There Be Food?”

Posted by | Business Tips | No Comments

Do you have low attendance in your meetings? Are people leaving before the meeting is actually over? Sounds like you might need some sandwiches.

It’s no secret that people love food. In fact, people love food so much that they are willing to hear what you have to say just to have a bite. Not only will more people come, but a 2011 study on group dynamics by Creighton University found that meetings with food/refreshments directly increased meeting quality.

This is not a new concept- people have been putting candy on their desks to attract visitors even before jolly ranchers were recognized as something more than just happy farmers raising livestock. Although candy can temporarily increase energy levels, here are a few better long-term health foods that will pack more brain power for your next meeting:

Improve learning and memory (omega-3 fatty acids):
flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef, soybeans

Protect the brain and boost your immune system (antioxidants):
blueberries, green tea, apples, and spinach

Support brain activity (food rich in B vitamins):
meat, brown rice and soy products.

Food brings a sense of community, opens communication between different teams and raises morale in the work place. Sure, you have to fork over a few Benjamins, but it’s a lot cheaper to invest in a meal for 20 people (bulk orders cost less and are tax deductible) vs. individual employees spending $10+ on a meal out of pocket (without spending valuable time with their coworkers). This tiny company investment quickly turns empty stomachs into productive, sociable employees.

Need some ideas? Here are just a few of my favorites:

  1. Chipotle: healthy options for meat lovers and vegetarians alike
  2. Food trucks (Happy Belly, Yumbii): unique options and supports local entrepreneurs!
  3. Corner Bakery: great breakfast and lunch varieties
  4. Yoforia: Who doesn’t want yogurt?
  5. Trader Joe’s: packs of healthy nuts and dried fruits

What are your favorite options?


Reinventing Teleconferencing With The Double

Posted by | Business Tips | One Comment
Back in the mid 90’s my family received an odd gift from a close family friend – a video phone.
He worked at AT&T at the time. He’d snagged of one of their new demo video phones to play around with when he quickly realized Problem #1: Video phones were worthless if no one else had one.
It’s easy to scoff at the thing now. I think we used it maybe three times ever. And it wasn’t so much a “video” phone as it was a collection of still images that would update every 30-60 seconds. Remember connection speeds back then?
The screen…well HD was still years away.Like our good friend realized, since no one else we knew had a video phone it just collected dust.

And look at the marketing! Is this family having a video call or posing for Glamour Shots?!

Teleconferencing Has Come a Long Way

Think about that first video phone compared to what we have now.

Services like Skype came out that made it insanely cheap to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world.

The big boys entered the market with enterprise level video conference solutions like WebEx and GoTo Meeting.

And now there are dozens of video chat/screen sharing combo solutions, from the ultra high end (and expensive) Cisco TelePresence to the free (yet still feature rich) offerings like, Meeting Burner,, Google+ Hangouts, you get the point… Even while writing this post a new article from Wired popped up showcasing conference call startups.

And remember that first video phone? I’ll take iChat instead, thank you.

Meet The Double

The Double. It’s an intriguing mashup of a robot + a video phone.

It’s fully remote controlled, letting you freely move it around any distant location, enabling you to see, hear, show, and talk to anyone, anywhere.

Oh and all from your iPad.

My first reaction is: this is really cool!

My second reaction is a bit more tempered: ok so this may be cool, but is it anything more than a toy?

The key thing setting it apart from a regular conference call is its mobility. So do you need to buy a Double for your daily status call? Probably not.

But maybe there are some practical applications for this thing…aside from having a creepy likeness of yourself to spy on your office-mates while you’re out of the office.

Touring Factory Floors
This is actually why the Double was created. The Double team was initially working with Chinese manufacturers but became frustrated without being able to see the factory floor. Their solution turned into a pivot for the whole company.

New Home Buyer Virtual Tours
How cool would this be? Take a virtual tour of a home that’s for sale without having to be there. Especially useful for cross-country moves.

Social Dressing Rooms
When buying new clothes you always need a second opinion, right? Next time you’re shopping alone use the Double to show a full 360 view of your new outfit to help your friends give you the go/no-go from anywhere.

In addition to the mobility, the other key to me is the price point: $1,999. Obviously this isn’t cheap, but it’s not outrageously expensive either. Very reasonable for an early-adopting real estate agent or retail store.

So what about you? Would you want a Double and if so, how would you use it?

UPDATE: Hope you didn’t get too excited. Looks like The Double is sold out till 2013.

Should I Bring My Laptop To Your Meeting?

Posted by | Business Tips, Meeting Tips | No Comments
A couple weeks back I was in a client meeting giving a presentation of two alternate solutions. Afterward I asked the lead architect for her recommendation.“Uhhhhh, can you repeat that again real quick?” she blankly asked.Seriously?! I’ve just spent the last 10 minutes describing everything, but you were too busy hacking away on your Blackberry. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we could just ban technology altogether in meetings?

Well……maybe not.

Please Check Your Phones at the Door?

You’ve likely witnessed some variation of this mandate to ban computers & phones from meetings. This isn’t realistic though. Nor does it even solve the root cause.

And do I really want to go back to hand writing all my notes & then typing them up afterward? Or do I want to deal with printing handouts instead of emailing a PowerPoint? And what happens when someone didn’t do their prep work and we need to look up a stat real quick?

So, banning devices from meetings might not be that great after all.

Don’t Boycott Technology!
In fact it does more harm than good by prohibiting technology in meetings – you lose all the benefits technology brings. Remember 37signals’ Boycott A Meeting Day? Instead of not having any meetings at all, we realized it’s better to focus on making our meetings better. Same situation here.

We should stop trying to go cold turkey and instead focus on moderation and setting boundaries! I recently saw a great post that set rules for what you CAN and SHALL NOT do with your devices during meetings:

You Shall Not:
  • You shall not surf the web during a meeting.
  • You shall not send an instant message to anyone in the meeting.
  • You shall not send text messages with any mobile device.
You Can:
  • You can research topics that are relevant to the meeting.
  • You can type notes.
  • You can share information from your device to a projector for all to see.

Take a moment to also consider why you’re not getting the attention you think you deserve. Maybe the person sending an email from their phone shouldn’t have been invited to your meeting. Or ask, is the meeting itself really necessary?

So remember, keep bringing your phones and computers to meetings (e.g. LessMeeting), just stop looking at those Lolcats.

image: TIME

2 New Great Web Conferencing Tools…and they’re FREE

Posted by | Business Tips, General Productivity | One Comment
Whether you’re a traveling consultant or you work for a company that has multiple office locations, there’s a good chance that you use conference calls for meetings. In the past you would get a conference dial-in number, send that to all of the participants,and then dial in the admin code yourself. There’s a handful of problems with this:
  1. The dial-in process is painful: “Oops, I pressed a 4 instead of a 7! Now I have to start all over.”
  2. People rarely arrive on time: “Sorry, I couldn’t find the dial-in information.”
  3. It is hard to pay attention: “What did you say? Could you please repeat that?”
  4. There is no collaboration: “I can’t see what you’re looking at.”
Fortunately technology has fixed most of those issues, but up until very recently the solutions were costly. One of the most common solutions is GoToMeeting, but that costs $50 per month per person. Skype is free, but it doesn’t allow you to share your screen, so really it only solves the first two issues listed above.Enter MeetingBurner and Google+ Hangouts. Web conferencing has never been freer or easier.

We’ll reiterate that: Free and easy web conferencing. The holy grail of conference calls!


About a month ago TheNextWeb wrote an article about MeetingBurner. We tried MeetingBurner out (it’s FREE!) and found that it was very easy to use and attendees didn’t need to download any software. The meeting organizer needed to download software to share his or her screen, but overall it took less than a minute to start sharing a screen for the first time.

MeetingBurner also offers a dial-in phone number for those that cannot join through their computers. Overall our experience was very positive and we’d definitely recommend it for anyone who needs to organize a web conference with screen sharing.

Google+More recently, Google has announced that Google+ Hangouts will have a screen sharing feature, as well as other collaboration tools such as shared documents and a sketchpad. The key question is whether Google+ can be used for web conferencing in a business setting?

What do you think? Do you have your business contacts and/or co-workers in your Google account? We’re really happy with the functionality and ease of use that MeetingBurner provides, so we’re sticking with them for now. We’d love to hear from you if you want to comment.

Lessons Learned For Startup User Signups

Posted by | Business Tips | 6 Comments

Startup Sales 101 – Conversions

For any web service based startup, sales are driven by 2 key factors:

  1. People visiting your site – You’ve got to get people to your site. Whether it’s viral campaigns, one-on-one sales, online ads, or traditional marketing, people need to see your product or service. For online advertising this is typically the ‘Click Through Rate’.
  2. People signing up for your service – Once people take a look at your site, you need to make a compelling case for them to sign up. This is your ‘Conversion Ratio’.

While there’s always room to improve the number of eyes reaching your pages (e.g. throw more money into advertising), you should be most interested in improving your conversion ratio.

Lessons Learned – “Why isn’t everyone signing up?”

In addition to the new features we rolled out recently (more here), we invested a considerable amount of time into updating our pricing and signup model. The LessMeeting homepage, features, registration, and pricing pages all got makeovers. Why? Simple – we needed to make the decision to try LessMeeting simpler.

Using tools like Google analytics we analyzed why people were coming to the site but not signing up. (Of course they could simply be disinterested in the product, but our research has told us that typically isn’t the problem.) The 2 culprits we discovered were:

  1. Features and benefits need to be very clear – We overwhelmed users with too much information. We had to make key benefits as clear as possible so visitors could understand why this tool would help them.
  2. The signup process & pricing model must be dead simple – We had too many pricing tiers and our trial/freemium model was too complex.
The new Features page

The Make-Over

We learned that customers were getting too confused about our pricing & registration and as a result, bailing on us before even giving LessMeeting a try. In retrospect I don’t blame them…and I’m especially impressed by those who made it through! So let’s look at a few mistakes that we made and how we approached a new solution.

Mistake #1 – A Complex Freemium Model

The Intent – Meetings are a team activity and we wanted to encourage teams to try LessMeeting together. In our initial freemium model, the first 3 customers at a company (defined by email address domain) could sign up for free and any additional users from that domain would have to pay for an account.

What really happened – Too complex! How do you define a “company”? What if all 3 licenses have been taken up but there is someone else at the company who really wants to try your product? What if the 3 licenses are taken up by a team in a completely different area of the company than someone new who wants to try the product? These questions go on…and get worse.

How we’re making it better – Don’t over-think your freemium model. Remember, the point is to get people using your product in a manner that makes them want to pay for more advanced features. Your freemium approach shouldn’t deter new users from signing up.

We have changed our approach so signing up is free. Always. For everyone. No credit card required. Try LessMeeting for free for 30 days and if you like it after that, then it’s a simple $12 flat fee per user per month.

Summary – Freemiums should be simple. Their goal is to get your product in as many hands as possible; anything else and you’re overdoing it.

Mistake #2 – Too Many Pricing Tiers

The Intent – We originally had three pricing/feature tiers. We thought this would allow us to uniquely cater to power users, casual users, small companies, big companies, team leads, and team members alike.

What really happened – Our customers didn’t need tiers. Every one of our paying customers had signed up for the same middle tier. We got a lot of questions regarding the features related to the different tiers (e.g. “can I pay for the teams pages, but just for 5 of our users?”). In general, we found that having more pricing/feature tiers was just confusing to our users and added barriers to the buying decision.

How we’re making it better – Tiers makes sense for a lot of startups. But not us. If you’re a startup (or any software company) consider if your customers really need the additional pricing levels. We ended up trying to build useless features just to justify different tiers that no one even used. Now we’ve changed to a single tier with a simple $12 flat fee per month.

Summary– If your customers don’t understand your pricing model, don’t try to explain it to them. Change your pricing model.

Mistake #3 – Overzealous Signup Process

The Intent – We wanted to give you all the information we could about LessMeeting so that there was no possible way you wouldn’t want to sign up.

What really happened– No one read the text filled feature pages. Users got lost getting from the homepage to the registration page. There was no call to action. In the end, users didn’t sign up as often as we thought they would.

How we’re making it better – It’s critical that you streamline your signup process. It’s no different than the “shopping cart” process online retailers use. Identify what your target “funnel” is and build your registration process around it, including a clear call to action at each step.

For LessMeeting, we want you to: 1) Start on the homepage, 2) View a much improved features page, 3) View our simplified pricing model, 4) Register and signup, and 5) Start using LessMeeting. Users need to be able to complete this in just a couple minutes too, as that’s likely all you’ll have their attention for.

Summary – Make signup as fast as possible.

Mistake #4 – Complex Incentives

The Intent – We want to encourage customers to buy by providing discounts.

What really happened – Only the squeakiest wheel was heard. All of our customers deserved to know about the discount options but only those that asked about them found out. While we didn’t intentionally hide our discounts, we didn’t do the best job of announcing them either.

How we’re making it better – Advertise your discounts. Sign up for a group of licenses (starting at just 10 users!) and get a discount. Or, pay yearly instead of monthly and get a discount. Discounts should be your friend. We want to give these discounts to every single one of our customers. First, it helps our cash flow (Startup Finance 101) and builds momentum via a larger user base. More importantly, it makes your customers happy.

Summary – Reward your customers for buying behaviors that help out your company too.

Guess the Theme? (hint: it’s a simple answer)

Notice a theme? It’s nothing new, but we needed to be reminded of it so decided it’s worth passing on – Keep It Simple. Having a great product or service is only half the battle for startups…you need to get people to actually sign up for your product. In summary:

  1. Avoid complex freemium models
  2. Reduce the complexity of your pricing
  3. Reduce the number of actions required to signup
  4. Reward your customers for the right things
  5. Above all make you product easy to understand