How to make meetings less agonizing with a few simple tools

Scheduling, agendas and follow-up made simple for those who hate office gabfests

 

The Frictionless Office

Everyone hates meetings. We can’t eliminate them, but there are online tools that can help turn ill-timed gabfests into efficient engines of productivity.

One option is Less Meeting, which offers tools to make it easier to schedule, plan and follow-up on a team summit. Co-founder Jeffrey Steinke says he and a few colleagues built Less Meeting as an in-house utility after sitting through too many endless meetings. “After enough of our clients asked what this ‘Less Meeting’ thing was we decided to productize it and that led to what it is now,” he says. “It solves a problem my co-founders and I faced countless times over the years.” Less Meeting allows organizers to set meeting times, dates and agendas through an Outlook plug-in, or a web interface for non-Outlook users. During meetings, participants can take notes and track action items through a shared online interface. Those notes are automatically emailed to everyone at the end, with each person’s particular responsibilities highlighted. LessMeeting has a free 14-day trial, after which it costs $12 (U.S.) per month for one license, $59 for 10 or $225 for 50.

Assistant.to is a downloadable plug-in for Chrome web browsers that displays calendar invites right inside Gmail messages, a more elegant solution than sorting through Gmail’s normally long chains of text. When you hit “compose” with Assistant.to installed, an “A” pops up in the lower right-hand corner of the message. Clicking it brings up a calendar, where meeting details can be determined.  Assistant.to’s plug-in is free and also integrates with a number of web-meeting applications, including Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Cirrus Insight. An Outlook version is in the works, the company says.

There’s also Genee, a mobile and email app that functions like an automated assistant for meeting planning. Using your smartphone, you can ask Genee to set up a meeting with specific individuals. It then scans your schedule, picks an available time and automatically sends requests to predetermined participants. It works similarly on desktop email, except Genee is CC’d like any other participant. The software then scans the schedules of everyone else on the email for an opportune time. Genee’s makers say it works well for meetings of fewer than six people. The software—currently in beta—works with Gmail, iCloud and Office 365. It’s free for the moment.


 

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