When we schedule a meeting the convention is that we invite not just those who have to actively participate in the meeting, but also those who we want to keep in the loop.
Unfortunately, this leads to 3 tragic outcomes.
First, these meetings are inevitably bigger, longer, and less effective than they should be. While some key people are actively contributing, others – who don’t want to miss out – are half-listening between doing emails and work.
Second, the cost of that meeting is exponentially higher. Nine people in a room for an hour isn't a one-hour meeting, it's a nine-hour meeting.
Third, once the meeting finishes typically everyone just walks away. And even if you have good meeting hygiene with minutes and clear action items, most of the vital information that came up just gets locked away in a few people’s brains.
If everyone hates meetings so much, why are there even so many meetings in the first place? There are 3 main reasons:
- Tradition. People have been taught to work this way by the previous generation and it's hard to change deeply ingrained habits
- Politics. A hilarious paradox of corporate life is that we prefer smaller meetings while being quite certain that we should be invited to each and every one of them. Meetings that aren't legible to non-participants create an asymmetry of information which is one of the key drivers of politics within an organization.
- We don't know what we don't know. Most people simply need to be introduced to new ways of work.
What startup founders and leaders, in general, can do to prevent this and actually establish a culture of small, non-frequent, and productive meetings?
What no one says is that most of us define productivity based on our calendar. And meetings give many people the sense that they're actually doing something.
I have nothing against meetings per se. I actually think some of them aren't just useful but essentials. But startups often implement processes that involve meetings way too early and way too often. I have shared more insights on how startups should approach meetings on meeting rules for startups.
Lack of discipline around other people's time is a disease for companies in general, but it's particularly deadly for startups.
David Sacks articulated here why he established an anti-meeting culture back when PayPal had less than 500 employees:
Hopefully it's obvious that an email culture is vastly superior to a meeting culture. A group of people can make progress on dozens of issues simultaneously by email in the time it would take to organize their schedules for a single meeting. Also, the quality of decisions made by email is frequently better because there's no arbitrary need to make a decision by the end of the meeting; people can respond when they are ready, and easily pull in additional participants and information as needed. What may be less obvious is that PayPal at one point suffered from a meeting culture.
The answer to meeting overload and bloated calendars is to make aggressive use of async tools (like Pulse, Looms, or Threads) that induce async communication (whether it's verbal or written) while allowing people to share information, discuss them and make transparent decisions at scale.
Pulse is designed to help you share company-wide announcements or team updates. This written format enables you to start focused discussions with your team around ideas and proposals and – eventually – make decisions. And all of this can be done asynchronously.
One of the reasons why we have so many meetings is that we simply lack the proper meeting infrastructure to make them transparent and legible to non-participants.
Here's how to approach this in a simple, and practical way.
The first obvious step is to record every meeting so that people can watch them on their own time. Meetings recordings provide context and clarity for people who couldn’t join or only need to be made aware of specific decisions. This alone will easily give people their time back, enabling them to watch when it’s convenient for them.
However, the mistake that many do, is dumping all these Zoom or Google Meet videos recordings in Google Drive folders that nobody actually remembers or linking them in Notion pages or spreadsheets that no one really uses.
You need a proper way to distribute your video content so that people are easily reminded when there's something new to catch up with. I'm obviously biased, but tools like Pulse helps you with exactly that. :)
To be honest, Pulse won't just allow you to store and make available on-demand all your Zoom/Google Meet video meeting recordings in one place, but it will automatically transcribe them for you – making them instantly searchable.
Let's see some tips on how to successfully deploy such a tool in your company and your team.
- Record any meeting with more than "X" people
You need to set some minimal but clear rules for when the meeting should be recorded and distributed internally. For instance, it's reasonable to think that any meeting with more than 2 people is likely to be interesting and contain useful information also for others. Hence, it needs to share recorded and shared afterward.
- Distribute the meeting to the team (manually or automatically)
Enable the connect with Zoom or Google Meet (you have to have a Zoom Pro account or a Google Workspace Premium Plan) and put all your recurring meetings on autopilot. When Pulse finds that a new recurring meeting has finished, it automatically shares (or add it to your drafts fwiw) the recording for you. If the meeting was not a recurring one, then you can still import manually from it Zoom Cloud Recordings, Google Drive, Dropbox, Loom, or your local computer with 1 click.
- Do the work after the meeting finishes
You just finished this important meeting where you invested the time of 4 key people in your company. Don't just share your meeting internally but invest 10 min to improve the viewer's experience.
- Review the automated transcript and tweak it if necessary
- Write a short description that summaries the agenda and output of the meeting
- Add chapters. This will improve your viewer's experience by clarifying what was discussed in the meeting
- Tag people as speakers. They won't just get notified about it, but it'll be visible from their own profiles that they participated in this meeting
To wrap this up, establish clear rules around meetings, default to async more often, and get the proper meeting infrastructure.
This won't just avoid calendar bloat and allow you to stay on the same page more effectively but it also helps you turn into a more transparent and focused company. And that's crucial to build a high-functioning organization.