Meetings and multitasking

This video contains an apt metaphor regarding the work of a web project manager: coordinate many projects at the same time with varying percentages of completion and communicate with many different actors.

The same happens during meetings. The project manager has to deal with the meeting agenda making sure that all cables are connected and that the network is working, taking notes to prepare the meeting report, and of course bringing the coffee from time to time. The risk is to forget important details.

And since in the past I forgot many details, I learned to use some tricks, especially for internal meetings.

I try to write and forward the agenda in advance via email. Spending 15 minutes to list the main points to be discussed during the meeting allows you to clarify both the arguments that deserve to be addressed and the order in which you are going to present them. It may be useful to use a projector so that the agenda is accessible by everyone. In fact, if the meeting lasts one hour and after 40 minutes you are still discussing the first 2 points out of 10, you should be worried. Advance the agenda, but do not expect everyone to read it. And ask for any other topic to add.

When I can, I record the audio of the meeting. No matter how much you developed your ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, there is still a limit. Instead of taking notes, managing the conversation and browse slides at the same time, try to understand whether it is possible to record the audio. Apart from asking permission (do not do it without permission) you don’t need much more. Almost certainly you will be there with a laptop, that means you can easily record the audio from the internal microphone (I use Wiretap Studio for Mac), but you can also use a portable recorder or phone applications.

Even if you are very good in note taking, knowing that you have a recording in case of doubt has no price. I listen to the recorder audio using ExpressScribe, a freeware that allows you to easily control the playback speed from the keyboard, so you can write down the salient points of the conversation. If you want to know more about this topic, I suggest you to read an interesting article written by Sam Barnes for his blog.

If audio recording is not an option, you can ask a colleague to help you in taking notes, so you can compare them at the end of the meeting.

In any case, do not wait too much time, otherwise it will be almost useless.

Leave a Reply