Google Ventures' Secret Mantra For Super-Productive Meetings

Want to get way more value from every meeting? Google's mantra: Always be capturing.

Always be capturing.

That's Google Ventures' maxim for making the absolute most of meetings, according to the ultra-insightful writeup of Joshua Porter, HubSpot's director of UX, who recently worked on a product design sprint—yes, that is a thing, and it is awesome—with Google Ventures Design Studio. While the post doesn't go into the results of the meeting—that would spoil the fun—it more importantly shares the process of how to make conversation a little less ephemeral.

From what Porter describes, the products of a meeting are the artifacts that remain after the conversation's finished. So what do those look like? Porter says:

(It's) about the habit of continuously recording the value from your conversation. For example: If you’re talking about a new concept, you should be sketching it as you talk so your team has a shared understanding and an artifact of the conversation.

Methods of capture

We've discussed why you should start capturing before the meeting even begins. Once you've commenced, then go both analog and digital with these tools.
  • Whiteboards: On the wall, on wheels—have whiteboards all over the place and let everybody write all over them.
  • Post-its: Little square papers are your friends. Porter says to write down bits of ideas and questions on your Post-its, and then you can stick them to the wall or cluster them later. The awesome part of the phsyical world is that you can organize your notes in three-dimensional space, which could help you to see your conclusions in new ways.
  • Smartphones: Take photos of your scribbles with your phone; access them later.
  • Cloud storage: Have everybody throw those photos in a shared Box or Dropbox folder at the end of the meeting, allowing anyone to grab them when they need them.
To make the most of your devices, Porter says, write or sketch anything that feels important. When you're comparing two things, make a table. If you're brainstorming, sketch it out. That way you're not only engaging your conceptual sense, but your spatial thinking, too. And while you're in a meeting, keep an eye on all those artifacts you've accumulated—they'll let you know if you're repeating yourself, which you probably are.

A tip for effective meetings: Always be capturing

[Image: Flickr user Tanakawho]

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  • Team IQTELL

    captured on the cloud and distributed between
    selected recipients, with dedicated tasks and project items for
    each attendee, that's how it's supported to work, and that's how
    it works today in companies that value their employee's time. The problem is
    that syncing information, calendars, emails and files is done today on several
    apps, this requires coordination between staff members on an offline environment
    instead of working on one app directly (since not all apps were created equal).


    fix that,

  • Jamie MaDonald

    I use mindmapping software for meetings and facilitating group brainstorming sessions - great for creativity, capture, sorting, grouping, prioritising, decision-making, then importantly managing outputs as tasks, documents, presentations and even project plans! Saves time and effort - a great productivity tookit!

  • Chris Reich

    This is pretty good if you allow the core idea to roll around in your mind. That is, come away with meetings with artifacts. Traditionally we've used notes for this role. I've often felt annoyance at people who show up to meetings totally unprepared to "record".

    Not all all meetings are creative ventures so I don't believe every meeting needs these kinds of artifacts but in general, it is a good idea to utilize technology. Along those lines, I have a tip that I give clients who go to the expense of trade shows...that will be a blog post inspired by this article! Thanks!

  • Paul H. Burton

    Meetings are the most expensive time any organization spends. Pulling a group of people away from other productive work to meet in a room should be seen as an event requiring highly productive results. To aid in that effort, and in addition to the "capture everything" recommendation above, here are two more ways to make meetings more effective:
    1. Reduce Length: Cut meeting length by 25%. Take 60-minute meeting to 45 and 30-minute meetings to 25. Work tends to fill the time alotted, so reduce the time alotted by just enough to keep everyone focused on getting what needs to be done in the shorter time period.
    2. Confirm Results: Confirm decisions and action items before leaving the room. If the team collectively confirms what's been decided and who owns which actions before leaving the room, a consolidated understanding of what happend during the meeting is established.
    Leveraging the collective talents of the team should also be viewed as an opportunity to advance the cause. Make good use of that time!