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A New Rule for Meetings

Always be capturing.
COLLABORATORS Joshua Porter
Always be capturing
illustration by Todd Detwiler

No one likes taking notes at meetings. But somehow you need to record what happens. How else will the ideas, assignments, and deadlines take hold?

Here’s the good news: You can capture what happens without reams of scrawl. Joshua Porter, director of UX at HubSpot, put together a list of tips for efficiently recording the key takeaways of any meeting.

Porter (@bokardo), who recently participated in a “product design sprint” with the Google Ventures Design Studio, offers four basic tools for logging ideas and four principles for staying efficient while doing so at DesignStaff.org:

TOOLS

1. Whiteboards. “Fixed whiteboards (attached to the wall) are OK, but movable whiteboards (on wheels) are better,” Porter writes.

2. Post-its. “Write down individual ideas, questions, or UI elements on Post-its. Then you can easily post, cluster, and organize your notes later.”

3. Smartphones. “As you work, take photos of notes and drawings with your smartphone. . . . You can email, print, upload, or manipulate these later.”

4. Dropbox. “At the end of the meeting, upload the photos from your smartphone directly to a shared Dropbox folder. It’s fast and easy, and [it] gives everyone on your team immediate access to the output of the meeting.”

PRINCIPLES

1. Don’t repeat yourself.
“When you capture every important idea or concept, you’ll find it easier to avoid repetitive discussions,” Porter notes. “During the sprint, if we started down a path that seemed familiar, we would look around the room at everything we’d captured to see if we were repeating ourselves. If so, we could say, ‘You know what, we already captured that,’ and move on.”

2. If you can’t capture it, stop talking.
“If you find yourself unable to capture your conversation, it may not be that valuable. Seriously. During the sprint, Jake [Knapp] (who was facilitating) would often say: ‘OK, you have been talking for a few minutes now without capturing anything. I want to help you do that.’ Either the people talking would start capturing, or they’d stop talking because they realized they weren’t really pushing anything forward.”

3. Write down or sketch everything important.
“For example: If you’re comparing two things, just make a two-column table and write out the differences. If you’re talking about a bunch of features, write them down on Post-its and sort them on the wall. If you’re brainstorming a concept, sketch it out. This immediately shows you whether everyone is thinking of the same thing. You might find that other people jump in to help complete the sketch.”

4. Appoint a facilitator.
“Jake facilitated our design sprint. In this role, he served as an objective manager of the discussion. He made sure that everything got captured and that everyone stayed on point.”

Since implementing these lessons, HubSpot’s design sessions have become twice as efficient, Porter concludes. “We quickly move from project to project secure with the knowledge that everything we’ve discussed has been captured somewhere. Just knowing that we have a record of all the design work we’ve done makes us more confident, effective designers. And best of all, we’ve shared this technique outside the design team — it easily applies to all meetings, not just design-related ones!”

#bettermeetings

THE PLUS

Porter has written about design on his own blog, Bokardo, since 2000. One of our favorite posts is “How Jerry Seinfeld Crafting Jokes Is Like Interaction Design.” It may seem like a stretch, but Porter finds five viable parallels between humor writing and design.

Comments

  1. I love using Turning Technology when running meetings it gets you out of the being nice and worrying about power structures. It allows you to vote anonymously to cut through difficult conversations.

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