Though none of us look forward to attending meetings, there are fortunately a number of useful online and mobile applications, such as AgreeDo, that make the task of planning meetings easier. All successful meetings start with a well thought-out agenda which includes a clearly defined goal and purpose for each agenda item. A well developed agenda can help you and your team members stay focused, and perhaps reduce the amount of time you meet.
I regularly use MyCommittee to develop agendas and take minutes for most meetings I organize and facilitate. But I have also discovered a well thought out iPad app called Meetings Expectations (free), designed for creating and sharing meeting agendas. Though the app is not designed to take minutes, it does include a feature that could be used in a pinch for that purpose.
Meeting Expectations has a clean user interface that actually saves you a few taps when adding data. To set up an agenda, you simply tap the + button at the top-left of the menu bar. There are entry fields for the obligatory title, location, date, and time duration of the meeting.
There is also a “purpose” field which should not be overlooked. A well thought out meeting should have a clearly defined purpose that begins with some sort of action verb - e.g. “evaluate current marketing strategy”.
Meeting Expectations also includes a Participants feature that connects to your iPad’s Contact list. No doubt the people you’re meeting with will probably be, or should be, in your Contacts list. If a participant is not on your list, you can add new contacts from within the app. Not only is this feature a timesaver because it reduces the need to type names and email addresses, it is also useful for quickly sharing the agenda with participants via email.
Setting Agenda Items
Meeting Expectations is truly a timesaver when it comes to developing an agenda. You add agenda items of course using the input field, but the app saves you a few taps based on how it is set up. After you type your input and tap the Done button, the application adds the item to the list, but fortunately it does not close the keyboard.
Note – typically, agenda items should start with an action verb, e.g. Review, Evaluate, Discuss, Brainstorm, Report, Debrief.
You can keep adding agenda items, each of which are assigned 15 minutes by default. At this point don’t worry about setting time durations for each agenda item.
Meeting Expectations also include a nifty little feature for adding Lunch and Coffee breaks to your agenda. The default time for these items are 45 and 15 minutes respectively, but the times can be adjusted.
New and important agenda items should also include the name of the participant responsible for that item, as well as a brief description of why the item is added to the agenda. The developers of Meeting Expectations clearly understood the importance of defining agenda items.
You can tap on an agenda item and add the name of the team member responsible for that item, and a brief description and notes pertaining to what will be covered during that part of the agenda. In a pinch, this feature could also be used for taking minutes. Your agenda descriptions are hidden while you’re the agenda editor of the app, but they will show up in the saved homepage and the document you email.
As you will see, Meeting Expectations will automatically calculate the duration time of the meeting based on the allotted time for each agenda item. This is a sweet little timesaver, and of course agenda items and times can be edited. Items can also be easily moved around, or deleted. The ability to adjust the times can also done during the meeting. So if you go over time for a particular item, you can adjust other agenda items so the meeting ends on schedule.
Sharing Your Agenda
When you’re done setting up your agenda, all of your input is nicely formatted in the application’s homepage. However, be sure to tap the Save button before you close out the application, or else all your unsaved data will be deleted.
Meeting Expectations makes it super easy to share your agenda via email. The actual email will include all the agenda input, including date and time, and agenda items and notes, for the meeting. Unfortunately, however, you have to manually input the participants email addresses in the “To” field of the email Meetings Expectations creates. It would save some steps if the app did that for you.
Nevertheless, sending your agenda to participants a few days or a week before the meeting is a great way to collaborate and get additional input for the agenda.
You can also save the date and agenda items to the Calendar app on your iPad.
Another huge timesaver in Meeting Expectations is the ability to clone saved meetings. This means that you do not have to retype agenda items from previous meetings, but simply edit those items for the next meeting. This is especially a useful feature for recurring, regularly scheduled meetings which feature both old and new agenda items.
You can also save agendas as unscheduled drafts, and all your agendas of course get archived.
Overall, Meeting Expectations is a well designed, time-saving mobile app. It would be even better as a desktop application. Meeting Expectations replaces the need to use Microsoft Word templates or other purely text-based applications. This app makes your agendas look professional.
Meeting Expectations is in its first version, so I hope it means additional features are forthcoming, including the ability to save agendas to Dropbox, and as PDFs. A few other wishes include the ability to add names to notes from the Participants list, rather than having to type them manually. These are minor requests, especially since there only a few other similar mobile apps in the iTunes App Store.
Let us know what you think of Meeting Expectations. Will you give it a try, or do you already use another similar solution?