Using technology to assist with your meetings is not only a great idea, it’s a logical extension of what you are already doing to improve productivity in other areas of your work via technology.
The work you do is important and accuracy is critical, not to mention the need for privacy and security. Human errors ranging from a typo to more serious errors such as distributing an inaccurate, old version of a report to attendees sometimes are high potential risks due to rushed deadlines and busy schedules. On top of that, when it comes to closed session or in-camera documents, accidental publishing is an unacceptable mistake.
There are tools which can help, starting with an improved process for producing an agenda. But before you commit to any solution, it’s important to understand exactly what an “agenda management” solution is, how it differs to meeting management, and how they relate to your organization’s specific needs.
Agenda Management – A “Point Solution”
A typical Agenda Management solution offers some features that can improve your meetings, cut costs on resources and time spent preparing for meetings, and manage last-minute agenda changes.
Strong Focus on Agendas
A common starting point for an Agenda Management solution is automated agenda creation. The idea here, is to get a good looking, usable agenda into participants’ hands. Depending on the unique needs of your organization and the specific types of meetings, the Agenda Manager can automatically create an agenda based on a preset template. And if you are lucky, councilors and board members will be happy to use whatever tool you have selected to read their agenda.
Some Agenda Management tools also offer scheduling, distribution, and note taking features to participants, as well as version control that can provide assurance to all users, on the most current version of the agenda.
Agenda Management solutions can take your organization a long way. It is however, just focused on one part of the meeting life-cycle, and does not take into consideration other components of a meeting.
Meeting Management – End-to-End Solution
As the diagram above illustrates, a complete meeting management solution includes Agenda Management, as well as other meeting components. Meeting management takes an augmented approach towards streamlining the meeting workflow. Meeting management views agendas, minutes, decision making, tasks and report authoring, as integral elements of a successful meeting process. Any board or council meeting, simple or complex, requires each of these things – why stop at automating agendas only?
Meetings generally involve support documents (such as reports) which provide information that make up the content for your meetings. These reports are developed collaboratively by a team of staff. As such, any meeting management tool should include features such as standardized templates, deadline management, collaboration-enabled version control, and approval workflows. The meeting management solution helps your entire team deliver reports to meetings in an organized and timely fashion.
External Communication and Transparency
Public meetings require appropriate content to be communicated to the outside world. As such, web pages, external references and reports, and other content should all be supported by the meeting management system that is in use. In addition, with greater demand for transparency in public sector entities and higher-education institutions, meeting management software companies are pushed further to meet those needs. (Side note: ideally, you want a meeting management software vendor that is heavily invested in R&D and is flexible to adapt to future demands.)
A good meeting management solution should also offer features that support efficiency. Features for electronic and manual voting, action items, and workflow management not only help create efficiency, they also enable tighter process control as well as seamless external automation with video streaming and access to meeting minutes, for better public engagement.
Given the ability to manage contributors, content, meeting minutes, events and deadlines etc. from within a single software suite, the meeting manager is empowered to produce accurate and up-to-date agendas and documents, that can be updated on-the-fly.
Why the Difference Matters
The distinction between agenda management and meeting management solutions is that agenda management capability is just one aspect of meeting management technology. While agenda management is an important and helpful feature, it is much more powerful when integrated with a complete meeting management solution.
Depending on what your organization’s goals are, the type of solution will vary. While many tend to “start small” and look at point solution, it is important to bear in mind what the organization has planned for the next year, or the year after. Some vendors do not offer beyond an agenda management solution, which can cause complications later. There are meeting management solution providers out there who can offer a modular approach, so you can still start small but have the room to grow. Don’t let your organization size stop you from exploring all options.