Smarter Meeting Planning: The Process Approach

August 18, 2016 at 7:00 PM by John Keith in meeting technology

How do you go about scheduling a new meeting with a group of people? David Coleman writes about his research into more than 200 meeting scheduling tools in this August, 2016 CMS Wire article, Smarter Meeting Planning Tools Try to Save You the Headache.

One of the biggest hassles with meetings is actually setting the meeting up, with multiple emails flooding inboxes deciding who could meet, what the meeting is about, and forget about trying to pin down one time when everyone can attend.

David asks: "But what if there was a better way?"  In David's analysis, the approaches for scheduling a meeting can be broken down into four main categories:

  1. Publish and subscribe tools
  2. Calendar scheduling enhancements
  3. Resource management tools
  4. Smart meeting tools

The ordering of that list can be viewed as the evolutionary order of technical solutions to the scheduling problem, with the Smart Meeting Tools section capturing the current AI and Bot zeitgeist. There are quite a few good recommendations in each category, and I think there are some interesting capabilities on the horizon in the smart tools area. Read the full post to get a full sense of David's insight into the scheduling challenge.

The article also talks about Lucid Meetings and our alternative approach based on a holistic view of effective meetings from a complete scheduling, execution, and results orientation.

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Topics: meeting technology

How We Created an Open API and Added 500 New Integrations with Zapier

July 16, 2016 at 8:31 PM by John Keith in meeting technology, release announcement

In our article, What is a meeting management platform?, we start with this statement:

"Lucid Meetings is an online meeting management platform for designing, running, and continuously improving the business meetings that power your organization’s success."

When you declare that you're a platform, you better be able to back that up with some reasonable definition about what that means. In the above support article, we list quite a few properties of a Meeting Management Platform (read about them), including one line about how only a few "platforms" connect to your larger business ecosystem:

Only a few meeting management platforms include ... "Open APIs and extensive business system integrations"

This post is about that one line.

Creating an Open API

An Open API, or perhaps better put, a Public API, is the user interface for software developers seeking to integrate an API-oriented application into other business systems. A Public API (application programming interface) provides documented mechanisms for external software developers to safely observe, measure, and control the application (Lucid Meetings). It's a contract of sorts between the people who create software and the people who would extend that software in new and interesting ways. I love Public APIs.

In the modern age, most web software either provides or makes use of internal APIs for connecting the core software pieces to one another. Lucid Meetings certainly does. But having an internal API does nothing for your external developer community; we've long recognized that a Public API would be a great addition for our Lucid customers and partners. Last month we finally fixed that deficit.

See related documentation, The Lucid Meetings REST API, for a programmer's description of the entire API.

Getting Technical

Developing an open, public API for a web service such as Lucid Meetings can be a daunting task. While there is no shortage of best practices recommendations, there is also no single, prescribed approach for doing this work. In short, there are many ways to get this wrong, and no precise way to get it right. To focus our attention, we established a few guiding principles at the outset:

  1. Create a full featured API with read, write, and modify capability
  2. Adopt a pragmatic, RESTful approach that developers could embrace
  3. Use established patterns for resources (nouns) and actions (verbs)
  4. Use established patterns for authentication and authorization
  5. Fully, completely, lovingly document everything about the REST API
  6. Provide a large sample of relevant examples in our documentation
  7. Demonstrate the value of the API with a single, significant integration

It's fair to say we focused a lot of development attention on the correctness and completeness aspects of the API. Essentially, we focused on the first six points in our guiding principles list, researching relevant API theory as well as the current pragmatic thinking about REST API best practices.

And all that work paid off with a well organized, very usable API for technical developers to create new and interesting integrations with other applications.

What About Our Non-Technical Customers?

The last guiding principle, about demonstrating the value, is perhaps the most important. We can create APIs till the cows come home, but if we can't show how they add value then we're pretty much just talking about their potential, rather than their reality.

We needed a way to showcase the value of our newly minted API and we needed a way to directly enable the success for thousands of customers and their people.

Enter Zapier (rhymes with happier!)

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Topics: meeting technology, release announcement

Technology That Makes Meetings Effective

February 9, 2016 at 9:20 PM by John Windsor in meeting technology

Let’s start with a brief history . . .

Dawn of Time: Cavemen gather to plan their hunts. Details are painted on walls of caves. Best practices are non-existent, but the species survives.

1560s: Sir Thomas Smyth begins writing down the accepted practices for meetings in England’s House of Commons. “Parliamentary procedures” are now codified, and best practices become set in stone (or really thick books).

1876: U.S. Army Major Henry M. Robert publishes a book entitled Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, which is wisely shortened to Robert’s Rules of Order (now in its 11th edition). Robert’s approach follows parliamentary procedures, with some modernization in newer editions.

The past 50 years: A growing collection of books attempt to define a less rigid approach for business meetings, while providing guidance on best practices.

The past 10 years: Thousands of blog posts every year on how to have better meetings — or how to avoid them. There are common themes about best practices, but clearly the message isn’t getting through, because each year brings thousands of new blog posts.

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Topics: meeting technology

The Lucid Meetings Visual Event Calendar

January 18, 2016 at 3:37 AM by John Keith in meeting technology, release announcement

My ice storm-induced, "bonus" project during the 2015 end-of-year holiday break was focused on improvements to the Lucid Meetings visual event calendar. While we've had our visual calendar display for a couple years now, I always intended the calendar to be more fully interactive for people who prefer calendar-style interactions with our meeting platform. With a little time on my hands, it was finally time to tackle this project!

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Topics: meeting technology, release announcement

The Maslow’s Hierarchy of Meeting Technology

December 29, 2015 at 1:00 PM by Elise Keith in meeting technology

Earlier this month, we hosted a series of webinars covering different parts of the Lucid Meetings platform.

At the beginning of each webinar, we showed this pyramid that arranges the platform features into a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of meeting essentials.

A heirarchy of meeting technology, from scheduling at the base level on up to tech for high-performing teams

If you’re not familiar with Maslow’s theory, it can be summarized like this: before anyone can worry about advancing science, mastering the piano, or discovering their special purpose, they must take care of their basic safety and physical needs. They have to keep warm, to eat, and to sleep in a safe place.

You can think of the technology required to organize and run effective meetings in the same way. Every meeting has some basic features you need to support, like finding a time and setting up a call. Then, as the group starts to perform at a higher level, they need support for collaborating on the agenda and managing the meeting process. Finally, groups with a fully mature approach to running effective meetings need a way to collect feedback, monitor, and optimize their meeting processes.

Lucid Meeting’s goal is to make it easy for everyone in an organization to run consistently worthwhile meetings, whether those be simple ad-hoc meetings or more involved sessions, and the platform includes technology to support those meetings at every level of the pyramid. To keep each session reasonably short, we focused each one on a few key features, starting with the basics and moving our way up.

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Topics: meeting technology

The Missing Guide to Troubleshooting Audio & Video Conferencing Problems

November 19, 2015 at 12:20 AM by Elise Keith in meeting technology

Just want the highlights?
Get the key tips minus all the commentary in the PDF version of this guide.

ReadyTalk says that "The number 1 enemy of online conferences is poor audio quality", and I agree with that.

When we first released Lucid Meetings, we didn't include support for audio or video conferencing. We figured everyone already had something they used - WebEx most often, or maybe a Freeconferencecall.com number - so we didn't need to worry about that part and could just focus on helping people organize their agendas and capture minutes.

But time after time, we'd get support complaints from people who had trouble running a meeting because the audio failed, begging us to please add audio to Lucid so they could cancel their existing service. Without easier audio, they couldn't run successful online meetings.

So, we began integrating audio conferencing into Lucid. We started with a simple web-only audio feature, but soon found it too limiting. Next, we integrated a full-on conferencing service: toll dialing, toll-free numbers, call recording, international, the works.

Pretty soon we were running meetings that really needed video. We added integrations with Skype, Google Hangouts, and appear.in. Then, our big clients with expensive contracts through Adigo, Verizon and InterCall demanded we support their private conferencing in our meetings, and we added ways to set up custom audio profiles.

Every time we set up a new way to run audio or video conferencing, we'd test it and run into problems. Every time.

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Topics: meeting technology

Lucid Integrated Audio: Turbobridge Perfected

November 10, 2015 at 3:59 PM by John Keith in meeting technology, release announcement

Lucid Meetings is a sophisticated technology platform for running excellent meetings with your (remote) team and clients. The platform addresses three significant pain points for the modern meeting organizer:

  1. How do I create a shared meeting experience when people are not in the same room?
  2. How do I run meetings that consistently get results and favorable reviews?
  3. How do I manage all the audio, video, and screensharing technology needed for online meetings?

We write regularly about "meeting best practices"  that address the first two points, focusing quite a bit on soft skills and organizational methodology. In this post we're taking a different tack by looking deeply at one of the technology issues in point three: managing the conference calling requirements for online meetings.

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Topics: meeting technology, release announcement

27 Tools for Online Brainstorming and Decision Making in Meetings

September 25, 2015 at 9:57 AM by Elise Keith in meeting technology

Including step-by-step instructions, screenshots, short reviews, and our top recommendations

Last updated January 4 2017
We're adding new tools as we learn about them, and you'll find helpful replies and information from the companies listed here embedded in the full list at the end of the post.

How exactly do you do this online?

The Strategic Planning Meeting Essentials Pack designed by Anna O'Byrne includes a series of online brainstorming and decision-making exercises. If you run these meetings face-to-face, you'll use sticky notes, markers and a whiteboard for those steps in the process.

But, how do you do the sticky-note thing online? You can find dozens of online sticky note and brainstorming applications, but not all of them work well as part of an online meeting.

We decided to test out all the online sticky-note, brainstorming, and decision-making tools we could find to figure out just which ones work best for quick collaborative sessions during a meeting.

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Topics: meeting technology

Awesome: Rescue Your Meeting When the Audio Goes Bad

August 14, 2015 at 7:22 PM by Elise Keith in meeting technology, release announcement

Ever start up an online meeting and spend the first 5 minutes trying to get everyone on the call?

Ouch! Trying soo hard to hear...

Ever get part way through a meeting with terrible sound and realize your forehead may be permanently creased from all the squinting and frowning going on as you desperately try to make out what people say?

Ever set up a meeting with a new client, only to have them demand you use their favorite web conferencing service to run it instead of the one you’re used to?

Yes, of course you have.

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Topics: meeting technology, release announcement

7 Super Cool Ways Lucid Makes Your Google Hangouts Better

July 24, 2015 at 4:31 PM by Elise Keith in meeting technology, release announcement

Most companies fall into one of two camps: those that use, understand, and embrace the Google way, and those that don’t. If your team uses Gmail and Google Calendar, it’s likely you also use Google Hangouts for your team meetings.

Hangouts has been one of our top-requested integrations, and now it’s here. Starting today, all Lucid Meetings account owners can select to add a Hangout to their Lucid meetings.

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Topics: meeting technology, release announcement