Chris Higgins

Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for Mental Floss, This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.

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Recent Posts

6 Meeting Metrics to Collect in Every Meeting You Run

Mar 3, 2015 by Chris Higgins in tips & techniques (4 minute read)

Here's an excerpt from our new ebook, Meetings Are Serious Business: How to Minimize Costs, Maximize Value, and Master Your Meetings. It's from the third chapter, when we get into specifics about how to improve the ROI of your meetings by collecting metrics of meetings. It's easier than you'd think. Dive in!


You intuitively know whether your meetings create a sense of communal knowledge and purpose or whether they actually frustrate, bore, and confuse. What you need to do is turn that intuitive knowledge into data, and examine that data over time as you work to improve your meeting culture and the ROI for your meetings.

How to Collect Meeting Data



In your mission to use data as one of the tools for improving your meeting culture, you'll be collecting information that can show trends and patterns for your meetings, so you'll need a system where you can save and add to this data over time (in most companies, this will be an ongoing process lasting years). Most meeting productivity systems will automate much or all of this data collection for you; if you have access to one of those, that's the easiest way to get detailed records you can analyze later.

Alternatively, you can collect data in a spreadsheet. Nonprofit management consultant Mark Fulop wrote a great article on tracking meeting performance, including a sample Meeting Effectiveness Excel template (.XLS file), that provides a helpful starting place for creating your own tracking system.

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Topics: tips & techniques

4 Ways to Run Successful Meetings People Won't Hate

Feb 19, 2015 by Chris Higgins in leadership & facilitation (3 minute read)

We just launched an ebook to help you figure out how much meetings cost your company, how they affect your company's culture, and how to make them better.

Over the coming weeks, we'll post excerpts to give you a taste. First up, here are four ways to run successful meetings that people won't hate.

The list below is from a section of the book about a meeting-related research study. The study was all about having better meetings, and specifically what it was about a "good meeting" that made it good.

(If you'd like to read the original study, a PDF is here: Meeting Design Characteristics and Attendee Perceptions of Staff/Team Meeting Quality, by Cohen, et al. It's 15 pages long, so we figured some shorter take-aways with animated GIFs would help.)

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Topics: leadership & facilitation

2 Fast and Easy Ways to Get Meeting Feedback

Nov 5, 2014 by Chris Higgins in tips & techniques (4 minute read)

We all sit in meetings. But how often do we examine how well those meetings go? In this post, we'll walk through two simple ways to assess meeting effectiveness, so you'll know how to make your meetings better.

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s cover a few general tips:

  1. Let people know you’ll be asking for feedback
    The easiest way to do this is to include “Feedback” in the agenda as part of your last item. When you don’t let people know you’ll be asking for feedback in advance, they won’t have a chance to gather their thoughts and may resent the extra time - not the best situation for getting useful comments.

    Side note on this one: After every Lucid Meeting, people can provide feedback using an online survey, or they can skip it. If the meeting leader asks the group to fill out the survey, most people provide feedback. On the other hand, if the meeting leader says nothing and the survey just appears automatically, most people skip it.

  2. Keep it short
    Both methods described here can get meeting feedback in 5 minutes or less, although your group can take longer if you all find the conversation productive.

  3. Ask for examples of ways to improve, not about problems.
    We’re all naturally good at pointing out flaws, even when the supposed flaw can’t be fixed or didn’t really matter. You don’t want to ask questions that encourage a negative rant at the end of a meeting.

    Use “what can we improve?” instead “what went wrong?” By asking how to improve, you focus the group on improvement and solutions rather than criticism.

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Topics: tips & techniques

10 Tips for Running Online Meetings with People in Other Countries

Oct 16, 2014 by Chris Higgins in meeting technology, remote work (6 minute read)

We meet with international teams all the time -- our own company spans three timezones and two countries, and we work with clients around the world.

When you host international conference calls with people living in different countries, you run into special challenges. Here are 10 tips to help you plan and run international meetings successfully.

1. Use an Online Meeting Scheduler

If you live in one country but have participants from others, it gets very messy trying to figure out all the holidays, weekends, timezone "work day" overlaps, and so on.

Your best bet is to use an international meeting scheduler that allows participants to mark which meeting times work for them. Lucid Meetings includes the option to ask participants to select good times from a list; that's useful even if your team doesn't span countries.

If your meeting software doesn't support this kind of "ask the participants" function, try the World Clock Meeting Planner. It requires you to plug in the locations of all your participants, but gives you a reasonable idea of what might be a feasible time (or set of times) for your meeting.

2. Share the Inconvenience

I occasionally meet with a team including participants in these locations: the west coast of the United States, Israel, and Taiwan.

If you plug these locations into a timezone calculator, you'll see that there is no "good" time to meet. Inevitably, somebody on the team is up very early or very late to attend the meeting.

When you encounter this situation, rotate the meeting times so that each participant gets a "good" time slot once in a while.

In other words, if you're on the U.S. west coast, go ahead and schedule a meeting for 10pm Pacific Standard Time, so that the other participants will be in their offices during normal work hours. Then rotate it next time so you won't be in your pajamas.

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Topics: meeting technology, remote work

5 Icebreakers for Distributed Team Meetings

Sep 30, 2014 by Chris Higgins in remote work, tips & techniques (7 minute read)

When you run online meetings with people who are located in different parts of the world, it's crucial that you help your team make a human connection. "Icebreakers" are just the ticket: short team-building exercises conducted at the beginning of a meeting.

Because you don't have a physical way to get people moving around the same room, you have to adapt traditional icebreakers to work over distance.

Here are some practical tips for introducing an icebreaker activity into your next meeting... and a little advice on pitfalls to avoid!

When to Use or Not Use an Icebreaker

Icebreakers fit into a larger strategy of team-building and establishing team culture. Knowing your team, and knowing your plan to build team culture, is crucial to succeeding with any such exercise. Here are some scenarios in which icebreaker activities may be a GOOD idea:

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Topics: remote work, tips & techniques

Meetings Taking Too Long? 6 Tips for Shorter Meetings

Sep 9, 2014 by Chris Higgins in tips & techniques (4 minute read)

We've all been in meetings that take longer than they should. But if you're leading a meeting, how can you streamline that meeting and share the load with your team? Here are six practical, simple ways to cut your meetings down to size.


1. Clarify the Goal

The number one way to fix meetings taking too long? Get clear about when they should end.

This is simple, but often overlooked. When you schedule your meeting, tell everyone: "When we achieve [the meeting's goal], this meeting is over." It's up to you to define your meeting's goal. For instance: "When we agree on the features to include in the next release of the software project we're working on, this meeting is over."

By setting the criteria for meeting success up front, you achieve alignment within the group, and you make it clear what it will take to finish. Both of these help streamline discussions -- you're driving toward a clear goal.

Clear goals = shorter meetings.

2. Simplify the Agenda

If you have a lot of material to cover, remove the smaller stuff and consider breaking your meeting up into multiple sessions. While there's no simple guideline to know precisely how many agenda items your team needs (every team is different), ask yourself: Do I need everyone in the room to deal with every one of these agenda items? Wherever the answer is "No," cut that agenda item and deal with it elsewhere.

You may find that some items require the attention of more than one person, but not all the people in your meeting. When this is the case, it's your call whether the item should be in your agenda or should be handled in a sub-group and the result brought back to the team. The key point is to examine your agenda items with this criteria in mind before you go ahead with your meeting. Your attendees will thank you.

Also, be sure to assign time for each agenda item, and track to that time. If you're going over time on a given agenda item, make a choice in the moment: either stop the discussion and deal with the issue elsewhere (in a next meeting or separate discussion), or commit to spending extra time. If your key priority is to make your meeting shorter, that decision is easy to make.

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Topics: tips & techniques

5 Tips to Lead and Facilitate a Meeting Simultaneously

Sep 2, 2014 by Chris Higgins (3 minute read)

There are four distinct roles within a collaborative meeting: Leader, Facilitator, Note-Taker, and Participant. So what happens if you have to be Leader and Facilitator at the same time? Here are tips to make the best of this sticky situation.


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Who Does What in a Collaborative Meeting: Defining Meeting Roles

Aug 20, 2014 by Chris Higgins in leadership & facilitation (4 minute read)

When you hold a collaborative meeting, one key to getting results is deciding on who does what. If you define the meeting roles of the people invited, everyone knows what to expect. If you don't define those roles, someone's time is being wasted.

Okay, so how do you do this? Start by assigning your roles. Here's the set of roles we use for a typical team meeting; some kinds of meetings may have more, and sometimes one person holds multiple roles, but this is the core.

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Topics: leadership & facilitation

My Year With Lucid: Every Interview Is a Meeting

Oct 29, 2013 by Chris Higgins in behind the scenes (3 minute read)

For the past seven years, I've been juggling two careers: technical project manager and freelance writer. The project management part is familiar to most people in tech today; it's a now-common mix of general web skills, organizational ability, and the willingness to do basic calendar math.

The freelance writing bit has more to do with creating narratives and running a business, but functionally there's one big area of overlap: managing time and attention. In both career paths, I work with people and I run projects. So this past year working with Lucid Meetings has put me in an interesting spot as a writer: I'm obsessed with running good meetings, even when they're interviews.

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Topics: behind the scenes

Making Meetings Accessible

Apr 3, 2013 by Chris Higgins in meeting technology (2 minute read)


We strive to make software that "just works."

That's a core value we feel makes Lucid Meetings different from competitors -- we cut out the hassles you face with plugins, we make sure our software works beautifully on mobile devices (in case you want to join a meeting on your smartphone or tablet), and we strive to reduce clutter wherever we can.

Image: Single switch with a hand, by Flickr user vtsaran, used under Creative Commons license.

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Topics: meeting technology