Meetings have a bad rap as inefficient time sinks. It doesn’t have to be that way: Turns out there may be hope for a productive meeting yet. MinutesPad is a $1 Android app that contains a magic recipe for more productive meetings. There’s a free version, too.
Meetings Can Be Structured
MinutesPad’s secret is that it breaks meetings down into their component parts in a very structured way. First things first: A meeting has a title, one or more topics you’re doing to discuss, and a bunch of attendees.
A meeting is composed of a number of topics you’re going to discuss – top-right you can see the topic creation screen.
Within The Meeting
The attendees are people you work with, so MinutesPad assumes you have them saved as contacts on your device. This makes it easy to add anyone without having to type their full name, and you get a nice contact photo along with the person as well (right):
Once you’ve created a topic (Feature Stories in this case), you can make three types of notes: A discussion, a conclusion, or an action item. Each meeting can have several topics, and each topic can have several notes of different kinds. If this sounds like it requires a fair bit of typing, you’re right. Fortunately, you can connect an external USB keyboard to your phone, which makes using this sort of app much more practical. I’ve had some good experience with the previously-reviewed AmazonBasic Bluetooth keyboard as well.
Here’s what adding a discussion note looks like:
To the left is the edit view (where you can type the discussion), and to the right is the summary view, which lets you read whatever went on in the meeting. Each discussion should theoretically have some sort of conclusion, and perhaps one or more action items as well:
The topic review screen creates a stream of whatever happened with regards to that topic, while the overall meeting screen makes it easy to see which topics you discussed, and how many notes you made about each topic:
Minutes are usually quite easy to keep using a plain old document (we often use Google Drive, but having this structured layout can help keep everyone on track.
Templates and Reports
Some teams hold periodic meetings, be they weekly, monthly, or quarterly. These are often review meetings, to check how things are going with a certain project, or to evaluate team performance. As such, it helps to keep them uniform: If you always discuss similar points from meeting to meeting, it becomes easier to track your progress over time. This is where templates come in:
A meeting template has just a title, a bunch of topics, and attendees. You can then use it to quickly make a full-fledged meeting record when the time comes.
Finally, once the meeting is over, your notes don’t have to stay within MinutesPad: The app can export a complete report as an HTML file and email it to any participant you choose.
Using HTML and email is a very good choice for an app like this: Rather than go with yet another proprietary cloud-sync system, it uses formats and tools you already have. Because no data is saved into a random cloud service, all sorts of teams in larger organizations can use MinutesPad without violating their organization’s IT rules.
Holo? What’s Holo?
Two things really stand out about MinutesPad: The first is a complete and blatant disregard of any Android design guidelines. The bright colors, the odd typography — the whole thing feels like it was made in a design universe of its own. Fortunately, the design language is at least consistent within the app, and I found I was able to get used to the color coding after some time (being colorblind helps, perhaps).
The other notable thing is that MinutesPad shows a very clear and incisive understanding of what meetings are all about. Even if you don’t end up using the app for your team’s meetings, playing around with the app can help you form a clearer notion of what a productive meeting can look like.