How Evernote, Kickstarter, Buffer & Other Top Tech Firms Run Their Marketing Meetings

Top tech companies like Evernote, Buffer etc are the masters of Scrum, of building fast and being willing to make mistakes along the way. In the quest for maximum productivity and results, they’ve eliminated time-wasters like ineffective meetings and with their insights, you can too.

Evernote: Andrew Malcolm, Chief Marketing Officer

One of the worst ways a company wastes time is by dragging thinkers into a meeting where their presence isn’t required. As Andrew Malcolm, Chief Marketing Officer at Evernote explains:

Research shows knowledge workers spend 80% of their day “collaborating” … which means we aren’t engaged in the deep work that is the real value add of someone who thinks for a living. So if I’m going to contribute to that 80% by asking you to be in a meeting, I better have a good reason for it.

Having said that, I think there are different types of meetings that warrant different attendees:

1) one way comms to create alignment — moments where an entire team needs to hear the exact same message can be larger but these should be infrequent — eg all hands for major announcements

2) decision making meetings — at Evernote we call these debate, decide, commit meetings should have as few people as possible to make a decision. The greater the trust in an org, the smaller this number can be as people expect one another to do the right things. Examples here would be cross-functional project teams or strategic decisions.

3) feedback meetings — ideally these are 1:1 but sometimes managers have to resolve tension so these could be a little larger

It’s also important to cultivate a culture of respect.

(despite being Evernote) we usually have no device meetings — not because it’s mandated but because people come with engaging agendas about interesting issues. I think that should be the standard too. If a meeting isn’t earning your attention, it’s probably not the most important thing to be doing then and you should go do the thing that’s most important.

The concept of a meeting having to earn your attention isn’t a typical one, but maybe it should be. If you’re bored in a meeting, perhaps it’s because the meeting isn’t relevant to what you actually do and your time would be better spent working.

Kickstarter: Jon Chang, Digital Marketing Director

Jon Chang, Digital Marketing Director at Kickstarter knows how to avoid meeting derailment and to keep everyone on the same page and following the agenda.

Tangents often happen when meetings aren’t data-driven and data-focused. Getting people out of the mentality that large impact decisions can be purely anchored to “I feel” or “I think” statements requires a thorough understanding of the data. Instead, we try to focus those large impact decisions on “the data demonstrates” and “based on the data-driven insights” statements… stakeholders have specific windows of time to provide comments in documents before and after meetings. It really helps get everyone on the same page and agenda. Additionally, simply writing the agenda on the board or screen helps.

He also knows that trust and respect are critical components for a marketing team (or any team) to work together effectively and shares Kickstarter’s process for ensuring both.

We’re very thoughtful about our hiring process, making sure we’re hiring experts in their fields who we trust and respect.

Doist (Todoist & Twist): Brenna Loury, Head of Marketing

Being a fully remote team doesn’t make running meetings easier. If anything, it’s harder to coordinate across time zones, but as Brenna Loury, Head of Marketing at Doist explains, respect — demonstrated through meeting time limits and a clear agenda — is what makes their meetings run smoothly.

As far as I know (and in my experience) there aren’t any meetings at Doist that last longer than an hour. We try and ensure this limit in order to respect all of our team members — with so many time zones, it’s common for meeting times to fall into some people’s evening/night time. We try our best to be as productive as possible in the meeting in order to respect each others’ personal lives.

In fact, our general rule of thumb is that there needs to be an explicit list of items to discuss prepared beforehand so that each party knows the agenda and can properly adhere to it. Each regularly scheduled meeting has its own Todoist project with two sections: Items to discuss and Actionables, so that there is clear follow-through after the meeting concludes.

Without respect for one another on every level, your company will not succeed, no matter where you’re all located.

If there’s not a culture of respect in your meetings, is there a culture of respect in your company as a whole? I’d venture to say that if the answer is no to the first question, it is no to the second as well.

Disrespecting your team’s time and attention with unproductive meetings is, I believe, an easy way to sow resentment. Everyone’s time is extremely limited and when it becomes hijacked by inefficient and irrelevant meetings, bitterness and annoyance ensues.

Drift: Matt Vazquez, Conversational Marketing Manager

To avoid wasting time at meetings, Matt Vazquez, Conversational Marketing Manager at Drift, ends them as soon as the goal is reached.

We try to end meetings as soon as the purpose of the meeting has been accomplished, the upper limit being 30 minutes. The only exception to this rule is the company-wide meeting that wraps up the week on Fridays. That one runs a bit longer because it is more informal and acts as a mini celebration of what was accomplished that week.

30 minutes might not seem like enough time to accomplish big goals in a meeting, but if no one is distracted, it’s amazing what can be done in 30 minutes or less.

Leaders at Drift have established a set of standards around meetings. For example, no laptop and cellphone usage is tolerated during meetings. Leaders demonstrate this in front of new hires on their first day, which helps the culture stick.

MindMeister (& MeisterTask): Raphaela Brandner, Marketing Manager

What do you do if you’re not sure if that a person can contribute to the meeting? In that case, use Rafaela Bradner, Marketing Manager at MindMeister and MeisterTask’s strategy:

At MeisterLabs we’re always mindful about other people’s time, so I generally don’t invite people to meetings unless I’m sure they have something valuable to contribute. If I’m unsure, I send them the meeting agenda and simply ask whether or not they think they have something important to add. Inviting people just do keep them in the loop is not necessary as we can easily share the meeting minutes with them afterwards.

Taking great meeting minutes (the record of actions and decisions) and having a clear agenda are the keys to MeisterLab’s effective meeting strategy.

The bigger the proposed change or project, the harder it is generally to keep people on track. I always prepare a meeting agenda which is projected onto the big screen during the meeting, and this visual reminder definitely helps. If we do get too far off topic, I will often put an end to the discussion by saying that we can schedule a separate meeting to talk about these issues, and that it’s time to move on to the next item.

HelloSign: Tiffaney Fox Quintana, VP, Marketing

In a culture of “let’s just call a meeting”, Tiffany Fox Quintana, VP of Marketing at HelloSign’s stands apart. As she explains of her meeting strategy:

before scheduling a meeting, I think it is also important to ask whether or not this task can be accomplished through an email. If the information being share or the actions that need to take place don’t require debate, discussion, or active decision-making during the meeting, the meeting could potentially be condensed to an email and save everyone time.

When a meeting is the best way to make progress on a marketing project, she’s careful to keep the meeting on track.

Tangents can take off from just about anything and we can start going down a rabbit hole fast depending on what is top of mind. As a company, we have a focus on keeping things on schedule, so to pull things back we generally do a time check and relate that back to what we still need to accomplish in the meeting. If the debate is important, we can suggest finding another time to discuss it further.

Buffer: Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing

Meetings are like gases, expanding to fill their containers. So goes the thinking of Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer when he explains how he times his meetings.

I believe that a meeting expands to fill the time you have, so I try to keep things purposefully brief, no more than 30 minutes. If the agenda feels like it’s bigger than 30 minutes, then we try to break it into smaller pieces or multiple chats. Often times, we’ll find that not everyone needs to be present for all the topics, and then those specific topics are addressed in breakout chats with a smaller group.

And that preparation for a meeting doesn’t need to be done weeks in advance in order to get everyone on the same page.

If it’s a new topic, I’ll write up some notes 24 hours beforehand and share with all involved. Typically those notes will include an objective for the meeting so that everyone is clear.

Ideally there won’t be any background needed in the meeting itself and we can get right into it. I’ve found that the team is pretty well-versed on marketing topics (we’re a smaller team of 70), so I’m lucky that I don’t end up prepping too often.