App Spotlight: Make meetings more productive with Less Meeting

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You know what's wrong with meetings? Exactly: everything.

Less Meeting for iPhone and iPad promises to boost meeting productivity by automating and simplifying some of the toughest chores: planning the meeting, taking notes, assigning action items, and so on.

The app is a companion to the Web service of the same name. With that service you can schedule meetings using a Web interface or Outlook plug-in, then sync your calendars across Google Calendar, Outlook, and the app.

While you're actually running a meeting (which Less Meeting refers to as a "huddle" and limits to 30 minutes), you can zip through agenda items, invite additional attendees, and, most importantly, capture notes under the headings General Discussion and Next Steps. You can even add or capture a photo if needed.

The note-capture tool works beautifully, with a simple outline-style structure that reminds me of WorkFlowy. But here you can classify any entry as a note, decision, or action item, with this last option assigned to a specific person.

Meeting veering off topic? It happens, which is why the Less Meeting app offers Parking Lot: a place where you can store off-topic items (notes, basically) for later discussion or review. The idea, of course, is to keep you on track and get that meeting done within 30 minutes.

Once a meeting ends (or you end it manually), the app immediately creates a new email to all attendees, one that contains the full minutes of the meeting: who attended, when and how long the meeting ran, the agenda (with meeting notes), action items (and who they're assigned to), and any Parking Lot entries.

This is some insanely handy stuff. Needless to say, the app also keeps a log of your meetings so you can review them later, and syncs with the Web version for even more options.

Less Meeting works well on an iPhone, but it really fares best on an iPad, where it's more comfortable to type and there's more room to see all the agenda items, notes, and details.

One missing feature the app could really use: audio recording. If you're going to document a meeting, it would be nice to have the option of an audio record as well. If you need an app that offers that feature, check out Audiolio.

Although Less Meeting is free, and can be used offline free of charge, it definitely works best when paired with the Web version. You can try that free for 30 days, after which you'll pay $12 per month per user for teams of 1-9 or $10 per user per month for teams of 10-99. That's a little steep, yes, but after spending some time with Less Meeting, I really believe it has the power to be a transformative tool for small businesses—especially those mired by scattershot, unproductive meetings.

Have you found a better tool for manhandling your miserable meetings? Tell me about it in the comments.

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