How AI will save synchronous meetings w/ Robert Schutze CEO @Verbally

Can AI fix the worst part of work; sync meetings? It likely will be reducing time spent in meetings & ensuring you're only invited as needed



12/19/202239 min read

Here's the recap...Last week's episode was the 1st #irl and one where I meet a long-time remote friend in person. This week was the other way around. Was the first convo virtually with someone met in Berlin in-person? I spoke with Robert Schütze the CEO of Verbally who is working to kill off all the crappy parts of synchronous meetings. Something we all desperately need. We dove into what the ideal sync meeting looks like, when it should be called, and who should really be invited. We spoke about best practices and how leaders can adopt them to ensure sync meetings are actually valuable. We spoke about when to use async vs sync meetings. And so much more. If you're a manager in a remote or hybrid environment who is still holding on to sync meetings, this episode is a must

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Create a best practices playbook for sync meetings

Sync meetings don't need to happen because they need to happen. The future of remote is async by default. Meaning there should be clear guidelines around the best practices of sync meetings. These should include the following:

Before the meeting

  1. Does it need to be sync? Is there an immediate need that can't be handled or is too sensitive for async?

  2. Is there a direct action that will be taken immediately after the meeting?

  3. Which participants are required? Meaning they either have ownership of an agenda item (we'll get there) and will be active in participating.

  4. With the 2 boxes above checked, create a detailed agenda and share it a few days prior to the meeting. The agenda should clearly state the purpose of the meeting, and what direct actions and results are expected from the meeting. Finally, who specifically owns each direct action to be spoken about?

  5. This helps the team come prepared to the meeting rather than spending the first X meetings doing a recap or trying to catch up.

  6. This opens the door to async collaboration (questions, feedback, etc) before the meeting. Again, helping the actual meeting time be more efficient and productive.

  7. This can even prevent a meeting or specific participants from joining. They have the ability to provide their needed input or approval before the meeting. Personally, this helped prevent about 70% of meetings I've needed to call.

During the meeting

  1. First, rather than the typical 30 or 60-minute time blocks call a 25 or 50-minute meeting. The shorter time is mentally better and in the worst cases provides participants time for context switching to their next meeting (hopefully not).

  2. Where AI can play a big role. Meeting moderation. Ensure the agenda is viewable to everyone. Use a timer that's clearly visible to help ensure the group stays on time per each agenda item (you'll need to set the timing for each item).

  3. Give everyone the same amount of opportunity to speak so everyone is included and us opinionated extroverts take over.

  4. Record the meeting for those 'optional' participants or those that can't make it.

Tools like Verbally can help with the above to ensure at the end of the meeting there isn't the 'schedule a follow-up' since you didn't get everything done.

Post meeting

  1. Send a recap of the meeting to all participants. The recap should include:

  2. Recording of the meeting

  3. What was discussed and decisions made

  4. Created tasks, who owns them, and due dates

  5. Any additional next steps

Here AI can help regarding engagement. If Scott isn't speaking during the meetings that should prompt the meeting organizer to ask 1 of 2 questions.

  1. Do they really need to be invited? If Scott isn't participating it may be he doesn't have any feedback or direct responsibility for agenda items. At best, remote Scott from future meetings, or at worst move Scott to optional for future meetings.

  2. Alternatively, if Scott's input is extremely valuable but not being shared is he given the opportunity to share it? i.e. better moderation to ensure Scott gets a voice in the meeting.

Do also think about staggering invitations. Meaning, if Scott simply needs to share input or approve the first agenda item send him a 10 min invite for the start of the meeting. Since only the first 10 minutes of the meeting are relevant. The same way for later participants. Invite Robert at :20 so he can participate in the final agenda item. No need for Robert to be part of the entire meeting.

Scott - [03:09 - 03:13]

Hey, Robert, thank you for joining today. How's everything going in Berlin?

Robert - [03:13 - 03:17]

Hey, Scott. yeah, thank you. Everything, everything good? How are you Doing?

Scott - [03:17 - 03:59]

I'm doing well. This is a, this is a strange feeling for me. I think probably after this episode I'm releasing, an episode that was my first actual recording in real life that I did in Berlin. so I build a relationship with this person virtually for, you know, year plus, and then met in real life while I was in Berlin. And, I know a few weeks ago, so this is kind of like the opposite, you know, we met in person while in Berlin for the first time, you know, again, in real life, and now we're doing it on this, on this side. So it's very strange to have the in-person, relationship first and then kind of the virtual one come afterwards. So coming two weeks in, in, in a row, having some kind of unique, aspect to the episode Yeah, I, but that has been like that in the last years, right?

Robert - [03:59 - 04:18]

Where, most connections were, were done just virtually. And, remember the first, real meeting I had again, kind of, yeah, get together. it felt so strange, at first kind of meeting lots of new faces again. And, some of them then I realized I've been, I talked to before, through the camera and then seeing them in person. yeah, it was just a weird feeling.

Scott - [04:18 - 04:53]

you, It was definitely interesting to get back in, in, in touch with people. And, I think certainly for my Berlin trip of, you know, some people that I've, I've been speaking with, some, I've been mentoring and friends of whatever capacity, some for up to like two years I've been zooming back and forth for however long, and then actually sit there at a table for a coffee or a lunch or what, what have you. And like, wow, like you're really there, you get like, reach out and touch the person. don't do that. But, So usually the way that we start each one of these episodes is introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and tell us a little bit more about the, origin story of verbally.

Robert - [04:53 - 06:19]

Yeah, sure. so yeah, my background, basically I studied back in the day, business and international management. after that I tried out a typical things that I tell you in business school. So, tried out corporate setup and FMCG banking, strategic consulting, basically, yeah, all the things they tell you at business school at what you should do after that. but then, yeah, lucky, luckily that's now around, even over 10 years ago, I ended up in the startup world, joining back in the Days Zando, which, is an e-commerce fashion player, but now the biggest one in Europe. and I joined them back in the days to, build up the Polish market from scratch. And as I'm myself, half polish, that fitted very nicely together to basically bring those two worlds together. and, yeah, build that up for them. took over the UK market there, later as well. But that basically was my starting point in, into the startup world, and very luckily as as mentioned, because, after being able to compare what corporate life or consulting life, banking life is and, just much prefer kind of this, very dynamic entrepreneurial, approach to, to the startup world, yeah, I've been doing that for, for a couple of years. was like in a super high growth phase of zando back in the day. So, was very exciting. Like every, every week there were like hundreds of new colleagues starting and, was part of the, of the time of the i p o of the company. So it was, was a great, a great experience. but basically after a couple of years, the company got so big, that it became from a startup, a scale up became more and more of a corporate setup.

Robert - [06:19 - 07:50]

And one big downside of that was spending way too much time, in meetings. And many of that, felt very unproductive. And it became really frustrating to be drawn away from the entrepreneurial part to be actually hands-on to build something, which was what got me so excited in, in the first place. And that was then a trigger that, okay, that's time for me. it's a, companies at the stage were, were just doesn't fit together anymore. so I left, then joined a mobility startup, called Happy Car, joined them as a C E O, and was running that for a couple of years. So I was a, a smaller setup again, and basically, scaling the company then from, yeah, from a smaller setup to, for a couple of years. yeah, so that was, was a good time. But, also there realized, again, kind of meeting is kind of such an al part of, of our work life, and that even in a smaller setup, it can be an issue and very often is an issue that, if they're not properly set up, that people are annoyed, by being stuck in meetings. and you waste time being stuck in meetings. And basically after that experience, I met my co-founder Adam. and yeah, funnily enough, kind of we, he also worked at Zalando before, during the time I was there. but basically my first manager at Zando, was his manager, the last two years that he was there. And he connected us. And, Adam was already working on the idea of, of verbally and basically, he was thinking, during a sabbatical that what would be the biggest productivity lever at Zando.

Robert - [07:50 - 09:42]

And he very quickly ended up at the point that it's meetings. Like we spent so much time in that company in meetings that if you nail that to solve that problem, it's actually a huge productivity uplift for a company. But not just that, but those bad meetings are super frustrating for employees. So it impacts basically employee satisfaction motivation in the end. As, for me, it was one of the reasons why I left. So if you can actually solve that problem, it's not just kind of the, the pure financial business side from a company perspective, but you can actually impact globally, the lives of so many knowledge workers by freeing up their time and kind of getting rid of those unproductive, unproductive meetings. So, yeah, in the end, the solution, we came up with, Adam came up with that. We've been working on this, that we want to solve those unproductive meetings with a virtual meeting assistant that basically works on top of your video conferencing solution as school meet or Zoom currently in the future, as well Microsoft Teams. And it helps you to structure your meeting, implement meeting best practices, so to show an agenda, to show the goal of the meeting, to keep, keep track of the time of the meeting, avoid long monologues with a speaker timer, that shows up if someone's been speaking for an extended period of time. So basically anything a moderator would do, but software driven. And through this re repetitive approach, it helps you to implement meeting best practices. And the exciting, thing about that is that if you talk about that problem, anyone I talk to, everyone has had that experience of bad meetings. So that just keeps us, driven every day.

Robert - [09:42 - 10:31]

It's like, okay, we're really working on something that, has an impact on, on, on so many meetings, and so many people. yeah, so that's what we're working on. And in the, the next step is basically that we will use meeting analytics, to create transparency around the whole topic there. So who spoke, how much in the meeting, when did actually start in Anso helping you, suggesting you then in the future, how you can improve on that. So yeah, but we can talk about a bit, more in detail after that. But yeah, that's how we came up with verbally. That was during the co, covid time. So we started, February last year with our team, based here in Berlin. but yeah, working fully remote, we don't have an office. yeah, we try to meet up once per week in person, mo mostly for culture building and yeah, kind of just the social interaction. but yeah, have been running on that over the last, almost two years now.

Scott - [10:31 - 11:42]

That's awesome. we definitely need really, I think the first two seasons, most of the meeting related episodes have always been focused very much on the idea of async. this season we had earlier in the season, someone who was building also, Jacob was building a, a tool for synchronous video meetings to replace Zoom and Google Meet. so we're trying to cover also in this case, synchronous meetings and really focusing more on how and why. So for everyone that's listening, this is an episode about synchronous meetings. So I think, you know, probably could be like the, verbally one line pitches, no, we're killing the crappy parts of synchronous meetings. There's so many of them. If you could just kill all the things and really keep the focus on what the real value of asynchronous meeting is and leave it to that, and again, the, the increase in productivity and the value or, or farther higher. But we've obviously seen in the last 12, 18 months that, you know, asynchronous has become a very hot topic within the remote space. Within, within all the kind of conversations, your thoughts, you know, should all companies be async by default? or should there be certain types of meetings that are synchronous or again, when you need to have a synchronous meeting that's again, have certain criteria and things like that, would love to hear, hear your opinion.

Robert - [11:42 - 13:26]

Yeah, well, I think in general there is benefits to both async and, and synchronous communication. So, I wouldn't say that any company should be either one or the other. So looking just at async communication, super beneficial, for certain situations, especially if you're work in different time zones, then, I mean, it's really hard to, to connect synchronously if you are 12 hours or nine hours apart. I mean, Berlin time and, US West Coast time, super difficult to, to get that, working together. if you need a longer thinking process, to decide on something asynchronous is ideal for those kind of situations. or if it's more about updates, you don't need to sit together. You can do that, through documents, through recording and so on. But at the same time, if you look at synchronous communication, it's also extremely valuable, especially that part that you bring people together and it's social interaction. And as humans, we do need that. And I strongly believe that if you bring people together, that you can create something wonderful that, it's more than just like one and one in the end. It's, we get out of one and one, you get three. and you need that synchronous communication, my opinion for, for quick, interactions for brainstorming. So like more creative meetings, or complex, problem solving where you can feed off each other's thoughts and kind of, you have this very dynamic, process that you have in, in direct communication. So there is benefits for both types of communication, and that's why I, I wouldn't say that, and I don't believe that all companies should be async by default. What's more important is that you are very conscious.

Robert - [13:26 - 14:13]

Every company should be conscious about how they communicate and when to choose what. So kind of avoiding this, the meeting could have been an email, situations, right? and then it's important to find the right balance, the right mix between those two in order to get the best result of what you want to achieve. So think first of about what you want to achieve, and then you think, what is the appropriate kind of communication to achieve that? Is that async or is it sync or is it a combination of both where you do part of it sync and the rest async? so yeah, I would say no, I wouldn't implement it for everyone, but what should be implemented for everyone is this conscious decision making, of how you communicate, what you need, in order to achieve your goal.

Scott - [14:13 - 15:30]

Okay. that's definitely interesting. I'm very much myself an advocate of the async by default, meaning it's not async only, it's by default, it's asynchronous, but when you need to have synchronous meeting, which will, that will be like the next question of kind of what that criteria looks like. Then of course, at a synchronous meeting, I think you've hit one of those points perfectly. I think most meetings that I've set in, in my career have been information sharing, right? It's one person or a group of people, they prepare a presentation ahead of time. They read word by word by word. And like you think you said they're thinking like, God, why couldn't they have just sent me this damn thing? those, I don't think there's, at least from my opinion, there's ever a situation where those should ever be synchronous. those should be a very much asynchronous. but the idea of kind of the collaboration ones or the brainstorming ones. We had an episode, was it this season or last season with, Joe Wadowski who was the CEO of Maze also kind of talking about this. And he had a, had a, an interesting idea that he brought up from one of his mentors, called the the Rock and the, the monkey idea, the rock and the monkey problem, that in a rock problem, it's, Hey, I have this big boulder in my middle of my garden. I know what the problem is, the rock I need, I know I need to solve it. I need to get it out of there. I know how to get it. I just need like two or three people to come lift it up and move it out. And okay, so that those points asynchronous, right?

Scott - [15:30 - 16:46]

You don't, or it can come. I think it was, yeah, I think those were like this asynchronous here. Everyone pointed points, Hey, you do this. Step one, step two, step three solved. And then you had like the monkey problem where it was much of, Hey, I call you up, Robert. Hey, there's a monkey in my garden. I gotta go to work now. Can you come over and, and take care of the monkey? And you don't know anything about monkeys, you don't know what I'm supposed to do with the monkey And it's very much of, okay, you get people in the room together where you have an issue. So maybe it could be no revenue is down over the last quarter or the last month, or you've kind of seen a dip in something and you have no idea what it's from. Or hopefully, I'll put it the other way. You have a huge increase in in traffic to the site and signups and, and things like that. And you're like, where, where'd this come from? And you don't really see anything jump out again, you didn't do maybe any specific campaign. So you get people together to try to brainstorm different ideas of, again, you have no idea what the problem is, so you certainly don't know what the solution is or how to get there. Then it's really kind of coming up with those points. and I really, that kind of stuck with me that that idea where, again, if it's something you really clearly know, you don't need to kind of get the brains together. But if it's more of a kind of like that everyone shares something cuz you have no idea what the issue is, a better case. But to kind of bring to the question of when synchronous meetings should happen.

Scott - [16:46 - 17:46]

So I've been an advocate and teams that I've helped and I've coached when moving towards like an asynchronous by default method. It's having kind of like, I don't wanna call it like a scorecard or a manual of here's how and why and when you should have asynchronous meeting. Like you need to check off these boxes to have asynchronous meeting. And I think the same thing as well is for the recipient, like, here's your ways of not being in that meeting. If you can check off these boxes, you don't need to sit in that meeting. any kind of best practices or thoughts that, that you have on when a synchronous meeting happens to happen needs to happen or is called, you know, should there be some kind of structure or clear guidelines in place from both the meeting caller and the recipients themselves to be able to opt out, know, should we have some guidelines rules or is it more, you know, each person who may be calling a man of kind of ad hoc? Yes. I think we should have a synchronous meetings. So I'm gonna invite all these people cause I think they need to be there, or, okay. Hey, we should have much more of a structure in place, before actually calling that meeting.

Robert - [17:46 - 19:32]

Yeah, well first of all, I, I love the, the comparison with the, the rock and the monkey. I think that's, yeah, puts it very in a very nice matha, to, to grasp kind of when what is needed. I love it. regarding a question, I think having rules to opt out is kind of a patch for symptoms of kind of a bad meeting culture. It's if someone just sends out an invite, that's kind of, I think the, the, the most common example. So there is no, no goal defined, no agenda and so on. that means that just the, the meeting culture is not healthy. And if you implement those rules, okay, then you don't need to attend. If there was no agenda, then you don't need to attend. It's trying to fix that basically by nudging the organizer. Okay, I forgot to put that in place. So I should start, with that. So my approach is that you should go one level higher and try to fix the meeting culture, implement a healthy meeting culture, then you don't need those rules. The, the rules set basically when you can and should opt out. and, the things to, to look out for, as we mentioned is, okay, does it have a goal? Does it have an agenda and so on. That is something that should be agreed upon with the team. So everyone is, on the same page. Do you agree? Okay, we want to have implement that meeting culture, but then the solution is how can you get that into life? And it's not just, you know, putting it on a nice piece of paper and putting it in the meeting room, like in the like office world or having it in your, your notion or your internet, where just written down the problem always exists.

Robert - [19:32 - 21:15]

Also talking to, to many of our, users and, and companies that those guidelines do exist, the problem is I getting them into day-to-day life more than just one or two weeks after they've been implemented kind of in the day-to-day, just like it gets lost. that's actually also something that we try to help with, with verbally by nudging you continuously, to have a agenda. So if you invite verbally to the meeting, you don't have an agenda, it will nudge you. So you, okay, there is no agenda. Here is how you can edit to your invite. and just by repetition you can create those habits of good meeting, of a good meeting culture. so we have a whole feature set, that we're, we're rolling out which call habit nudging, where you can define as your team, which meeting best practice do you want to have implemented. If a meeting is longer than 50 minutes, then it should have an agenda. If that doesn't take place, we send out a reminder to you that this meeting doesn't have an agenda, should put it in. So we, we take care of this implementation of that. And only once we generate the habits of having a goal, having an agenda, that meeting is not too long. Avoiding like two big meetings, all all those best practices, then you can actually have valuable sync time and can avoid unnecessary meetings. So, long answer to your question, but basically I'm not a fan of having opt out rules, but very strongly proclaim for implementing, a good meeting culture. And we provide the tool in order to, tool set to help to do that. Because once you have that, you don't need to, the rules to opt out anymore.

Scott - [21:15 - 21:53]

Okay. that makes sense. I think you hinted, with the idea of the meeting agenda nudge is part of the next question. So for me, a proper good synchronous meeting is not just that called 30 minute block or whatever, the 60 minute block. There's a pre-meeting, there's a meeting during meeting, and there's a post medium, meeting. Now for you, what does the optimal meeting whole structure look like pre, during, post and how, and again, you hinted it for the prepo with the agenda, but how this verbally actually help, people run those proper meetings. Again, covering or trying to cover as much of that, no three pieces, as possible.

Robert - [21:53 - 23:24]

Yeah, yeah. I think also the clustering that you're using is exactly what we use internally when we look at the kind of the whole flows, like the pre, during and, and, and post-meeting, processes. so yeah, I mean, pre-meeting, yeah, it's not just the 30 minutes that you, that you are in a meeting. As, as I said, kind of, everything begins with a proper preparation. That's the most important part of having a valuable meeting. it's not sitting together, it's kind of the time you take before as an organize to properly prepare that. It's by setting a goal, a purpose, what do you want to achieve? Only if you do that before, if you take the time to think about that, you can actually decide, do I need a meeting? How long does the meeting need to take place? And who do I need to have in the meeting? So you start with that. You go over to what do I need to discuss the agenda basically in order to achieve that goal. Also, kind of time boxing it. If it's a longer meeting, in order to achieve that, then order to be able to stay on track, you need to decide who you actually need there and there less is better instead of more is better. In that case, try to avoid having too many people and only invite who you really need to have there. And if you're not sure, then also at that point already they send an optional invitation and the person can decide themselves. Do they have to be there based on the agenda that is there? And then you can send the meeting minutes or a recording after that. And, believe me, most of the people will take the, present, the gift of the, additional time and will opt out Shana meeting.

Robert - [23:24 - 25:07]

So it's this whole process that you, have before and it takes you maybe 10 minutes to prepare that before, but that actually saves you more multiples, more of that, during the meeting for everyone that's involved. So kind of it quickly edit adds up. Then if, if you end the meeting, maybe one last hint for the meeting time. cause we're so strongly looking in kind of the whole meeting topic, try to avoid or trying to avoid standard times helps you already to save time. So get rid of 30 minute meetings to 25 instead of 60 minute, 50 minutes meeting. There's this, so-called, Parkinson's law, which basically says that time takes as much space as you, allocate to it. Which basically means if you set a meeting for 30 minutes, you will use the 30 minutes. And that's why probably no or hardly ever, you have a meeting that significantly ends earlier. You always take the time that you have scheduled, but that additional five minutes helps you then to kind of calm down before the next meeting, get a coffee toilet break, and most importantly, context switch. So that actually helps for kind of your psychological, balance that instead of having this back-to-back meeting. So it's just a, hopefully you can avoid that completely e Exactly. Exactly. but kind of starting with those small things already help you kind of to, to have better, better meeting. If you go in, during the meeting part, it's taking conscious time at the beginning for, for check-in, because you will never start a meeting diving into the content. but you, you need time for some social interaction as mentioned, kind of it's, a good sync meeting is about interacting with people.

Scott - [25:07 - 26:14]

And yeah, that's, That's an interesting point. again, my, my very much of opinionated opinions are, you know, work meetings or work meetings and really like the same time should be for team building. So you have yes, this block of time and it gets what I've done with my teams. Like the work portion or the information sharing was always asynchronic time. We had synchronous time was always team building, relationship building. Yeah. So I'm very much of not a fan of starting like a work meeting with like the first couple minutes of how is everything going? Cause it's always felt like to me, it's okay a box I have to check off. And the person who's running the meeting, they honestly don't care. They were just expecting you and say, Hey Robert, how was your weekend? Or how are you feeling? They're just kind of ex mentally expecting you saying, oh yeah, okay, everything's fine. Okay, thanks. Now let's, let's get down to it. So I think it, at least for me, like relationship building, there's a 30 minute time, a 60 minute time, hey, when you're playing games together, you're building relationships together. And now if you're getting people together for work, again, the kind of a to your point, get away from a 30 minutes, hey, the faster we can dive into this, the faster hopefully we can be out of this thing. And then kind of new moving back to, to the time, yeah, very, I, I cut you off, so please, please continue.

Robert - [26:14 - 26:26]

No, and inter interesting perspective. I mean, I do agree that kind of you need to, as well have like separate time for team building that this should not be kind of the three minutes you put in, for protection should be your team building.

Scott - [26:26 - 26:34]

I mean, I think that's not really sustainable, Unfortunately for most cases, for many managers that's the role where the relationship building is especially remotely.

Robert - [26:34 - 28:10]

Exactly. That's, I think being stuck in the, in the old ways, kind of not adapting to the new situations that okay, that's should be enough. Which it's, obviously, obviously not, but, yeah, for me, kind of the, the check-in time is the equivalent of in the, in the old world, in the office world, that that's the time you need to sit down in your chair, pure your water kind of, and land in the meeting. And as well the, the context which again, having that time set aside actually makes the rest of the meeting way more productive. So, yeah, the consciously, thinking about that, but then yeah, starting to review the agenda, getting everyone on pa on the same page, what needs to be discussed. So you can also adjust that, if someone wants, wants or needs to change, the agenda. So we can consciously, again, take the decision instead of running through the meeting, ah, I have this, this topic I want to discuss, and then you completely drift off. So it's just kind of, yeah, best practices that, that help you stay on time, stick to the agenda, then avoid one person just hijacking the meeting. So try to keep a balance, speaker share, within the meeting. So those are all things that help you during the meeting to run a productive, efficient, meeting. And afterwards, the whole post-meeting part, it's reflecting on what happened in the meeting. So as with every process, you have to review the process, you have to review the meeting. We spend so much time in meetings, but that's the only process that's not structurally improved. Any other process we have at work is there's so many iterations, how can we make that tiny bit faster, a tiny bit better?

Robert - [28:10 - 29:51]

So for me, the crucial part is this. in the post, post-meeting section, review your meetings regularly, what can be improved? Who spoke? How much does everyone need to be there? did we run overtime? Do we need to shorten, shorten time, put less agenda points on? Do we need to have it weekly? Is biweekly enough or monthly or do we need a meeting at all? So it's a continuous process. And kind of coming to that point, how, how do we try to help with, with that? So in the kind of the whole journey, it's about we make it easy to show an agenda by just implementing it in the, in the meeting invite to start the meeting, we show a short gift that makes you smile to set kind of the right mood because it's social interactions and if you are set in the right mood, it also, again, it helps you to have healthier, more productive discussions. we help you to easily dis display and timebox the, the agenda so you keep focused during the meeting and avoid kind of getting off track. we have a speaker timer, as mentioned, so if someone speaks more than two minutes, we show a timer that shows, how long the person's been talking in the end to avoid unwanted long monologues. mostly people don't hijack a meeting consciously. Some do, unfortunately, but mostly it's unconscious. And we have those mechanisms of soft nudges that help you to, to basically, keep check, of that. And then before the end of the meeting in Google Meet, for example, we send a chat message like five minutes before, okay, time to wrap it up so we actually have time to align on the next steps and not have spend 30 hour, minutes and then say, okay, no one knows who does what when.

Robert - [29:51 - 30:08]

so that's what we're helping with. And kind of for the post meeting part, yeah, we are providing, we're working on, on this feature set now for the meeting analytics that afterwards you can actually see who spoke, how much, how long did you actually meet, need for the meeting, that helps you to review that process and structurally improve that.

Scott - [30:08 - 31:35]

Yeah, that's what really has me excited about verbally. Again, no, normally not a fan of, of synchronous meetings, but as we started off, I know the pitch line of no killing the crappy parts of synchronous meetings of, again, a tool covering all three of those parts where beforehand, and I'll kind of ask like a a follow up question to this, know, are you a believer in the practice of sharing the agenda ahead of time? Now this is something that I've have done for a long time and a tactic that I've used probably to prevent, I'll call it probably 70% of, of those meetings where you're trying to get someone to kind of, kind of get an approval or something adding somebody involved where again, there's, as you said, very detailed agenda. What are the expectations and what are the takeaways you're hoping to get from the meetings and who is assigned to each one of those? So I very much have seen if know, hey, I'm waiting for, for Robert to approve this project. And I know at mention, Robert, hey, that you're being invited for this to just give the green light, and then all of a sudden you see like a 60 minute block or a 30 minute block in your time, like, oh God, but you see, hey Robert, we just need your approval. No, it's 70% of those cases, at least I've had my career, Robert just supplied back approved. And then this way I'm, I'm, I'm at in that meeting. but also give the opportunity for kind of collaboration ahead of time where you can ask questions, we can live feedback. So maybe even adding more value and then know what verbally does during the meeting, which I love, again, getting people on kind of brings will bring me to my next question, you know, keep these people on task, get things I would actually love, like the cut off, Hey, you got two minutes and we just shut your mic.

Scott - [31:35 - 32:44]

Like maybe you need to like kinda raise your head, you know, for an extra 30 seconds or something. But like, all right, you're done. move. Moving on. and then the third part of the post meeting, which, something again that excites me about the, the product is that analytics of, again, keeping on task, but more in the sense of, hey, FYI Scott, we see that Robert who's been part of the last couple meetings only is engaged like 3% of the time, probably doesn't need to be there, you know, for future meetings. And being able to kind of give that insight. Cuz when you had said earlier about the idea of the kind of structure of, you know, putting people's optional versus, you know, maybe required and maybe giving them that sense that Robert is not so engaged. And again, cuz in theory he doesn't really need to be engaged, he's not so involved there, you know, giving you that heads up to say, Hey, maybe it's this first step, put him as optional or just maybe not, not include him again. Cuz there's, there's a lack of the engagement. So I think that's quite exciting. But yeah, just wanted to get your thoughts on the idea of again, sharing like that detailed agenda like ahead of time, a couple days ahead of time. And maybe part again, that was something that came up with, the episode with Jacob from butter of all the asynchronous work that's actually involved in synchronous meetings. We kind of love your, your thoughts there.

Robert - [32:44 - 34:05]

Yeah, totally agree with your approach to share the agenda ahead of time. as mentioned that if you want to have people or participants being prepared for a meeting so you can have actually productive discussion, if it's just about you talking, then you don't have to have a meeting. You can send an email, you can record a loom and so on. So if you actually want a good interaction, you want people to be prepared and for that they need to understand what needs to be discussed. And as you say, you can even avoid either the whole meeting, or a certain part of the meeting asynchronously, potentially. But for that you need to write down properly in the agenda what you want to achieve. So yeah, I think that's one of the, the main points about a successful meeting is that you think about and share that agenda upfront so the participants can prepare, can decide whether they actually need to be there or that part can, can be skipped. yeah, so think without, if you keep it, the agenda for yourself, that creates a whole different bucket of, of problems. And, yeah, that actually balloons basically the, the whole, the whole meeting problem and the amount, of time we spent in and meetings.

Scott - [34:05 - 34:53]

I, I agree. So coming to, to one of the points that you had mentioned before about maybe someone taking over the meeting, thinking about introverts, right? Introverts can quite easily get lost or silenced in in synchronous meetings, you know, especially remotely when they're not, they don't have physical presence in a room where they're just kind of right here facing the box. know in a, in a format like anything like Zoom or, or any other tool. and again, they can get overridden or kind of pushed the side by passionate people or people like me who are opinionated extroverts. how can meeting hosts in general better moderate meetings to ensure that everyone has a voice in the meeting? And certainly linked to that and obviously verbally, you know, how can tools using AI like verbally help ensure that introverts and everyone has an equal voice within that meeting?

Robert - [34:53 - 36:44]

Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think very important point that you mentioned kind of that there is different personalities and in the end kind of, that's why it's also, difficult to, to run good meetings, in the end because we work with different personalities and they, they behave differently. So we need to kind of address every personality differently in order to make them contribute. so in the end, the roll then of the moderator is to make sure everyone, everyone's voice is heard, or everyone has the room to make themself, heard if they want to say something. And, as having those different personalities, it's not even intentionally, done that the, the extrovert wants to take over all the, the, the speaking time sometimes yes. but mostly it's not intentionally to cut someone off, but just personality trait that they kind of have strong opinions want to, want to share them. So the role of a moderator is kind of to, to try to balance that out. The problem is, what we've seen is if you have a human moderator, a it's not scalable, you can't have a moderator in every meeting. That's, that's very difficult to, to have, especially for bigger organizations, unless of course the organizer takes over that role. But, it's then again, as it being, social interactions, the intervention for example of a moderator if it repeats itself too often, can then again be seen as, kind of unfair critique, and can then demotivate the person in the future, to contribute, for example, the extrovert. So our approach that is kind of that verbally is a neutral observer, neutral moderator. It's a tool that says, tells you during the meeting if someone has been talking too much and it will continue reminding you that you spoke over two minutes, even if it's the fifth time.

Robert - [36:44 - 38:26]

Whereas the organizer, maybe does that one two maximum three times after that. It just feels rude and doesn't want to that. Or another extreme example is if, if the person that's talking too much is your manager, some people don't have the courage to interrupt then, their, their manager, that they're talking too, too much. And so verbally comes in as, as this neutral observer that no matter who it is, it just states the fact that someone has been talking for two minutes, not saying it's good or bad. And that actually helps through that repetitive process to change our behavior. And that's how we help kind of during the meeting. And the other part is the, the whole post-meeting part to, to make it transparent, who spoke how much so that it's also not, in my opinion, you've been talking most of the meeting and didn't give to anyone time. It's the tool is helping you to support that message. So here, you've been talking 80% of the time, we need to balance that out a bit more, in order to have discussion or the other way around, okay, if that meeting is about me speaking 80% of the time, or you Scott, you the attended the meeting, then maybe let's use a different format. You can record a loom where you can, if it's an update, you can give your update through that. So we help during the meeting to keep this balanced speakers here and post-meeting by making transparent what actually happened in the meeting without giving this judgmental touch that can be seen as critique, which negatively impacts in future behavior. so I think that's a big advantage of using, yeah, software instead of a human for that.

Scott - [38:26 - 40:05]

No, that, that's actually very interesting. I'm like, as you're speaking, like ideas are kind of in a crossing my head, especially with the post. I think that the question of more just understanding, cause I, I think that's probably the, the part that excites me the most, of really learning more about how it works now and like what the vision is. and it makes sense kind of, hey, you know, again, the use case that we had before was no Roberts and engaged know 3% of the time. And it's, it's interesting, again, love to to hear what you're thinking of and again, how do all the pieces come together, you know, is it, you know, with the agenda, Robert wasn't having a specific meeting agenda item, so hey, that 3% is means, hey Robert should be optional or not invited. Or maybe on the other side that Robert has maybe one or two items there, and in fact he only spoke 3%, means that he's not speaking as much as he should. So again, then thinking like what is there a better format? I mean that's, I I think that's super interesting. You know, do again, maybe if Robert is supposed to be there, he is supposed to be more engaged and they simply isn't. Yes, no, maybe do you use a different format? Maybe you do like a one-on-one, like, you know, is, is the AI thinking about like different alternatives, not only just, hey, Robert is speaking the 3% and then again, maybe currently earn the future, it's going to understand maybe from the agenda items, okay, this is a good thing or this is a bad thing. And then kind of what, what looks like afterwards and in the cases where you said like, maybe this meeting shouldn't exist, like how would love to hear like what you're thinking about that, you know, how can really an AI really understand that maybe outside of engagement or a simple poll, right?

Scott - [40:05 - 40:24]

An anonymous poll at the end of time. Like, should you have had this meeting thumbs up or thumbs down If you get, you know, 50 plus percent more thumbs down, then maybe it says, Hey, after a few meetings, let's get rid of this thing. Yeah, I'm fascinated maybe talk, talk to, talk to us a little bit more about that post and maybe the even the vision, like what, what what you can do today and, and maybe where that vision's going.

Robert - [40:24 - 42:26]

Yeah. So in terms of, yeah, where, where we're heading. I think you, you mentioned some, some, some good examples, kind of how detailed can, can the suggestions be? So we obviously we're starting more general with general, well first surfacing the data, then going into more general advice based on the data and then going more deeper, into, as you said, based on the agenda points, if you were tacked for a certain agenda point and you you didn't speak at all, what can that mean? so we need to generate more context in order to be able to, to judge whether that's good or bad or potentially good or bad. so we always think about kind of being non-judgmental because the meetings with being social interactions, it's can be so diverse and, it, it's complex to say for sure whether something was good or bad. So it's more about, surfacing, surfacing the data and suggesting what could be a better solution and going in the future. Then, for example, that you can assign roles of the participants in the meeting. Is it just a observer that should be there for urgent problem solving or technical question resolving in that situation, in that meeting. And then it would be fine if that person has little to no, to no engagement because the role is specified for that. So we will go more detailed into understanding kind of, of the, the roles of the participants in the agenda points and so on to give you a bit, yeah, cut more customized, recommendations based on a meeting type. Is it a, is it a brainstorming se session where everyone should give their input or is it a more, a discussion between two functions where you have ex two experts, on, on each side?

Robert - [42:26 - 42:39]

And it's fine if one is not speaking because that topic was not raced, but it was necessary in that situation to have everyone in the room, virtual room, to, to the, to, to get quickly to a decision.

Scott - [42:39 - 44:06]

Interesting. So again, the, the ideas are always turning in my head. That's the, the curse of the entrepreneur like again, thinking about the case of just how fascinating this is to me of, again, let's had you meeting about, right this podcast. So we had a 25 minute meeting, we have three agenda points, podcasts, blog posts, social media campaign, right? And you, Robert, you're the social media person where, you know, based on AI maybe can, and then using NLP talks about podcasts and we kind of language changes to, to to blog where maybe it understands, hey, you're the social media person, you are linked to agenda item number three. Or maybe in essence when you kind of join the meeting, you go into like a waiting room call. Like a waiting room where since the first two points have nothing to do with you, you don't really get pulled into the meeting so you can still do whatever you're doing. And then only once you kind of get to that third final point where you're actually need to be involved does, does it pull you in. And again, maybe giving you that, you know, cuz people complained about, you know, if I'm, if I'm agenda point number three and out of 25 minutes, we only get to that point at 22 meeting, no minute 22. I've just sat there for 22 minutes for kind of, for nothing. Yeah. And having that idea, okay, well the only, I just need to be here for three minutes, so just pull me in, right for those three meetings. And usually that's always when you hear from like a CEO, right? When there's a big meeting going on, like, pull me in or call me when you need me specifically.

Scott - [44:06 - 45:01]

And kind of the other way, conversely, hey, I'm the, I'm the podcast engineer, like as soon as I'm done with the podcast, please, like, I'm gone. And okay, I can maybe if I need to get like recording or if you, now you need me, you can say my name and all of a sudden you'll like ping me or like bring me back onto the video. I dunno, this is very fascinating cuz like in essence, like that's the, I think the biggest issue of synchronous meetings where like you're sitting there not engaged for waiting for some point where you're involved either like the beginning or the end or once you've gotten involved and you're kind of now sitting there waiting for the meeting to end. Like how would we potentially solve that? You know, how do we kind of like have like this essence like a waiting room, right? You're just kind of sitting there doing your work, whatever it is, and only at the right time does it actually like, hook you into the meeting to provide the value that you need and engagement that you need. And then if it's over, okay, let you slide back out to the, the waiting room or what have you.

Robert - [45:01 - 46:32]

This is fascinating Yeah, I exactly as a second of there is like endless possibilities to, to, to think about that. And that's kind of why, why that space is so exciting because there is so much to be done. And as I said, so also just thinking, thinking about the examples you gave, you can send us slack notification once the agenda point comes up or five minutes before, you can start with just static times. then in the future based on content, if you get to that point, you can set, generate a separate, meeting invite for the person for that time block based on tagging a person. So there's so many possibilities to actually improve that. I mean, what we've, what we've tried out, in, in the user interview where we're simulating different features was, that you can, through voice command extend the meeting time if you need to, verbally at five minutes. In that case it would change the calendar, entrance as well by five minutes and you could notify automatically if you have another meeting coming up, could notify automatically via Slack or email that person is coming a bit later because of that meeting being extended instead of having this, now I'm in between two meetings, totally stressed out. here, I can't finish properly on time there, I need to jump into the next one. So there is like those endless possibilities of improving where we need to spend time for the synchronous, exchange. And we're, we can avoid that and, do do asynchronous work.

Scott - [46:32 - 47:17]

That, that, that's super exciting. last question I have for you, and again, I think we've probably hit on all the points maybe a couple times and maybe we'll kind of just try to wrap it up into to one, nice package as we close it out. But managers who are still stuck in some old office traditions, tend to also be very much big fans of synchronous meetings and, and having too many of them now while the rest of the team it's kind of quite clear, are much more interested in async. What's the best advice that you can give these leaders into moving away from tradition, right? Cause we're all moving away from the office tradition into the future of work, and how can or what advice can you give them to start helping them organize better meetings and the right meetings?

Robert - [47:17 - 49:02]

Yeah, yeah, I think kind of, as you framed it, they're stuck in all traditions and that basically means you need to start a change process. and that's, that's what's difficult, right? You need to do something differently and continuously do that. So not just try something out. so my advice would be first kind of take a step back to reflect and create awareness of what's been going on. So have a look at your calendar and see how much time you actually spend in meetings and how much you could potentially free up. So if you see that visually, I mean if you, look at, at the calendar if, from someone like being, being stuck in a in the old way, it's, it's terrifying. Like I, kind of my heart starts racing just looking at a calendar like that. so if you create first that awareness, okay, how can we solve that? And then start small, start getting small wins. So take one meeting series, look at it and see do you actually need to still have that meeting or can that be asynchronous? If that's needs to be a meeting, then start implementing those meeting best practices by setting a goal, setting an agenda, trying to shorten the time, getting away from the standard times and roll with it. See how that feels if you get into the rhythm. And I can assure that person that once you try it out, you feel okay, that's actually a much better meeting if I took the time before. And that's so fascinating when we talk to, to our users and yeah, get user feedback, it's like, oh yeah, like once I start using verbally, once I get used to it, kind of like it feels weird to have a meeting without it, if I don't have the, the time or visual anymore, if I don't have the agenda to follow.

Robert - [49:02 - 50:11]

So it's about creating this small wins and then it's like, okay, now I can take care of the next meeting. And in the end about, it's about, again, this as mentioned before, this continuous process of improving, reflecting. And so you work your way through and that's kind of how you can start getting away from the old being stuck in the, the, the old process and getting better synchronous meetings and getting rid of some meetings that can totally be done, asynchronously as mentioned, like all those update meetings, were just one person is talking, why do you need to sit in a meeting at a specific time? You can record that. A person can then watch it in twice the speed, which again, saves up half the time. or just jump into the part of the, that recording that is important. So, yeah, think creating awareness, taking, first steps creates small wins and basically go from there. And yeah, using a tool like verbally actually helps to, to implement that because you have this repetition, those reminders and it's an easy way to implement those, those best practices. And, instead of trying to find your own ways, to, to implement that, That's fantastic.

Scott - [50:11 - 50:22]

For people who are listening, who are interested in learning more about you getting a hold, of getting a hold of you learning more about verbally, trying out verbally, what's the best way to, to get a hold of you and to check out verbally?

Robert - [50:22 - 50:47]

yeah, you can check out verbally on, yeah, product as well for free currently. So you can just sign up, invite the assistant to your meeting, as a participant. And that's it. So it's super easy to use. And, yeah, if you, if you want to reach out best you can reach me on, on LinkedIn, that's, the best way to reach me. otherwise as well on Twitter. yeah, so happy, for any questions around that topic. I'm always, happy to chat.

Scott - [50:47 - 51:25]

Amazing. Robert, thank you so much for joining. It was a great conversation and again, I always enjoy, I guess I'm enjoying more of these conversations around the topic of synchronous, which again, we're, we're always very, very much avoided. Then again, the focus is very much of yes, let's kill the crappy parts of meetings. what are the right parts of meetings and how do we take advantage of the good useful parts of synchronous meetings? How do we only focus on that and how do we again, wipe away all the stuff? So love the insights, love the feedback. Appreciate you joining today and for everyone listening. until the next episode. Have a lovely day everybody.

Robert - [51:25 - 51:30]

Thank you very much for having me