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Putting 'meaning' back into meetings with the Just Ask tool

May 4, 2020

Putting 'meaning' back into meetings with the Just Ask tool | Softway | Digital Transformation
Neethi Gnanakan
Written By Neethi Gnanakan
technology News

For a very long time, all-hands meetings at Softway felt like a slog. A chore to check off a list. A do-what-you-have-to-do to show up for the meeting and be happy about it, too.

Typical responses to large meetings or company standups at Softway included any or all of these: 

  • Grabbing their cup of coffee and whispering "keep an open mindset" into their mug as they sat down. 
  • Wishing and hoping and praying that they wouldn’t get picked to comment
  • Scavenging for seats with minimal visibility from the host.

Zero engagement in large meetings

Well, almost zero. As our company meetings felt tired, long-winded, and one-sided, it became more and more evident that real, inclusive engagement was absent. Particularly in larger, full company meetings.. It wasn't just about butts in seats—it was about people wanting to show up. To be present and engaged.

That realization struck like lightning. It helped us realize that Softway's vision, bringing humanity back to the workplace, wasn't being achieved in meetings. They lacked what Softway aims to achieve with everything we do.

We preach it. We try hard to live by it. But when it came to meetings, there was a huge void.

When we took inventory, we found lots of flaws in how we ran our company-wide meetings:

Our meetings lacked inclusion

Our meetings usually had the same voices speak up. No matter how great and safe we perceived our culture to be, there were pockets of awkwardness and fear that would paralyze people from just asking a question. Recognizing the fact that we're all built differently, but all have the need to be heard—we were inspired to leverage our technical capabilities and humanize it for better meetings.

We needed a simple and effective way of being able to hear every person in a meeting, townhall, or event—in real-time.

Our meetings lacked relevance

Like most meetings since forever, the person leading the meeting defined the agenda, regardless of how relevant or vital the topic was to those in attendance. At Softway, our ‘all-hands’ company wide meetings struggled with getting a pulse of the audience. We just weren’t able to clearly understand how people felt about what was being shared. Was the information relevant? Missing the mark? We weren’t sure.

We badly needed a tool that gave purpose to an attendee’s presence in a meeting.

Our meetings lacked measurement 

Meeting organizers felt clueless about how their presentations were perceived. In working towards being agile, we've been profoundly committed to transparency. But though we made efforts to gather feedback during and after every meeting, it barely opened up conversation in real time. Our speakers left these meetings wishing they had more real time insights so they could pivot and address issues directly. 

We needed a transparency tool that gathered questions and feedback for faster solutioning, better outcomes, and more alignment.

So what did we do? We built a tool that addressed inclusion, transparency, and audience participation in meetings.

We made something that can help get the most of every meeting.

It's called 'Just Ask' (Yep, that's what we named it!)

Just Ask is a lightweight audience engagement web app that allows meeting hosts to gather questions from attendees in real time. 

One thing: we didn't plan on launching Just Ask during a pandemic. But as we got closer to the release of the product, the Just Ask web tool took us by surprise. As Softway's entire workforce transitioned to 100% work-from-home, the features aligned perfectly to help address the numerous challenges and changes that came from working remotely. When we put it to use and began testing it with our remote teams, it worked even better than anticipated. 

We built the Just Ask tool for our team—but we think your organization could use it too. That's why it is free, simple to set up, accessible from any device, and feature-rich for hosts and attendees. 

Here's how it can bring meaning to your *remote* meetings too:

Next level inclusivity 

Remote meetings can be a hot mess. Full stop. We spend lots of time waiting around for people to stop talking over one another and cameras/audio to work correctly. All that technical mess kills collaboration and makes it even harder to run an inclusive meeting. In a matter of moments, you can set up a Just Ask room for questions to be submitted (anonymously or not) to respond to questions people care about rapidly. Attendees can upvote or downvote questions to show their support (or lack thereof). When we hear everyone's voice in a balanced way, our meetings improve, morale improves, and trust improves.

More efficient meetings

When our team at Softway started to use the Just Ask tool as part of our meetings, the efficiency of our meetings improved by leaps and bounds (our record at Softway is ten "meaty" questions answered in less than 5 minutes with the Just Ask tool). Since hosts can see submissions in a queue and decide how much time they can spend answering them or even choose which one to answer, efficiency improves. The upvote feature pushes questions to the top, allowing the host to answer questions that resonate with a majority, and can still have time to answer lower priority questions too.

More transparency in times of crisis

If you are a company like ours, then working in a remote environment is something you and your team are probably still getting accustomed to. Communication is needed now more than ever. This tool is bringing Softway immense value by introducing more transparency to the way leadership is handling change. We've been able to transition through these times in a very open way by having our fears and struggles heard and addressed. 

Foster a gossip-free and toxic-free workplace 

Save your company from potential toxicity. Unanswered questions can cause a lot more damage to your company than addressing them head-on. Especially in a remote world where there’s more opportunity to miss out on common concerns, it can be an ideal breeding ground for gossip and eventually, a toxic work culture. This tool helps surface ground level concerns and clarify baseless rumors.

Get maximum participation against the technical odds

Just Ask is a user-friendly and bandwidth-friendly tool. It's a web app—so if you have access to the internet, you have access to Just Ask. Any computer, any device, any browser. If you're not able to connect due to audio, video, or bandwidth issues, then you can always throw in your question and catch up later.

For all of us at Softway, the Just Ask tool has brought meaning back to meetings. It's helped us achieve our vision of bringing humanity back to the workplace, one meeting at a time. 

Ready to try the Just Ask tool in your next meeting, team event, webinar, townhall, or large gathering? Awesome. It's free to use and available here.

I want Just Ask—sign me up!

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