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Automate the logistics of meetings with Zapier

Automate the logistics of meetings with Zapier
January 27, 2021

How much time do you spend on meetings every week? Probably, more than you would want to. Save time by automating the logistics of meetings.

Today's knowledge worker spends an inordinate amount of time in meetings. Unfortunately, few of them are well-organized. A study of 19 million meetings has indicated that the cost of poorly organized meetings would amount to $399 billion in the U.S. in 2019.

Part of the problem is not having a clear agenda nor following-up on the action items of the meeting. In this article, we'll help you save time and frustration by automating the organization of your meetings.

What you'll be automating πŸ€–

This automation consists of 4 different Zaps. We'll show you how to create each of them, step by step. We've also included links to the pre-configured Zaps in case you want to save even more time.

1. Handle meeting agenda

  • Creates the meeting agenda
  • Asks meeting attendees to submit items to the agenda

2. Send meeting notes to the parser

3. Parse meeting notes and extract action item

4. Create Trello todos for each action item

In other words, you'll be creating a workflow that ultimately creates a new todo in Trello (or any other todo manager)

Note: you'll need a starter plan on Zapier to build these automations.‍

Tools we're working with πŸ› 

You can swap the following tools for your preferred tools if they integrate with Zapier.

  • Google Calendar β†’ To check for new meeting events
  • Trello β†’ To create new tasks
  • Gmail β†’ To send the meeting notes to Zapier Parser
  • Google Docs β†’ To create the meeting agenda
  • Google Drive β†’ To do file organization
  • Zapier Email Parser β†’ To extract the relevant information from the meeting document
  • Google Sheets β†’ To transfer meeting notes from the parser to Trello

Pre-configured Zapier blueprints βš™οΈ

If you're having any trouble, or want to save even more time, you can use these Zapier blueprints to import the Zaps into your Zapier account. Be sure to walk through them step by step to configure them to your personal account.

Zap 1 -Handling the meeting agenda πŸ“†

1. Set up a new event in Google Calendar trigger
Make sure to pick the right calendar here. If you have a specific calendar for meetings, pick that one. Otherwise, pick your general calendar.

2. Optional Filter: Only continue if the event title contains 'meeting'

A filter step in Zapier.

3. Create meeting agenda document
Google Docs β†’ Create Document from Text
Put the event title, which is called Summary, from step 1, as the Document Name.
Create a template that you'll be using for your meetings. At least include an agenda and action items. Make sure that your agenda and action items are on separate lines. Your template could look like this:

Create a Google Doc in Zapier

To prevent flooding your Google Drive with meeting documents, we recommend creating a folder that will contain the documents created by this Zap.‍

Make sure that when you're taking notes, you prefix all your action items with the same character. This could be a - or []. This will come in handy later.

4. Configure document permissions
Google Drive β†’ Add File Sharing Preference
Using the document ID from the document created in the previous step, set the Sharing Preference so that anyone with the link can access the document.

Mapping fields in Zapier

5. Ask attendees to submit agenda items
Meeting agendas improve the efficiency of meetings. In this step, you send the agenda to your colleagues so they can add what they would like to discuss.
Gmail β†’ Send Email
Include the meeting attendees in the To field

Mapping fields in Zapier

You can customize the email any way you like, but make sure you include the Shareable Link created in Step 4.

6. Subtract 5 minutes from meeting start time
You'll want to make sure every attendee gets reminded of the meeting agenda, so let's do that 5 minutes prior to the meeting.
Format by Zapier β†’ Date / Time
Pick Add/Subtract Time for the Transform operation.
Use the Event Begins or Event Begins Pretty as input.
Subtract 5 minutes.
Format the time to any format you like.

Mapping fields in Zapier

7. Delay until the start of the meeting
Delay β†’ Until
In order to send the attendees a reminder, you need to delay until Event Begins of step 1.

A delay step in Zapier

8. Notify attendees of meeting agenda
At the start of the meeting, you'll remind your colleagues of the meeting agenda with another, very similar, email.
Gmail β†’ Send Email
Address your meeting attendees in the To field, just like in step 5. Send them the Shareable link from step 4 once again.

Mapping fields in Zapier

9. Delay until the end of the meeting
Delay β†’ Until
Before we process the meeting notes, we need to wait until the meeting's over. You may want to account for some extra time in case your meetings run out. If you would like to, repeat step 6, and add your desired time. Then, delay this event until that time. Otherwise, delay the event until Event Ends from step 1.

A delay step in Zapier

10. Move meeting notes to the right folder
Google Drive β†’ Move File
You will move the meeting document to a different folder, which will in turn trigger a new Zap. Create a new folder in your Google Drive once more and name it something along the lines of 'Meetings to process.'
Move the file using the ID from either step 1 or 4 to move the document to your newly created folder.

Move a Google Drive file in Zapier

That's it for this Zap. You've created a Zap that:

  • Creates a meeting agenda
  • Asks meeting attendees for agenda items
  • Reminds meeting attendees of the meeting agenda
  • Moves the document to the right folder to trigger the next Zap

On to the next one.

Zap 2 - Sending meeting notes to the parser ➑️

We're going to extract the relevant information from the meeting by parsing it. We recommend watching this video before continuing.

1. Head on over to Zapier Parser and authorize it using your Zapier account

2. Create a new mailbox and hit Skip waiting‍

3. Give your mailbox an appropriate name, that's hard to guess (as anyone will be able to send emails to this address, and you wouldn't like spam showing up in this mailbox).

4. Paste in the template that you've used for the meeting document

5. Create a dummy action item

6. Select the action item and name it something along the lines of Action items‍

The result should look like this.

Mapping fields in Zapier

If you want to extract other information from the document, you can create a variable for each piece of information you'd like to extract.
For example, you can extract the agenda items, or the meeting notes, and have different Zaps process that information.

7. Save the address and template

Back to Zapier!

1. Create a new Zap, have it trigger on a new meeting notes document in the 'Meetings to process' folder
Google Docs β†’ New Document in Folder
Select the folder that you've created earlier, where your meeting notes will be moved to after the meeting is done.

A Google Docs trigger in Zapier

2. Send meeting notes to email parser
Gmail β†’ Send Email
Enter the email of your Zapier Parser in the To field.
Put the File Raw Plaintext Content of the document in the body of the email.

Mapping fields in Zapier

That's it for this Zap. You've created a Zap and parser that:

  • Sends the contents of a meeting notes document to the parser
  • Extracts the relevant information from the meeting notes document

On to the next one.

Zap 3 - Extracting action items ⛏

1. Create a new Zap that triggers on a new email with meeting notes
Email Parser by Zapier β†’ New Email
Select your mailbox in this step.

2. Transform action items to line items
Formatter by Zapier β†’ Text
Pick string.split for the transform field.
Use the Parse Output Actionitems from step 1 as input.
This is where prefixing each action item comes in handy. You will now split each of these action items into separate line items so that they can be added individually to a Google Spreadsheet. We've chosen [] as our prefix. Your step should look like this:

A formatter step in Zapier

3. Create a spreadsheet row for each action item
Unfortunately, Zapier won't let you add Trello tasks from these line items immediately, so you'll have to push them to a Google Spreadsheet. Your next Zap will be triggered for each new record in this spreadsheet and create a new card in Trello.
First, create a spreadsheet with a column called Action items.

Google Sheets β†’ Create Spreadsheet Rows
Select the spreadsheet and put the Parse Output Actionitems from step 2 in the Action item field

Create a Google Sheet row with Zapier

That's it for this Zap. You've created a Zap that:

  • Transforms action items into Google Spreadsheet Rows that will trigger a new Zap

On to the last one.

Zap 4 - Creating Trello todos βœ…

1. Create a new Zap with a New Spreadsheet Row as a trigger
Google Sheets β†’ New Spreadsheet Row
Select the previously created spreadsheet and worksheet.

2. Create a card in Trello
Trello β†’ Create Card
Put your cards on the right board, list, and give them the name outputted by the first step.

That's it for this Zap. You've created a Zap that:

  • Creates a card in Trello for each action item that was extracted from a meeting notes document

You've successfully automated your meeting logistics! πŸŽ‰

Now that you've automated your meeting logistics, there is just one more thing to automate in your meetings: note-taking. If you'd like to have your meeting notes automated, get in touch with us. We're Zapier Certified experts.

‍

This post was written by Luc Meijer.


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