Sometimes it can be difficult to prepare for a meeting. There can be several reasons for this, some of them which we’ll go through in this post. Either nobody really knows why you have the meeting, perhaps an agenda was not sent prior the meeting or maybe it’s simply a matter of time constraint.
This article sets out quick guidelines for dealing with those reasons so you know how to prepare efficiently for your next meetings. The guidelines focus primarily on the meeting coordinator’s side, though the guidelines can also be used when you are a meeting participant, if you need to push the meeting coordinator for the relevant information prior the meeting.
1. Have a great outcome in mind
When setting a meeting there should be a reason for it, as it otherwise would be a waste of everybody’s time. This is fundamental. When you are the meeting coordinator, it’s your responsibility to make sure that everybody is aligned with what the outcome of the meeting is expected to be. If the participants are not aligned in this respect, chances are that the meeting will result in nothing but the inevitable follow-up meeting… then it’s back to square one.
Getting this right is most easily done through the proper introduction to the meeting. In this respect it could be recommended to sent out a mail prior the actual meeting invitation, where some background information could be applied to set the proper scene for the meeting and clearly state the expected outcome. Following that mail then a meeting invitation should be sent out.
2. Set the agenda well in advance
A key point in order to make sure that all participant are aligned on the purpose of the meeting, including the expectations for the outcome, is to make sure that an agenda is set for the meeting. If possible set the meeting agenda well in advance, and do make sure that it is sufficiently detailed.
An agenda should not just be 5 points in short bullets. A good way to set an agenda, is to commence with a short introduction to the meeting prior the actual agenda (this could also be the same introduction as applied in the mail sent prior the meeting invitation as referenced under point 1). This way you’ll make sure that all participants know the background for the meeting, and this will also assist you in making sure that the participants are aware of the expected outcome.
Include the agenda directly in the meeting event in your and your participants’ calendars. If there is any relevant background material for the various points in the agenda, then include it directly in the event as well – then you will have all relevant material handily available, and you can confidently reference the material from your agenda points.
You should also consider to define the roles and responsibilities for the various topics of the meeting directly in the agenda. In this way you’ll let participants know where you expect input from them – this will actually ensure a more efficient meeting, and as a participant, this can also assist in ensuring that you prepare for the right points of the agenda – overall ensuring a more efficient meeting. It will furthermore also make it easier to delegate subsequent tasks and responsibilities.
3. The efficient preparation
When people are aligned on the expected outcome and the proper agenda has been set, then all that is left is the preparation for the actual meeting itself. Obviously this can also be a huge amount of work depending on your role at the meeting, though some corners can be cut if time pressured.
One thing is to make sure that you have been through all the relevant material for the meeting.
If you don’t have time to go through all of the material in detail, then make sure that you at least read the headlines on all of the material. Surprisingly often this can be enough for you to have the relevant information to provide input – or at least have an opinion on the matter.
It possible then reserve 30 minutes prior to the meeting for a brush up of the agenda and the material. This could also relate to a short brush up on the other participants of the meeting. It is always valuable if you can toss out the latest trends relating to the other participants business areas in the beginning of the meeting. This way you’ll also come across highly prepared, which will assist you in getting your expected outcome through.
A rather clever application named Charlie is in that respect very useful. The application combs through 100s of sources and automatically sends you a one‐pager on everyone you’re going to meet with, before you see them – this can save you a lot of time.