How To Prepare For An Important Meeting

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How many times are you called into a meeting only to walk out wondering where that hour of your time went?

There is nothing worse than having your day interrupted by a meeting that doesn’t have a clear agenda or is derailed because someone forgot to prepare crucial information before hand.

If you want to ensure meetings you host and attend, make the most effective use of your time then consider these tips.

Understand The Purpose Of The Meeting

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting - Purpose of the meeting

The first thing you need to consider is to clarify the purpose of your meeting. What is the meeting about? Is it meant to solve a problem, discuss a concept or inform your colleagues of an important step the organization has made?

Once you understand the purpose of the meeting you can make sure that you actually have a need to host a meeting in the first place. While face to face communication is great, sometimes you can save everybody time and effort by simply sending an email or making a phone call.

Develop An Agenda For The Meeting

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting -Agenda for meeting

If all meetings have a purpose then it naturally follows that all meetings should have an agenda.

To prepare an agenda for your meeting you should provide a brief introduction/context as to why the meeting is taking place and the items for discussion. You should list the items for discussion in a relevant order and if you want even schedule a certain amount of time to discuss each point. If you nail the agenda you can also keep the meeting short.

Preparing an agenda is only half of the process however. You also need to make sure that everyone receives (and reads) it before hand. This will help reduce the time that is often wasted at the start of a meeting where you are just filling people in on the small details.

Prepare For The Meeting

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting - Prepare info

Whatever you do don’t be that person who asks for someone to explain what the meeting is about when you first sit down!

Whether you are hosting the meeting or attending one you should make sure that you know exactly why you are there. If you don’t think you are really needed then ask to be removed from the invite list unless the organiser thinks it is absolutely crucial you attend.

Once you have committed to going make sure you understand the agenda and what you are expected to know or discuss at the meeting. You may find that you need to do some research before hand or bring some material along for discussion.

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Know The Participants

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting - Know The Participants

For the meeting to be productive, select participants who will help you accomplish its objectives. If someone doesn’t have anything to say or discuss at the meeting then they don’t really need to be there. This will save them time and help your meeting run smoother.

Overall the people who attend the meeting should have something to actively contribute. You can still keep other people up to date with what was discussed by emailing a brief recap of the meeting to others if required.

Send An Invite And Select An Appropriate Venue

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting - Send Invites

It should go without saying but you would be surprised at the number of meeting requests that get sent without an associated calendar request/invite.

Taking the time to create an invite makes it easier on you as the organiser and for those participating. You can easily see who can and cannot attend and the attendees also have all of the details they need. This should include the agenda that we discussed previously, as well as details on the location or venue of the meeting.

It is also important to consider the people you are inviting to the meeting and their relationship with one another. If they are people from different departments or companies it helps to provide a one line summary of each person who is attending and their role.

Finally, if you plan on using a video conference system make sure the room you book has everything you need (or at least the facilities to connect your own) and offers good audio quality. There is nothing worse than listening to someone speak while spending 90% of your energy and focus trying to understand what they are saying.

Gather And Send Relevant Information

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting - send relevant info

If there is information that is going to be discussed at the meeting make sure that each participant is sent a copy of it prior. The more time you can give someone to go through it the better, although there are often occasions where meetings are scheduled at the last minute or with short notice.

In addition to this, if you are the host of the meeting make sure you have a couple of printed copies as people often forget to bring their own or don’t think it is needed. It is better to be prepared than lose 5 minutes of your time waiting for someone to turn on their laptop or print a new copy.

Measure The Results

How To Prepare For An Important Meeting - Measure Results

A meeting is only as good as the action it results in. Every meeting with an agenda should also have a desired outcome. As the organiser of the meeting you should continue to drive people towards that desired outcome and act like a “ringmaster” of the different opinions and cases presented at the table.

Once consensus has been achieved this should be confirmed in an email so that everyone has written confirmation. You should also track your progress against these stated objectives until the task is complete.

Hopefully by taking these tips on board you will be more prepared for meetings than ever before. If you are not usually the meeting organiser you can still help instill some of these ideas into your team so that you all save time and energy at your next meeting.

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About Author

Paul Towers - Founder @ Task Pigeon

Paul Towers is a 3x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon. Join me on my journey to build an open & transparent startup from day one. Paul is also the founder of Startup Soda, a newsletter curating the best content from the Australian startup ecosystem.