How to prepare a meeting?
Meetings can be either useful or need to be redone…
- Who to invite?
- When to hold a meeting?
- How to prepare and what should be in it?
- How to manage the meeting
- What to do at the end?
Word of caution:
Below is a VERY general take on meetingS. Each meeting type has its own codes, processes. Pick and choose what is required based on the situation you are in.
Who to invite?
Based on the purpose of the meeting your goal is to inform people who are required in it. Meaning people who can:
- Help you make a decision
- Your boss, a co-worker who works with you on the topics you are working on.
- Have the power to say yes or no
- That can be a customer, vendor, Operations, finance, marketing.
- The goal here is to identify who will help you achieve or stop you for XYZ
- Inform you, on key elements out of your control or far fetched in terms of data.
- Example you are in sales and might need Finance to tell you how much of a discount you can give
- Key allies
- Those are individuals who are with you, want you to succeed and based on their “weight” who they are, their job, their network will push your agenda forward.
When to hold a meeting?
So many theories on this one, yet a few tips are universal:
- People hate meetings at 4:30 PM or 4:45PM when the workday ends at 5:00PM. Except if you have a good reason like:
- Multiple timezones
- Crisis mode
- You work on a different schedule than the 9 to 5 folks
The only thing you will achieve by doing so is annoying everyone and they will look at their watch, be disengaged and shut off the meeting as soon as possible.
- Meetings first thing in the morning are for me the best, you are the top of your game (not worn out by the day). You can think clearly because you haven’t started to work on anything else and if you are a morning person you can dominate the sleepy heads for them to agree at points they wouldn’t if they were more alert.
- Meeting before lunch, at 11 AM or 11:30 this one is sneaky. This is the best time for negotiations. People usually do not eat before the meeting and if you are having a tough conversation, the longest it runs, harder it is to concentrate when your belly is asking for food!
- If you are keen to run this kind of meeting. Eat before, eat well but not to the point of food coma.
- The out of the blue meeting, you know the one where 15 min ago didn’t know it existed… This one is very simple with translation:
- Can I make it? Yes / No
- They don’t value my time if not they would have invited me sooner and I would have prepared.
- Does it have an agenda? Yes / No
- The quality of the meeting is not proven (if no Agenda), meaning there is an 80% percent chance I will waste my time
- Is it important enough to stop whatever I was doing? Yes / No
- Time is valuable, you are not being judged on how many meetings you go to but your productivity!
- Who will be there / Should I be there even do the meeting by itself is useless?
- Can I make it? Yes / No
Except for the last point, if you say no to one of the three above, I wouldn’t go.
How to prepare and what should be in it?
This entire section resides in the meeting invite!
First rule the AGENDA.
Yes, you are asking people to take time from their day to participate in something you have created / you want to discuss.
=> Give them a chance to appreciate the fact you did the prep work and it is worth it, to come to that meeting.
=> Also, would you go anywhere without a reason? If you go to do groceries, you might have a list of items you want to buy, otherwise, you are just wasting time… you get the point.
Second rule, be brief, be bright, be gone
– There is no value in putting 20 pages, no one will read them except in the scientific, editorial field.
– IMPACT, say what you want to say in bullet points. Same for the action items. Yes if you need participants to do pre-work for the meeting (highly suggested) outline it and assign it to someone. Do not bury it in the middle of the agenda.
– As everything in this world, You need to sell what you want to achieve. The more prepared, focus and straight you are, the easiest it will be.
Please avoid at all cost doing the meeting before the meeting starts.
You will be wasting your time and the time of everyone else!
How to manage the meeting?
The day has come, you are running the meeting and want it to be as productive as possible:
- Time management: ensure you keep track of time for the overall meet but also by topics. You can announce that you have planned for XYZ min per topics and therefore once in the last 5 min of the given time you need to :
- Draw conclusions
- Set action items and assign them with a due date
- move on to the next topic
- All meetings cannot be as linear as 1 topic equal 1 result. You might need to discuss multiple topics before drawing conclusions and a game plan. This is fine. Rules chage a bit but the spirit is the same:
- Understand what you need in terms of information, buy-in… to make a decision or be able to move forward
- Outline those key points and split the time between them
- Discuss and reserve time to right down What needs to be done, who will do it and how long they have to produce the answer!
- Here comes the last part of the meeting, the most important:
- If warranted (in most cases, you need to do it): you must schedule a follow-up meeting, to advance on action items, close of the conversation…
- AGREE on what was said and what is going to happen. This is the minute phase.
- As a general rule (except your boss wants to do it) the one running the meeting MUST send the minutes. This is your meeting, hence your responsibility, if you don’t, your customer, another business unit, worse the vendor will dictate what was said and what is going to happen.
- Last but not least, Do not redo the meeting after the meeting. It’s too late and if you go back and change what was decided you will be perceived as untrustworthy or bad at what you do.
What to do at the end?
Ok you have survived the meeting, participants are in agreement, you have a list of action items people will work on, now is the time to finish strong.
The minutes and follow up:
The same way you started with an agenda with bullet points, now is the time to summarize what was said and decided in a consistent and short way.
In it include when is the next encounter.
And you are done!
The good news is getapy as streamlined and automated most of the above and updates all the tools you use!