How to prepare for a meeting
For leaders who want to hold successful meetings–rather than feel held up or held hostage by them–here are eight steps to take:
1) Get chapter and verse on all attendees. Review their recent activity on web sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. Know your audience.
2) State the purpose of the meeting and the outcome you seek. If you don’t have a clear purpose and outcome, what’s to keep your meeting from going off the rails?
3) Select a room that meets your needs, stock it, and check on its condition prior to the meeting. Some meeting experts like Dr. Nadine Katz go so far as to check for beverage preferences and to see if the room has any flickering lights beforehand. At the very least, you want to make sure that the room can accommodate your technology needs. You might also want to make sure there’s sugar on hand, since glucose enhances concentration.
4) Distribute the agenda, meeting rules, and reading material in advance. The agenda should allocate time for each agenda item, based upon importance. Meeting rules provide structure and expectations of conduct, and since meetings are designed for conversation, make it clear that attendees are expected to read and review before the meeting.
5) Pre-sell key stakeholders. Make a stakeholder chart in advance. Figure out whom you need to sell and how, then talk to these stakeholders prior to the meeting. You’re more apt to win them over before the meeting than in the meeting.
6) Craft a warm-up question that will draw out hidden agendas. Attendees may interrupt, distract, or sabotage meetings if they’re not given an opportunity to share their concerns. Get these concerns out at the start, so that the focus can then go to the meeting’s purpose. You might ask: What has transpired since we last met that you’d like to share with group? What goals or feelings keep bubbling up when you think about the purpose of this meeting?
7) Prepare a list of open-ended questions to elicit opinions and ideas. Sometimes quiet attendees need a little coaxing. If you’re holding a marketing meeting, you might ask: What alternative approaches have we looked at? What would our competitor’s response be? What if it doesn’t work? Who else should we talk to before moving forward?
8) Anticipate post-meeting conversations and head them off. People often say what they really think after the meeting is over. These conversations can diminish or undermine the work of the group. Ask a cool-down question at the end of the meeting to capture the essence of attendees’ feelings and concerns: What’s something you wanted to address but did not see an opportunity to bring it up? What do you think will be most challenging going forward? When you go home tonight, what will you share about our meeting, if anything, with your spouse or friends?