A smooth running meeting takes a bit of preparation…something most meeting leaders and attendees don’t do. Hence meetings drag on longer than they should, and tend to be less than phenomenal. Those leaders who do come prepared pave the way for productive, sometimes inspiring meetings, offer a great service to those in attendance. Those attendees who come prepared, not only contribute further to the quality and results of the gathering but they also tend to stand out among their peers.
Have you done your homework? The most successful people in the world come to meetings prepared. The number of people willing to prepare, as you may have noticed, is usually rather low. So simply showing up prepared for a meeting sets you apart from the group. It no only grants you increased credibility, but it also says something very positive about the kind of person you are. As either a meeting leader or participant, use the following tips as a guide to help you show up thoroughly prepared, helping to move meetings forward more quickly and with better results.
Set your Personal Goal for the Meeting How will you know if the meeting you’re attending is a success for you? Spending a few minutes to define your goals or measures of success can go a long way to making them a reality. Here are some questions that will help:
- What will distinguish success from failure in this meeting?
- What do I want to have accomplished by the time this meeting is over?
- What kind of relationships do I want to leave this meeting having developed or improved?
- How do I want to be viewed as a member of this organization?
Pre-Meeting Persuasion There may be specific meeting agenda items that are of special importance and relevance to you and other select meeting participants. Discussing and working through specific items, or on issues that will support the resolution of these items, with your meeting partners before the meeting can save a lot of time. Many significant decisions are often made before they’re presented formally during a meeting. There’s nothing wrong with using persuasion prior to a meeting. In fact, we’re often engaged in bouts of persuasion in meetings anyway, but usually without the benefit of a quiet and thoughtful focus between only those specific people with specific interests in the decision.
Influence the Agenda You may have found that’s it’s not entirely uncommon for some meetings to be absent an agenda. If you happen to show up to a meeting prepared to supply an agenda or plan of action, it’s likely to be the legitimate starting and ending point of the meeting. This is a great way to not only advance the progress and outcome of the meeting, but you’ve also just gained a good measure of influence as well!
Does Necessary Authority Exist? Before attending a meeting, check to make sure that someone in attendance has the necessary authority to act on the decisions you’re planning to make. If this authority is missing, your efforts could be in vain.
Who’s Involved? Get a feel for the meeting attendees and how they might impact the success of your meeting. Ask yourself the following questions prior to the meeting to help you identify what you might need to do with respect to your fellow attendees to improve meeting outcomes.
- Who will be supportive of the points or decisions you’re bringing forward? Can you enlist their help?
- Who might oppose your efforts? Can you change their minds?
- Who’s missing? Can you get them invited?
- Whose attendance might prove unproductive or unnecessary. Can you ask that they be uninvited?
- What can you do to lessen potential opposition and/or bolster support from participants?
Know What You Need to Know In each meeting you attend, there is a certain amount of information needed to achieve the intended results. Ask yourself the following questions to help clarify necessary information, the absence of which might jeopardize meeting success.
- What are the priority issues in your mind and in what order should they be discussed?
- Are there more issues being proposed than are necessary to accomplish the stated meeting goals?
- Given the outcomes you’re after for this meeting, have all the prerequisite steps been accomplished?
- Do you have all the information you need to accomplish these outcomes? If not, what more do you need and where can you get it?
- What is your personal opinion about the issues?
- What are opposing views and what merit do they have? Do you completely understand them? Is some form of compromise acceptable? If so, how would it look?
Having these answers in place before the meeting will help assure that fully informed decisions are made. Anything short of this and outcomes may be delayed, meeting time of the participants will be less than well spent, requiring more at a future date, or worse, the group rushes to an ineffective decision that has to be corrected later.
Is this Practical? Ok, right now you may be saying, “Are you nuts? Do you really expect me to do all of this groundwork before going to every meeting? I’d never get anything done.” You certainly don’t have to heed all of these recommendations to improve your meetings. Just try reading through these questions before your next meeting. Perhaps only one or two of the questions will call you to do just a little more preparation, and see how this impacts the results and your experience of your meetings. And, see the summary below.
Action To make this easier for you, we’ve distilled the above points into a short list of questions that I encourage you to review well in advance of your next meeting. If you can’t answer “yes” to all of the questions below, do what’s necessary so that you can show up to your meeting as an exemplary participant.
- Do I have the meeting agenda in hand, do I understand each item?
- Have I proposed changes to the agenda that make sense to me?
- Am I clear on the purpose and intended outcomes of this meeting?
- Am I clear on my personal goals for this meeting and those of other participants?
- Am I clear on the priorities of the issues to be discussed?
- Do I have all the information I need to accomplish planned outcomes?
- Do other attendees also have this information?
- Does the authority exist to get the job done in this meeting?
Please share your questions, feedback, and experience on this topic in the comments section below.
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