- Written by Janika LeMaitre -
Are you in the position of holding meetings? I mean, orchestrating a room full of people and ensuring they know what they’re supposed to do? Then you find out that nothing was accomplished, or you ran overtime? If this sounds familiar to you, this is the perfect article to help you define how you can prepare for a constructive, time-sensitive meeting.
Please take a moment to place yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about when you’ve attended a meeting and have no idea what it’s about, and the outcome is a complete waste of your time.
To hold a noteworthy, constructive meeting, you can get ahead of the game and start by following these seven steps:
Step 1 - Structure
Much like a Waze roadmap, you have a destination: The thing or things you need to accomplish. But what are they? And which order makes sense to itemize these action items?
Write them down, then categorize the highest priority to the lowest. Make sure you are clear about what you want decisions or discussions made about first.
Step 2 - Timing
Do you have an allocated time frame? If you have only 30-minutes to discuss a project that would realistically take two hours, then you’ll have to get to the core of which topics are high priority. Keep in mind that people may go off on a tangent and have a lot to say–it’s your role to keep the timeline and meeting on track. You can always shelf the topic if their input, whether or not their information is valuable, and let the person know you’ll revisit the conversation with them separately.
Step 3 - Research
If you need others to chime in, give them a heads-up. It’s not fun to be put on the spot without being prepared. By notifying them in advance to get their information together and knowing how much time they have to speak at the meeting, the meeting will go more smoothly than if they were ill-prepared. They’ll also make themselves look good and appreciate the advanced notice.
Can you go back to the last meeting minutes if there were any? If yes, then use them to your advantage. My husband is the perfect example and has taught me how to take notes for meetings to then go back and revise at a moments notice by giving me a reMarkable for Christmas one year!
Step 4 - Attendee Expectations
What type of meeting will you be running? Is it a 15-minute presentation plus a 45-minute town hall via Zoom? A monthly board meeting? Or a one-hour brainstorming session? Give your attendees a jump start by letting them know they can come up with questions, ideas, feedback, etc., ahead of time via email or a phone call.
Step 5 - Advanced Notice
Do you have digital calendar invitation capability? Most systems do; if you have used this function yet, it is worth your time learning how to access this feature. Using calendar invitations is a great way to invite people. And one more thing to consider: Can you add notes in the invitation? If yes, this is the perfect place to add the outline for your meeting with any necessary links.
Step 6 - Minutes
Is there anyone who’d be an excellent fit for the minute taking? Appointing a person, even if it’s yourself, to record the details and outcomes of the meeting is a crucial step for future meeting planning. Know that you can easily refer to these notes to prepare for future meetings and not miss any facts that could help you in the future.
Step 7 - Follow-Up
What promises were made in the meeting? Who said they would do something within a specific time frame? Sending a follow-up email to the people who made commitments to completing action items will ensure they’re held accountable to do the work promised.
When you think about the time it takes to prepare well for a meeting; there’s much more involved than what meets the eye.
By proactively creating a structure, allocating time for each line item, doing advanced research, setting expectations for your attendees, providing notice ahead of time, taking minutes, and following up with the necessary people individually afterward. If you add these steps up, you’re using anywhere from one to three hours to get your meeting agenda together and ready for success.
One final thought: Always add extra cushion time to your meetings.
Some people have strong feelings and need to assert their opinions, and that’s okay; keeping this knowledge in mind will make you a better professional when planning your next meeting agenda.
About the author, Janika LeMaitre
Jan is a certified etiquette and protocol advisor, specializing in personal brand strategy. Her mission is to provide life-changing soft skills for business owners and industry trail-blazers to self-manage and evolve their reputation. Jan is certified with the Protocol School of Washington® and The British School of Excellence™. In addition, she is the board president of Women's Business Group Connects, and as a second-generation Rotarian, proudly serves as a board director at the Rotary Club of Weston & Wayland.
Download your complimentary copy of Jan's "Handling Gender-Neutral Pronouns With Style" quick guide here.