Meetings. Most executives spend their days in a haze, bouncing from meeting to conference call to another meeting - back to back to back. Sadly, many of these meetings leave the attendees wondering, “What’s the point?” or “Why didn’t you just send that in an email?”
You can’t escape them, but you can make sure that you aren’t contributing to the meaningless, monotonous meeting marathon by practicing careful preparation for any meetings you schedule. Preparation is the key to ensuring that your meetings are productive and achieve the desired outcomes in the allotted period of time.
Here's a Meeting Planning Checklist:
☐ Begin with the End in Mind: Have you determined the purpose and desired result for your meeting? What will make it a successful meeting? You may want to spend some time developing an Objective Statement so that you are very clear in advance about why you are spending the team's most valuable resource - time - on this meeting.
☐ Set the Date & Location: When's the best time and place for your meeting? Schedule the meeting as far in advance as possible so you can find a time to get all the right people in the room. Depending on the purpose of your meeting, choose a location that will help you facilitate a productive meeting. Do you need to get out of the office and away from distractions? Can the meeting be in person, or can the team participate virtually? If you are meeting in a conference room in your office, reserve the space in advance. If you choose a different location or a virtual meeting, make those arrangements in advance.
☐ Select the Facilitator: Who is the has the qualities of a good facilitator for this meeting? This critical decision could be the difference between an effective outcome and a waste of time. Depending on the type of meeting you are planning, you may consider bringing in a professional from outside your company to help with facilitation.
☐ Choose a Meeting Coordinator: Who is the best person to handle the logistics for the meeting? This person would help coordinate travel arrangements, book the conference room or set up the virtual meeting, communicate with the team about any required pre-work, plan lunch or coffee, and set up the room on the meeting day. You may also want to assign someone to take notes during the meeting.
☐ Confirm the Correct Attendees: Who needs to attend the meeting to have the most productive outcome? Think about the purpose of the meeting and consider who the key players are. If you are making decisions, invite the decision-makers and anyone with data and insights you need to make an informed choice. Don't automatically invite everyone on your leadership team; some decisions may require input from others in the company, and some executives may not need to be part of every meeting. Nothing is more frustrating than investing time in a meeting only to realize a key player is missing and then having to catch that person up and bring the group back together again before a decision can be made. Only invite people who need to be there, and be sure not to leave anyone out.
☐ Prepare the Agenda & Materials: What's the best use of our time? The facilitator should create the agenda and prepare meeting materials. If you created an Objective Statement for your meeting, that should guide the agenda. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the allotted time, and include a basic time plan in your agenda to help you stay on track during the meeting. When creating any visuals to guide your discussion, be purposeful. Think about how you are going to lead the discussion. Will you need a whiteboard or flipchart, or handouts? Will you be using Rhythm? Will you be creating a slide deck, charts, or other visuals? What are the best tools to help you achieve the objectives you set for your meeting? Don't just run through a million slides packed with data; your materials should help craft a discussion, not dump information on your participants. If you are making a presentation during the meeting rather than leading a discussion, practice your presentation multiple times. Get feedback and make improvements before the meeting.
☐ Distribute the Agenda & Assign Pre-Work to Attendees: How do you want your attendees to prepare? Always send the agenda in advance, so the team knows ahead of time what discussions to start thinking about before the meeting. Sharing the Objective Statement is also a great idea to get everyone aligned around the purpose of the meeting before you walk into the room. Think about anything that the team may need to read, think about, collect, or write in advance and assign it as pre-work. Give the team a few weeks to complete the pre-work, if possible, and have the meeting coordinator remind everyone and collect any assignments prior to the meeting. If you do assign pre-work, always include time in your agenda to discuss it; otherwise, the team will likely consider it a waste of time.
☐ Finalize Logistics: Work with the meeting coordinator to ensure all the details are taken care of in advance: order any supplies you need, plan for meals or snacks, test any technology ahead of time, confirm the location and attendees, print any handouts or copies of the agenda, etc.
This might sound like a lot of work, but these planning steps are the only things standing between you and a great meeting. If you are a Rhythm client, we've done the hard work for you. Our expert consultants have seen thousands of patterns with clients in every industry worldwide, so we know what it takes to have a great meeting. We have agendas, slide decks, pre-work, and tools ready for your Annual and Quarterly Planning Sessions and your Weekly Adjustment Meetings. It's all in Rhythm University, and your consultant can help customize these tools for you.
We've also prepared a Meeting Facilitation Guide to help anyone take their meetings from mundane to must-attend! Good luck!
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images