Meetings 101: Prepare

I go to many, many, many meetings. They vary in usefulness. The best ones are when (if I’m the one planning the meeting) I have done my homework and prepared an agenda, set up the technology correctly, and then followed up with action items. In other words, I’m prepared.

Do I do this every time? Noooooo. Should I? Yes! I’m going to use a real-life personal example of when I didn’t do all the right things to give you some hints about preparing for a meeting.

Here are the general guidelines, read below if you want to see what happens beyond the theory:

Face-to -face and Virtual:

  • Prepare an agenda
  • Send out invitations in advance, and add reminders
  • Set up a meeting workspace if the meeting size/repetition/project warrants this
  • Have a note-taking system in place for follow-up

Virtual only

  • Check all technology before the meeting (recording, phones, passwords)
  • Talk to all co-presenters and make sure presentations are pre-loaded
  • Promote all co-presenters to presenter ahead of time
  • Set up a recording for absent attendees

Beyond Theory

I held a meeting last week that I thought I had prepared for, but I didn’t plan for contingencies.

What went wrong?

  • The agenda was too full. It’s better to give back time than to run out of time
  • Even though I tested the recording function, something went wrong
  • We started late due to confusion with guest speakers
  • The phone system went nuts

What I should have, could have done:

  1. Planned buffer and Q&A time for each speaker. I had planned from 10-15 minutes per person, trying to pack in a lot of information in a short time. It would have been better to plan another meeting, or run the meeting longer. I could also have thought about using an alternate method of communication for some of this information.
  2. I needed a backup plan for something as important as the recording. Thankfully, I did record most of the meeting, using OneNote’s handy recording feature.
  3. I should have planned my opening better. Since many in this group arrive late, I could have shown a poll in Live Meeting, asking the group for input on future topics to fill time and gather information instead of just chatting while we waited for others to join.
  4. Did not anticipate the phone melt-down. Thankfully, someone in the group IM’d me with a solution – call the operator.

Here are the things I did right:

  1. Sent an agenda in advance (this drove attendance)
  2. Tested out the technology (Live Meeting) in advance (needed to remind myself of some features)
  3. Arrived early and grabbed a conference room
  4. Made sure the phone system was set to not announce callers – that way late joiners didn’t interrupt the meeting in progress
  5. Used Communicator and Chat in Live Meeting to get help from colleagues
  6. Used the polling slides at the end to gather feedback (and had them set up in advance)
  7. Had OneNote open to take notes, so was able to quickly turn on the recording

Tomorrow I’ll cover agendas, meeting workspaces, Outlook tips and some Live Meeting tips.