You have probably been to meetings that went completely sideways, felt not much has been accomplished and emotions ran pretty high. You might wonder what went wrong and how to get it right the next time. They probably lacked meeting preparation. All meeting-experts agree on one thing: preparing for a meeting is key in having a good and effective meeting.
Why People don’t Prepare for a Meeting
The thing is, being prepared means investing time and most meeting participants don’t have this time or at least don’t think they do. Another factor is that many meeting participants don’t see their personals benefits from investing this time. Others might be motivated to do good preparation but experience the rest of the group is only getting up to speed during the meeting. This might demotivate them to put the extra effort. Lot of times this results in a non productive group behavioral pattern. But hey, it is not all bad news, you can actually break this pattern. Let’s look at what is needed and how to go about persuading participants to prepare.
What is Needed for Good Meeting Preparation?
A meeting is a social gathering of persons that are trying to accomplish something together. So first and foremost it should be absolutely clear what it is that you try to accomplish - as a group. In other words: “What is the goal of this meeting?”. If this is not clear there is a good chance that people will be entering the meeting with different ideas of what to accomplish. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?
If the main goal is absolutely clear, the next step is to define the pad how to reach this goal. In meetings this is called the agenda. What exactly are we doing during this meeting? To further align everyone it is good practice to indicate the extent this topic will be discussed. There is a huge difference in spending 5 or 45 minutes on a topic. The best way is to set time slots per topic. Additionally you might want to state who is responsible for this particular topic. This post might be helpful if you want to know more about setting a perfect agenda
Next you might want to provide the participants with information per topic that they need to be fully prepared.
To summarize, this is what you need for good meeting preparation:
Goal of the meeting
Agenda with timeslots and responsible persons
Documents so participants can prepare
We already know that preparation is key in reaching your goals. We see how we can make sure the group is prepared to reach this goal and what is needed for that. Let’s dive into how you can persuade others to prepare to the meeting in order to reach your goals.
How to Make Others Prepare for a Meeting
Let me aks you this: What is the main reason participants in your meeting don’t prepare? Lack of time? Lack of interest? Intentional sabotage? STOP. Let’s not go that negative pad, we believe people mean well :-). We see many people are so busy that in some way or another they are in a time squeeze.
We think the key is to really make preparation as short and easy as possible. Unfortunately, this means you as the organizer need to invest more of your precious time. Auch! Luckily we got your back :-)
Furthermore you want to eliminate all barrier that people have to do their preparation. For instance, if they need to search in their inbox or through folders to find what they need to prepare, they will see that as a barrier and probably stop if they cannot find what they need in a couple of seconds.
Finally there are sociological factors that can of influence the time they put into preparation. We will go into that topic in another blog post. To give you a quick idea: Why would the other want to put in some extra effort? Thinking about your typical participant will help as well. You might like this post as a good starter.
To wrap this up, all we have to say is that you fail to prepare, you need to prepare to fail.