Effective Meetings Step 1: Prepare

According to Atlassian, you're going to attend ~62 meetings this month and chances are that you'll consider half of them to be a waste of time. In light of this fact, we tend to just take a deep breath and brace ourselves for the day's crushing schedule, but why don't we save that deep breath and sink our efforts into holding meetings that are efficient, effective, and beneficial for everyone involved?

Because meetings tend to be so time-consuming already, it can be difficult to invest what feels like additional time and effort before they begin - but this is the foundation of an effective (and often times shorter) meeting: preparation.

If you feel the need to hold a meeting, consider the purpose and agenda before putting it on the calendar. Express its purpose in a few short sentences to give a broad overview and follow it up with specific agenda items. This will do a few things for you.

Do you need those meetings?

It will first serve as an indication of whether or not you need the meeting at all. If you are unable to explain its purpose in a few short sentences, it will be near impossible for your participants to work towards the same goal. Beyond a general description, specific agenda items will help determine the necessity of a live meeting or if the content can be handled through a simple email or Slack message.

  • Takeaway: Cut out meetings with an undefined purpose and handle as many agenda items through other, less drawn-out, mediums to ensure that the meetings you do hold are entirely beneficial for everyone involved.

Help your team come prepared

Meetings are filled with discussion and often times, opinions. While differing perspectives can foster a healthy dialogue, opinions that are formed on the spot typically impact the conversation less than those that have had the benefit of time and fact-checking. Giving participants the purpose and specific agenda items well in advance, will allow them to read and research relevant information that will, in turn, help inform the discussion. This also sets the precedent that there is an expectation that everyone involved will come to the meeting prepared to offer an educated opinion.

  • Takeaway: Your meetings are only as focused as your team. Don't expect an immediate, fully developed response while they take in the information for the first time. Give them the tools to actively participate in a successful meeting.

Lead your meetings with confidence

You'll be better suited to lead the conversation towards desirable outcomes if you've given thought to what you want to discuss ahead of time. As the meeting inevitably wanders off-topic at points, you'll be able to recast the vision for the agenda item at hand to make sure everyone understands what needs to be accomplished (e.g. "We're discussing digital marketing and we need to close this agenda item with a new social media strategy").

  • Takeaway: As the one calling the meeting, set yourself and your team up for success by determining upfront what the outcomes should be. Take charge and facilitate discussion that moves towards these outcomes.

While it may add extra time to your schedule initially, solid meeting preparation helps to cut down on the actual meeting time and, in some cases, the meeting entirely! This time reduction adds up to collectively save the team hundreds of hours and the company thousands of dollars every month.

Practice preparation and help your meetings succeed!