Category Archives: Meeting Preparation

Help Meeting Participants Prepare

One of the most common complaints I receive about meetings is that attendees come unprepared.  A lot of time is then wasted getting them up to speed.  Here are some ways to address this challenge:

  • Make sure the purpose of the meeting is clear and communicated ahead of time.
  • Consider having a sub-group meet ahead of time to identify what needs to be done to prepare and perhaps distribute responsibility for doing it.
  • Give someone responsibility to take time at the beginning of the meeting to brief the group on the task, the background, and what the desired outcome is.
  • Contact key people ahead of the meeting to be sure they have done the reading or preparation required to get value from the meeting.

Take these steps and you can make a big impact in helping your meeting participants be prepared.

Meeting Breaks

Take a break!

If your meeting will be longer than 90 minutes, you need to plan a break. If you do not, you run a high risk of participants getting fatigued and tuning out. Or even disappearing entirely.  If nothing else, they need a biological break!

When to schedule breaks and for how long?

Look at the amount of time you will need for your meeting.  Consider your agenda.  Anecdotally, I have found that people need a “bio break” more often when the content of the meeting is dull or one-way (someone talking at them) rather than in an interesting discussion.  Your experience may differ.  Also, will your agenda permit a break between topics or can you combine two or three, if short, to allow a good breaking point?

Keep breaks to a maximum of 15 minutes. A lot of time can be lost while people run “for a minute” to get coffee or a soda or worse, a phone call. Sages say,
“There is no such thing as a 5-minute break.”  Before anyone leaves the room, tell them how long the break will be so they can police themselves.  If necessary, ask for a volunteer to round up attendees two to three minutes before the end of the break and then herd them back to your meeting.

An alternate “break” can be simply allowing people to move around the room to keep the blood flowing.  For example, having the group stretch or interact briefly with people sitting near them is a good  technique.  I often pair people up for short thinking exercises at key points to boost the energy.

Consider having refreshments in the meeting room so participants stay put and breaks do not stretch beyond the allotted time.

If you have an additional way you use or plan for breaks, please share it in the comments section.

Meeting Preparation

What to do BEFORE the meeting?

Here’s a short list of things to do:

  1. Identify the purpose

  2. Meet (in person or on phone) with agenda “champions” or sponsors to discuss the topics and agenda items

  3. Identify and invite participants

  4. Schedule meeting room and arrange for appropriate equipment (computers? display projector? extension cord?)

  5. Prepare agenda and send it to participants

  6. Design the process for the meeting – that is, think about HOW you will facilitate or manage the meeting;  consider issues that might arise, conflict that may emerge, etc. and then how you will handle them

  7. Consider if an icebreaker is needed and if so, what one you will use

What have I forgotten?  What else do you do to prepare for a meeting?