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TET #002: The Secret to Effective Meetings

Aug 13, 2022

Today I’ll share with you how to properly prepare for a meeting so you'll immediately add to the value of your meetings and conversations.

I used to think 5 minutes of preparation for a meeting is enough. I will have a look at the agenda and I'm good to go. I enter the meeting, people start talking, efficiency decreases, no decisions are made, no thoughtful questions are asked and my energy level hits rock bottom. What happened?

Unfortunately, people underestimate the value of meeting preparation because they either trust in the process of the meeting or hope that someone else will take the lead. It's the preparation that makes all the difference.

Without Preparation, the Meeting Loses Value

There are a few reasons (besides laziness) why people don't prepare, some being subconscious, some very much conscious.

  • They lack the time.
  • They hope somebody else will take the lead.
  • They trust the process of the meeting.
  • They think they are naturally well prepared.

If you are guilty of those traps, I will show you how you can tackle your next meeting and be well prepared.

Here's how.

Make Time for Preparation

We often get caught up in an unimportant side task, another unscheduled meeting, or the cat that needs to be fed and wants to be petted.

To be prepared for a meeting you need to set aside a dedicated amount of time to work on your preparation and really make it happen - uninterrupted. If you're struggling to implement this, get someone who can hold you accountable. Schedule an extra meeting with yourself to prepare before the actual meeting and block your calendar.

If you don't have time for the preparation you don't have time for the meeting. It's as simple as that.

Go Over the Agenda and Come up with Questions

First of all, if a meeting doesn't have an agenda it is set up for failure. Always make sure you either set it yourself or ask the organizer to provide it.

With an agenda, I like to think that people usually have a quick look at it upfront. To soothe themselves into thinking "I have prepared myself" and to dig up an old Excel sheet that might be relevant for this one topic. But that's usually as far as it goes, if even.

Instead, go through the agenda thoroughly. Step by step. Come up with thoughtful questions that you have regarding the stated topics. Create content for the topics you are responsible for presenting.

Asking carefully crafted questions will add value to the meeting for everyone.

Prepare Answers to Yet Unasked Questions

I have worked with many talented people over the last decade - across multiple areas: engineering, sales, and marketing. One of my colleagues always stood out to me because of what looked like a high degree of cleverness.

She always seemed to have an answer to everything and asked the most thoughtful questions. One of the brightest people I know. At some point, I asked her how she is adding that much value to a meeting. Her reply was: always schedule a time to prepare, come up with questions and think about answers to questions anyone else might have.

To come up with thoughtful questions and witty answers is not an innate skill or natural cleverness. It's the result of a thorough preparation.

Before the next meeting or call, set some time aside to prepare and think about how much value you can add to the next meeting.

See you next week!

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