The success of a meeting doesn’t just rely on the person organizing it. You can help to make the next meeting you attend more effective, even if you are not in charge of it.

How? It’s pretty simple.

Here are four ways that you can create a better meeting whether you’re a participant or the leader.

1. Really Read the Agenda

The first thing I do to prepare is to go over the topics we’ll be discussing. I ask myself:

  • What is important about these issues?
  • What objectives do I have around this topic?
  • How does it connect to my overall strategy?
  • Is this topic framed in a useful way?

You never want to go into a meeting without an awareness of the topic and its context. You might want to get some input from colleagues, bring a reference document, read an article, find an example from another industry, or investigate connections to related to sorting out what is actually important and how to make this meeting valuable to you.

Be knowledgeable about what you’re getting yourself into so you can be prepared to have a positive impact…

2. Prepare Your Thoughts

Even just 5 minutes of focused thinking time can help you prepare for an effective meeting.

After you’ve looked over the agenda, you consider what are the most important outcomes for the group. How can you contribute? What can you bring to the table?

You can also consult your emotions—How do you feel about this topic? What would help you feel better?

Anything from an idea, to a process, or even a past experience can be helpful to bring up. You never know what kind of inspiration your contributions might spark!

3. Gather Info

Once you’ve reviewed the information in your own mind, start to collect notes, research, or any other materials that relate to the meeting topics.

Having the physical items or electronic files in front of you can also help to keep you focused and not forget any of your great ideas.

It’s also helpful to bring additional information in case someone asks for specifics or wants to know more about something you referenced.

4. Be Present

It’s not enough to just physically show up for a meeting. You want your mind focused to take in information, remember what’s said, and contribute your thoughts. You want to be aware of the expressions and body language of other people in the meeting to help you calibrate with what is needed next.

When you see what is needed next for the group, you can ask a question or direct a comment to help the group move forward. A couple of my favorite ways to interject:
Let’s review our objective for this topic…….
It seems like we should make some time to talk about…..
Have we come to a decision?

A meeting is an very active engagement with process and content, relationships and decisions all playing out real-time. You don’t want to miss anything someone says or forgo an opportunity to share your insightful ideas.

BONUS: Bring Food

Let’s be honest. Meetings can sometimes be a bit boring. But do you know what always makes them better?

FOOD!

I’m always happier to attend a meeting is there is a snack for me to munch on while we chat. Especially nuts, fruit, or healthy drink options.

Plus, having food can help everyone stay connected to the meeting and on track.

So, when you next receive a meeting invite, see if you can upgrade your response to create a better meeting, and get more important work done, while you enjoy the company of your coworkers.

Jessica Hartung

Jessica Hartung is a partner, coach, and guide for those leveling-up their personal professional leadership, their teams, and their communities to a better future.

Jessica has a passion for inspiring and preparing people to grow from their work to improve their lives. In 1998, she founded Integrated Work, a consulting firm that brings top-notch professional development to mission-driven leaders, while being a learning laboratory for innovative work practices.

Jessica provides self-directed professional development tools to leaders at all levels striving to create positive impact.

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