How to Prepare for Meetings

Are your meetings putting everyone to sleep? What if you could turn those events into the highlight of your day? The key to making meetings more fruitful is simple: prepare a little.

Mind Numbing Meetings

In-person meetings and group video calls: sometimes, they just feel like an unfortunate interruption to an otherwise productive day.

Often, the events themselves are the cause for low excitement and participation. For instance, when a meeting is poorly organized. Or when a daily team huddle has lost its original spark, but we keep doing it anyway.

In other cases, you… could be the reason why meetings you attend suck.

Even well-organized, relevant meetings can fail when individual attendees don’t actively contribute. This usually happens due to a lack of preparation.

You can easily spot unprepared meeting attendees:

  • Arriving late
  • Wondering why certain people are present
  • Reading documents that are now being discussed
  • Losing track of the conversation
  • Nodding and agreeing to everything
  • Replying to messages on their phone or laptop
  • Leaving without personally gaining anything
  • Rushing to the next appointment

Tell me, how do you score on this list?

Shall we take a look at improving your meeting prep? Get ready to make meetings more fun and rewarding.

Mastering Your Calendar

Our first priority should be time management. Because, if you always let other people decide when and why meetings are held, you are surrendering your valuable time.

Some invitations are hard to decline, of course. Even when they clash with your other priorities. However, be assertive and ask the organizer to consider changes that benefit your schedule. More often than not, meeting at an alternative time or shortening the duration is entirely acceptable.

Other time management tips:

  • Accept only those meetings with a clear and concrete goal. Since multiple people are involved, you’d want everyone to be on the same page.
  • Avoid going back and forth between meetings and desk work all day. That’s detrimental to your focus. If possible, plan most of your meetings in the afternoon, for example.
  • Be wary when you are invited to join a meeting the same day. Is it worth sacrificing the goals you set for today?
  • Keep an eye on the clock, and notice when a meeting runs over time. Will you just sit there and accept that?
  • Allow yourself at least 10 minutes of breathing room between back-to-back meetings and other time-sensitive tasks.

Getting Ready for a Meeting

With your calendar in excellent shape, we can begin preparing for your next meeting. Here’s what I do:

  1. Ahead of time, I spend 10 minutes taking notes for myself.
  2. If there are documents to read, I allocate additional time.
  3. I write down my goal for this meeting. When am I satisfied?
  4. Knowing my goal, I determine how I will convince the others.
  5. Looking at the list of attendees, I prepare for potential pushback.
  6. I envision different scenarios and plan how to handle them.

Showing Up Prepared

A solid preparation for a meeting gives you a confidence boost. You are in control! Now, let’s turn your prep work into action and make an appearance.

Ground rules for attending in-person events:

  1. Are you hosting? Arrive at least 20 minutes early. Test the facilities you depend on, like connecting your laptop to the projection screen. And arrange the conference room to your liking. If something is broken or missing, call your facilities department.
  2. Are you not hosting? Arrive 5 minutes early. Take into account the distance to the conference room and common hold-ups, like the elevator.
  3. Keep your coat and bag off your chair and the table. Use the coat rack or place your belongings out of sight.
  4. Keep your phone in your pocket. Set it to silent mode.
  5. Keep your laptop in your bag. Unless you must use it for the meeting.

Ground rules for attending remote video calls:

  1. Find a quiet, well-lit workspace, and grab a drink 5 minutes before the video call starts.
  2. Place the webcam at eye height. Especially laptop users tend to look down at their camera. Not very charming. So, be creative and find a solution.
  3. Appear on-screen like a passport photo. With the top of your head and shoulders just within the square box. (You are allowed to smile, though.)
  4. Are you hosting? Start the video call 5 minutes early. And open the documents you will screen share, like presentation slides. Before sharing your screen, close or mute other apps that can trigger distracting or even sensitive notifications, like your inbox and chat.
  5. Are you not hosting? Join 1 minute early and say hi.
  6. Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking.

Wrap Up

As you can see, it takes only a few quality checks to improve your experience and contribution in the conference room. So, going forward, take your part in turning those yawn-fests into on-point meetings, and observe how your efforts benefit both you and the group. You got this!

Rogier van de Zande
Rogier van de Zande

With over 20 years of experience in the corporate world, I help organizations with customer engagement, project management and team coaching. I hold a college degree in business information. And I’m a certified Lean Green Belt and Agile Scrum Master.