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How to prepare a meeting you want to attend

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Preparation for the meeting includes the decision by the head of a number of tasks, the main of which are:
• goal setting,
• drawing up the agenda,
• identification of participants,
• preparation of handouts,
• determination of time.

Goal setting. Before the meeting, it is useful for the leader to find answers to the questions: “What is the purpose of this meeting?”, “How necessary is it and what will happen if the meeting is not held?”, “What will be the main criterion for achieving the desired result (solving the tasks set for the meeting)?” If Since the leader of the meeting does not have answers to these questions, there is a serious danger that it will turn into a simple waste of time.

Drawing up the agenda. The agenda is an important meeting paper. Properly compiled, it can make operational and meaningful even such a meeting, which few people own. It is necessary to distribute the agenda before the meeting at a time optimal for preparing for it. Too late, as well as excessively early distribution of the agenda reduces its effectiveness.

The contents of the agenda. The agenda for the meeting should be specific. A short or vague agenda can significantly reduce its effectiveness, because it will not allow members to form their own opinions and prepare in advance, for example, to get acquainted with the necessary documents, facts and figures.

It is useful for the Chairperson to review the agenda and, in front of each item, mark the function being performed. This will help him to clarify what exactly is expected from the discussion, as well as tell which people to invite and what questions to ask them. In some cases, it is useful in the process of announcing the agenda for those gathered to prefix each item with a heading, for example: “For information”, “For discussion” or “For decision”, so that those present at the meeting know exactly what actions are expected from them.

Order items. When drawing up the agenda, two laws must be taken into account:
• The beginning of a meeting is usually more lively than its end. Therefore, if the question requires intensive thinking and a creative approach, then it is more useful to pose one of the first. At the same time, if any item arouses the greatest interest and concern of the participants, then it may be better to hold it a bit and resolve other issues before,
• some questions unite participants in a single front, while others share. Based on the position of organizational effectiveness, it is more useful to include issues that lead to disagreements and confrontation at the beginning of the agenda, and conclude the meeting with unifying questions.

Identification of meeting participants. The usefulness and success of a meeting becomes highly doubtful if there are too many people present or people who are not directly involved in the discussion. In accordance with this, the optimal number of participants is selected. It should be borne in mind that for organizing a constructive discussion, the optimal number is considered to be from 5 to 9 people.

If there are several issues on the agenda, each of which requires the invitation of additional employees, then the use of the separate discussion method is effective. The essence of the method is to invite additional specialists to a specific question, who leave the meeting at the end of the consideration of the issue. This allows you to reduce the number of participants and avoid the presence of extras, i.e. those participants who are present at the meeting, waiting until it is the turn to discuss their issue. Moreover, the permanent members of the meeting are present throughout its duration. However, the use of the separate discussion method requires strict adherence to the regulations. Invitees should not be forced to languish outside the door while waiting for the discussion of their issue to begin.

Handout preparation. The preparation and distribution of the relevant handout material along with the agenda (in the form of a draft decision, a description of the proposals, as well as various supporting materials) not only saves time, but also allows participants to formulate useful questions and constructive comments in advance. However, this idea loses all meaning if the papers that are handed out directly at the meeting are too voluminous. Therefore, it is necessary to make an effort and make them concise but clear, as they are to be read to everyone present. An exception may be handouts providing various reports and used as additional background information that does not require full reading.

Time spending. The time of the meeting is determined depending on the specifics of the issues addressed and the tasks solved at the meeting. Urgent but brief meetings related to short-term planning are usually held at the beginning of the day, they are often called a planning meeting. Promising weekly meetings are usually held on Monday and also at the beginning of the day. It is more useful to hold reporting meetings at the end of the working week, month, etc. In these cases, the second half of the day is most effective. Although it should be borne in mind that the timing of the meeting is also significantly affected by the features of organizational and professional activities.

Location of participants. There are many descriptions of how people should sit in a meeting and how this affects the behavior and relationships within the group. Not everything is clear on this issue, but the following can be recognized: a) if the participants are sitting across the table facing each other, this stimulates opposition, conflict and disagreement, although, of course, does not turn allies into enemies, b) as a rule, proximity to the chairman attests to his respect and favor. This is clearly visible when he sits at the head of a long narrow table. The greater the distance from the chairman, the lower the rank - just as in medieval refectory, non-noble guests were planted at the "lower" end of the table. The chairman should understand who to sit opposite to “opposition” seats, and who is next to “friendly” seats. Engaging in confrontation or a heated argument with a neighbor is more difficult.

Before the meeting

  1. Make sure that there is a clear goal to achieve which you really need to bring employees together.
  2. Announce the topic and the leader of the meeting in advance, so that people can prepare for the discussion, write down appropriate questions. The invite list also matters.
  3. Make a plan with priority tasks and send it to all participants at least 24 hours before the meeting. It is better to streamline the plan as much as possible and indicate next to each item the time allotted for its discussion. It is also useful to indicate the names of the employees who are responsible for the tasks in these paragraphs.
  4. Try to lay no more than the entire meeting 52 minutes - This is the best time for productive work without a break.
  5. If you are having a meeting and are too busy to prepare everything thoroughly, it is better to delegate this task to someone who has time for this. In general, periodically change the meeting leader so that meetings do not become monotonous. If your team has several equal peers, try alternating responsibilities.

At the most productive meetings, only five to eight participants are present; this group size promotes engagement and active discussion.

During the meeting

  1. Get started on time. It might seem that a two-minute delay will not be a big problem, but it can make the participants angry and the meeting will be less fruitful.

Respect the time of people, starting and ending on time. Nothing is more conducive to creativity and productivity than caring for limited resources.

There will come a moment when the conversation reaches its peak, and the group ceases to generate new thoughts. And then you need to finish.

After the meeting

  1. Do not immediately arrange a new meeting to discuss the decisions made at the previous one. Break this vicious circle! Hold one meeting, and then monitor progress. You can add actual tasks to a common board in tools like Trello, Asana or Basecamp, this is especially useful if the command is remote. Meeting leaders can add reminders and deadlines to the team’s shared calendar.
  2. Gather feedback from the team, this will help improve the effectiveness of the next meetings. It is very simple, although managers often overlook it or avoid it.

Most people are afraid of grades. We don’t always want to know how we are doing, because as soon as we find out about the problems, we will need to do something.

So, what you need to consider when organizing a meeting:

  • the optimal number of participants is 5–8 people,
  • the leader of the meeting must be known in advance and it is advisable to change it from meeting to meeting,
  • it is necessary to develop a meeting plan with approximate estimates of time and responsible staff for each item,
  • the total duration of the meeting should be about 50 minutes,
  • it’s important to start the meeting on time,
  • to pay attention when it's time to round off,
  • collect feedback to make the next meeting better.

How Yandex uses your data and machine learning to personalize services - read and watch YaC 2019.

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