How to do meeting preparation right: 7 strategies for great managers

Noah Duncan

Meetings are vital to effective team communication, collaboration, and alignment. But then why have meetings earned such a bad reputation over the years? It all boils down to meeting preparation—or lack thereof. 

Without ample meeting prep, you may discover some team members didn’t need to be invited at all, and you may spend most of the meeting determining what should be discussed. A meeting can drag on as new discussion points pop up. Without a clear purpose, the meeting can become scattered, leaving team members twiddling their thumbs, looking at the clock, and wondering, “What am I even doing here? What’s the point of this?” 

Surface AI from Charma makes it easy to prepare for all your recurring meetings. 

In this article, we’ll explain how Surface AI works and share some quick tips on how to prepare for your meetings in just a few clicks. 

How to do meeting preparation right

1. Determine clear objectives and the meeting’s purpose

Every meeting needs a clear purpose. Without it, you’re just spinning your wheels and wasting time. Why are you meeting? What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the meeting? What type of meeting is it? How long do you need to meet to accomplish the meeting’s goals? 

When you know the exact purpose and goals of the meeting, it will inform how long the meeting needs to be, what type of meeting it needs to be (such as a one-on-one meeting, an all hands meeting, a brainstorming meeting, and so on), and who needs to be invited. 

Consider your team members and clients. Can the goals of the meeting be fulfilled without a certain person? Can they make it? If not, then there’s no point in meeting without them. 

Meetings are essential to productivity—but only if they have a clear purpose. It’s the meetings without clearly defined goals that give meetings a bad name. 

If you decide to set a meeting, ensure it has a clearly defined purpose and actionable, achievable objectives. 

🤔 Are you having too many meetings? 

2. List decisions that must be made during the meeting

If you only accomplish one thing during the meeting, what does it need to be? Be clear about what’s most important to the meeting’s success. 

What important decisions need to be made in order to accomplish the goals of your meeting? Do you need to decide on the direction to take a project? Do you need to decide who will be accountable for which parts of a project? Do you need to brainstorm a solution to a problem?

Knowing the exact decisions you need to reach will help you facilitate the meeting smoothly and effectively. 

3. Collaborate on an agenda

Once you know the meeting’s overarching goal and the key decisions that need to be made, put that information into an agenda and share it with each of the team members the success of the meeting depends on. This will provide everyone with the information they need for the meeting. 

The meeting agenda lets everyone involved know the purpose of the meeting and what’s expected of them. For example, what discussion topics will be covered? Who needs to speak, and what do they need to know about speaking at the meeting? Are there any additional materials that meeting participants need to review before the meeting begins?

Collaboration makes the meeting agenda all the more effective. Is there a key decision or discussion point a team member feels should be added? Gather insights from the people involved instead of waiting for issues to come up during the meeting. Surprises extend a meeting's runtime and prevent you from reaching your meeting goals. 

Collaborating on the meeting agenda will help ensure everyone’s voice is heard and the meeting doesn’t run overtime. Everything that needs to be discussed and decided upon is already in the meeting agenda, limiting any potential surprises. 

📚 Learn how to build an effective meeting agenda template. 

4. Consider potential obstacles and remove roadblocks

What roadblocks or obstacles could occur during the meeting, and how can you prevent them?

Thinking about this in advance allows you to foresee delays and react before anything goes wrong or prevents the meeting from moving forward smoothly. 

After all of your careful planning, don’t let your meeting get derailed by something you could have seen coming. Ensure every attendee is aware of when and where the meeting is taking place and what is required of them. Test any required technology to ensure your productivity isn’t foiled by an annoying tech issue. 

Think of potential obstacles to your meeting’s effectiveness and efficiency and do what you can to remove them before the meeting even begins. 

5. Take notes and determine action items

During the meeting, take notes throughout and follow along with the meeting agenda. 

Record any action items and clearly define them as you go. What does the action item look like? Who will work on it, and in what time frame will it be accomplished? 

Memories are fickle things. Record the action items you decide upon, who is responsible for them, and when they’re due to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Don’t copy every conversation down verbatim; record key decisions as they’re made. If an action item is decided upon, note it, and then move on to the next item on your agenda. 

6. Plan follow-up activities

After a successful meeting, it’s easy to pat yourself on the back and breathe a sigh of relief. “Okay, that’s done.” 😅

But the work is just beginning! What happens next? Do you need to schedule a follow up meeting? Who will work on what in the meantime? Who is responsible for following up? Next time, do you need a different type of meeting? Should different people be involved? 

There are many different reasons you need to bring your team together. There are information-based meetings for when you need to deliver some news to your team, such as if you’re introducing new software. There are discussion-based meetings for when you need to bring your team together to brainstorm, ideate, and make a plan, such as when you need to work through a complex problem. And there are also action-based meetings for when your team needs to work together to accomplish a task by the end of the meeting. 

If the meeting you’ve just left was a brainstorming session, then the next meeting you schedule is likely to be an action-based meeting. 

At the end of the meeting, determine the team’s next steps. Now that you have a game plan outlining how best to move forward, is everyone on the same page about what needs to be accomplished before the next meeting? What does everyone need to ensure action items are completed within the agreed upon time frame? 

💡 Whatever type of meeting comes next, don’t forget to utilize team meeting agendas

7. Use technology to automate your processes

Automate your process to save time and ensure you gather all of the information you need for every meeting. 

Create a meeting agenda template based on the types of meetings you and your team may have. Use this for every meeting and make adjustments to the template as needed. If you find something isn’t working for you, make the change. Your template shouldn’t be rigid and should evolve as your meeting processes do.

Technology can help you automate. Use tools that allow you to set reminders, collaborate, and follow up with clarity. WorkPattern's Surface AI feature is the ultimate meeting preparation hack. Keep reading for tips on how Surface AI can help you automate your pre-meeting to-do list.

Surface AI is the ultimate meeting prep hack
Surface AI is the ultimate meeting preparation hack

Simplify meeting preparation with Surface AI

Surface AI works with the tools you rely on every day to collect relevant information about your team’s workflows. It automatically surfaces this information in a single feed, giving you more context about what work is being done and who's doing it. You'll get a broad overview of your projects, new insights into your team's progress, and helpful automations to help you make smarter decisions faster. 

Here's how it works:

1. Connect the tools your team uses to get work done. We’re adding more integrations to this list everyday so keep an eye out for updates on tool availability.

2. The SurfaceAI algorithm will show you what everyone has been working on with insights on what might be blocked or delayed. It also shares status updates so you can stay on top of your team’s workflow without switching back and forth between apps. 

3. Add items to meeting agendas directly from your SurfaceAI feed to prepare your next meeting with ease. 

Whether you’re an exec thinking about how to simplify your meeting prep process, a manager trying to manage multiple recurring meetings, or a meeting planner trying to capture all the necessary information you need to build a comprehensive meeting agenda, it can be hard to dig through all your team’s tools and identify which information is relevant and which isn’t. That’s why we created Surface AI. It works with your existing workflows and apps (like Jira, Salesforce, Onedrive, and Google Drive) to give you more context about what work is being done and who's doing it; allowing you to discover, organize and collaborate without disrupting your team's workflows. Great meetings start with the right meeting preparation so skip the pre-meeting stress and start planning your meetings with Surface AI. 

Prep for your next meeting in 60 seconds with Surface AI

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