Whenever you hear the word ‘meeting’ floating around the office, there’s always that stroke of fear that trembles down everyone’s spines. There’s no need to be scared! Everybody knows that meetings can either be the biggest time-wasting distraction known to man, or they can be the most productive things you participate in. Depending on what type of organisation or boss you work for, you could be inundated with meetings or they could be a rarity, but one fact remains the same; no matter how many meetings you find yourself in, they shouldn’t be looked at with dread. Instead, the apprehension should be saved for the organising of the whole thing. The responsibility of preparing the meeting, the attendees, and all the relevant resources lies in the hands of the PAs/EAs, particularly if the meeting has a large attendance and is important.
Preparing resources, emailing potential attendees, organising a venue and ensuring refreshments are provided are all factors that need to be considered before the consultation commences. The list goes on. So, how do you manage to remember all of this, plus attend and maintain focus on the minutes you’re taking? Thankfully, we have a few useful tips to help you with that daunting task of trying to prepare for a meeting.
Collate a solid agenda in advance
To solidify the efficiency of the meeting, you need to ensure an agenda is prepared for all attendees. As we all know, there needs to be a good reason to host a meeting. Without a good enough motive, everyone would question the need for one being held. This is why it’s always a good idea to get hold of or create an agenda to highlight the key discussion points of it from the offset. A well-crafted agenda provides attendees with the relevant information and running order of the meeting. It also gives them a chance to prepare thoroughly so the discussion can move along efficiently and without it breaking off for an empty conversation that isn’t relevant to the goals of the meeting.
Likewise, the first 5-7 minutes are the most important for a meeting as it sets the tone on structure and content. So, having everything prepared for the beginning of the meeting is imperative.
Also, you may have to prepare some important points or key decision-making moments before the meeting even starts. Again, this ensures that the gathering maintains its efficient nature. Of course, these important instances should already be laid out within your agenda, but we feel like this point has to be reiterated because every meeting should have some important goal or aims to come out of it, or else there’d be no point in having a one.
Feedback and external input
Once there’s an initial agenda prepared, you need to ensure that it’s circulated to all participants and attendees. Feedback and input are always useful when preparing a meeting, so if there’s something the attendees would like to add and it is a key point to raise, then that can be added onto the agenda too. That way, potential participants will be fully invested in the purpose of the meeting.
Review attendee list
Take a look at who needs to be invited and whether the topic of the meeting is relevant to those people. Avoid inviting people ‘just in case’, try to keep the core attendees to those who have a role to play in the project/discussion topic and can contribute during the meeting. The lower the numbers, the easier it is to manage the meeting. It goes without saying, keep track of who you’ve invited, who has responded and who will be attending. On the day, it works as a register so once everyone has arrived and are ready, you can begin the meeting promptly.
Make arrangements to set up appropriate technology
If you have the resources to do so, ensure all the relevant technology is available. For example, will some attendees need to join via telephone conference or video feed? How will you minute the meeting? If you’re using a laptop or tablet, prepare an outline document ready to type minutes into ahead of time etc. This way, there should be fewer issues on the day. The power of technology!
Keep an eye on the clock
No one likes a meeting that goes on for too long or is filled with useless information, so we recommend that you use the clock to keep track of the meeting as a whole and try to move the group on to the next point on the agenda at relevant intervals if necessary. Dedicate certain amounts of time to different sections of the meeting. For instance, try and stick to sections such as ‘Introduction: 10 minutes’, ‘Plan for the upcoming year: 20 minutes’ etc. etc. Not that you’re clock watching or anything.
Follow up on the meeting
Always type up your notes straight after the meeting finishes. This way, you don’t end up forgetting anything important that was said. Thorough notes that are made straight after the meeting can then be emailed to the rest of the attendees to ensure they don’t forget anything significant.
Phew! Now you can breathe again. If you follow these steps, then you’ll be well on your way to preparing a practically perfect meeting that no one has to be scared of. Good luck!