Challenging Meeting Coming Up? Here’s a Preparation Checklist

Many meetings are pretty straightforward and we don’t have to worry particularly about how they’ll go – we’ll be relaxed and can respond in the moment.

Other meetings might be more challenging or stressful. There might be a lot riding on the outcome – a tricky negotiation, some bad news to impart etc. They might have lots of attendees, perhaps with different and competing interests. You may need a strategy for the meeting.

For such more challenging meetings, you might appreciate having a checklist to help you prepare:

  • Being really clear about your aims
    • By the end of the meeting you hope that the following things will have been achieved and people will be thinking or feeling what exactly?
    • Are we imparting information; issuing instructions; making or implementing decisions, or; persuading others to accept a proposal
    • Any other aims (such as getting to know the client better)
    • Specific objectives
    • Agenda
    • How long should the meeting run?
    • Any ‘history’ to be taken into account?
  • Who else is attending?
    • Who needs to be there?
    • What are their backgrounds?
    • What is their role in the matter?
    • What is the best way of dealing with them?
    • What are their expectations and what do they want from the meeting?
  • Roles
    • Who is to chair?
    • What are the roles of others attending?
    • Who will lead the discussion on the different agenda items?
    • If note taking – purpose and level of detail required?
    • What is the client’s role (if present); who will ‘look after’ the client?
  • Our strategy or tactics
    • If the other side does such-and-such, how should we respond?m
    • Might we need to call for a break? Who will suggest this ?
  • Structuring an agenda
    • Consider providing details of date, time, place, attendees
    • Consider showing who is to present what during the meeting and clarifying what is expected of everybody
    • Consider allocating a time “budget” for each item
    • Consider discussing the most important items early when participants are most alert
    • Consider sending a draft agenda to attendees inviting their comments or suggestions
    • Circulate agenda and papers before the meeting so everyone can consider their views before the meeting
  • Consider location/logistics of meeting
    • Home, away or neutral venue
    • Refreshments
    • Support available if needed (eg for redrafting, booking taxis etc)
  • Seating plan
    • Do you need one?
    • To reinforce authority, Chair should sit at end of rectangular table or in the middle of one long side
    • To influence a meeting, try putting the “undecided’s” opposite the proponents and divide the opponents

For more thoughts about improving the effectiveness of meetings, see:

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