Forty-six percent of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next, according to entrepeneur.com. You don’t want to be known as the person who leads that kind of meeting. So, what should you do?
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
If you painstakingly prepare more than most people bother to, it will measurably improve your chances of affecting people the way you want. To grow in your career, you must learn how to prepare for an important meeting.
How to Prepare for an Important Meeting
1. Take Time to Think Through the Topic of the Meeting
In an age of instant response, slow down, and think things through. It’s nice to be fast, but instant responses can prove to be disastrous.
Yes, I know you have limited time and limited resources to do this, but if you don’t slow down, pause, and prepare, you will be unable to present your points clearly. If you seem unprepared, you show a lack of care toward the other party or the outcome of the discussion.
Some CEOs tell me that for every hour they expect to be in front of someone, they give themselves two to three hours of preparation. The rule of thumb for courtiers in Buckingham Palace is that “a one-minute visit with the queen requires three hours of planning.”
2. Seek Out Any Relevant Information In Advance.
Don’t wait until the last minute to do your research. Download history surrounding the topic and consider the current environment well before the meeting.
You can not be overprepared. Do homework to the nth degree. Think, mull over, ruminate, and weigh anything you should consider about the facts and the project. Even write down and analyze options.
3. Consider Others’ Questions and interests Before the Meeting
Study the tendencies of people involved in your meeting. Focus on the person at the other end of the line – your audience of one or one hundred. Think about what they want to know and why it’s important to them.
Understand the other persons’ fears, dreams, and desires. Figure out the big drivers that are motivating them. It’s all about them; where they are coming from, their fears, and their nightmares. See life from their point of view so they think “this person gets me.”
Facts and figures are important, but feelings count. More decisions are made for emotional reasons than factual.When preparing for a meeting, consider the other person. "Facts and figures are important, but feelings count. More decisions are made for emotional reasons than factual." https://bit.ly/3b823Ln @debrabenton #careeradvice Click To Tweet
4. Plan A Response For Potential Questions.
Role play in your mind, even on paper, what discussions might happen. What will the other party or parties ask, what will they say, what will they bring up that is important to them?
Answer, to yourself, every question you might get asked before it is posed. Supervisors or executives will grill you with questions so you might as well ask yourself ahead of time and think through the answer. When the real question comes, it may not be friendly or nice, but your pre-thinking will have reduced your stress so you can answer with confidence.
5. Know When To Stop
Stop pondering after you’ve absorbed what you can. Decide on the point where no additional information, no cramming, no more thinking is going to help.
Preparing is not justification for procrastination. When you’ve done all you can, you’re ready.
Bonus Tip for Nailing Your Meeting: Practice Communicating Clearly Every Time You Speak
Every time you communicate, practice being smooth. You might think you can stumble all around with a friend and it doesn’t make a difference. Wrong. Everything you do is training your brain, so even with friends try for improved communication.
Do not dismiss serious preparation as overkill, even for a simple phone call. As one executive coaching client told me, “I put on my power shoes and really pay attention.” Don’t just assume you can wing a phone call. Take a deep breath before you start talking. It helps when your lungs are full of air.
Before you communicate, in any situation, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish in this exchange? What is the reason to do this – both implicit and explicit. Why should she give a darn? What is the likely outcome of this exchange?” And then, after it’s done ask, “Did I accomplish what I set out to?”
It is extra work, but if you practice better communication with phone calls and casual conversations, then you will be better prepared to communicate effectively in your meeting.
Meeting Preparation Pays Off
Preparation increases confidence and optimism, and makes you more interesting to whomever you are speaking with. People respond well to someone who is sure of what he or she wants and goes for it.
The higher you go in your career, the more preparation is required, so you might as well get in the habit early. So few people make the extra effort that if you do, you’ll get noticed. Spend some time preparing now, and you’ll find that you not only succeed in your important meeting but in your career.