11 Things To Do Before the Start of a Meeting

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Here is a checklist to organise and run a successful team meeting:

  1. Have all the expected attendees been invited? Check that all the expected attendees have actually been invited to the meeting, with sufficient notice. Particularly important for those attendees that must travel to the meeting place.
  2. Is the purpose of the meeting clear and unambiguous? Attendees must know why they’re attending! (Or else, why should they attend?) Make sure that the purpose of the meeting is properly understood! If you’ve experienced attendance issues to previous team meetings, perhaps this could be where the issue is?
  3. Has an appropriate meeting place been assigned? I see this all the time – where a meeting doesn’t have a meeting point. Rooms need to be booked to guarantee you can use them. If you can’t get a room with chairs, then have a stand-up meeting (literally) – Stand Up and Be Counted (in Meetings). If you haven’t booked anywhere, then you could try a local coffee shop, public park or library.
  4. Is there an agenda? If your meeting has more than one obvious purpose, it may need an agenda. This will help you manage the meeting to time and to ensure that you cover all the subjects. Take a look at my post What Makes a Good Meeting Agenda? for help in how to create an agenda for your meeting.
  5. If attendees are dialling in to the meeting, do they have the call conference details? Make sure the conference details have been published way in advance to avoid any late arrivals or non attendance.
  6. Has a minute-taker been assigned? Somebody should take the minutes to make sure actions and decisions are recorded. I wrote about how to take minutes in this post: Minute-Taking, Made Easy. But you don’t need to be so regimented in small, impromptu meetings – instead, just make sure that an attendee of the meeting jots down the actions and decision as they arise.
  7. Are attendees prepared? Many meetings need preparing for – and not always by the meeting chairperson. If you require attendees to prepare documents, presentations, or technology, for Pete’s sake make sure that they a) know this, and b) have enough time to prepare.
  8. Have all materials been distributed? If attendees are required to refer to notes, documents, slide-decks, etc then ensure they have been sent out in plenty time (at least a couple of days beforehand). The quality of your meeting is generally higher if attendees are given time to read the material so they can raise any questions off it.
  9. Do attending team members actually know each other? Do they understand each other’s roles, and responsibilities? New attendees should be introduced to the whole team – don’t assume that team members have introduced themselves to each other before the meeting.
  10. Have you got your timing right? In my experience, a lot of time can be wasted at the start of a meeting by team members ‘catching up’. Whilst this shouldn’t be discouraged, it is eating into your meeting time. Allow only 2-3 minutes for the banter, and then get on with the agenda. Have you given enough time for the meeting? Or, can you achieve the purpose of your meeting in half the time?
  11. Do you need the meeting? This last one is a hygiene factor… in my early career I attended many team meetings that had no clear purpose, where I didn’t know who was who, what needed preparing, etc. And some of those meetings went ahead just to tick a box or fill the diary. Are you in one of those meetings?

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