I'm not sure when it became ok to show up to meetings unprepared. Maybe because we have constant access to the internet, we think we can wing it?
Meetings are precious, and they should be treated as such. If you could've gotten the same thing accomplished with an email, you shouldn't have bothered to meet.
I couldn't agree more.
So, when you do participate in a meeting, give it the respect it deserves, and come prepared. Here's how: do these tour things before you step foot into any meeting:
Know what type of meeting it is in advance.
There are two types of meetings: divergent ones and convergent ones.
Divergent meetings aim to explore different possibilities, widen your thinking, and help brainstorm options. Convergent meetings aim to narrow down options and focus on the best path moving forward.
Know ahead of time which type of meeting it will be by asking the meeting organizer and/or attendees.
Figure out what your ideal outcomes are.
An ideal outcome might be vague or it might be specific. It might be to align on what the problem at hand is, or to make a decision to take on a new project. Too often, we show up to meetings and skip this crucial step of explicitly stating the ideal outcome. The results can be damaging, ranging from wasting time talking about the wrong thing, to leaving the meeting with some people believing it was good meeting and others leaving the meeting feeling the main topic wasn't addressed.
Know with certainty what the ideal outcome of the meeting is by asking all attendees a few days before the meeting what the ideal outcomes of the meeting will be.
Know your role.
Based on what you learn the ideal outcomes of the meeting will be, you'll then be in a position to understand your role in the meeting. Are you there to provide input? Do others expect you to be the decision maker? Are you there to train others? Are you there to take notes? Are you there to be a liaison between other parties?
Your role in any given meeting can take on a wide range of purposes. You should always have a clear understanding of your role in every meeting.
Do your research.
And last but not least, once you have a grasp on the type of meeting it will be, the ideal outcomes, and your role, you must give every meeting the respect it deserves by doing research and planning ahead of time.
If you are meeting with someone you've never met before, research them and their company online. How long have they been at their current job? Do you have any mutual acquaintance? If you are meeting with your team, or a client, spend time by yourself thinking through what you aim to get out of the meeting, and come prepared with questions, insights and data.
Now that you have the four key steps, you'll find coming to meetings prepared easier than ever before. Tie it all together by following Tom Peter's advice: listen intently and be present. You'll be glad you did.