Everyone hates long meetings that are unorganized. These days, people are busy enough with their regular work so when meetings are bad, they get mad.

Most meetings suck because people are unprepared. They haven't given thought to the reasons why the meeting is happening and the desired outcome. Worse, they are afraid to step up and take control so other offenders don't steal time.

Don't let bad meetings steal your time. Use these preparation techniques to make sure you and the other attendees get the most from meetings whether there are 2 or 10 people.

1. Research the attendees.

There is no real excuse today for not knowing the people with whom you are meeting. Whether it's a one on one or a conference table of 10, you should have some idea of who is at the table. Get a list of attendees and Google each one. Check out their Linkedin profile and perhaps even look at them on Facebook to understand who they are and what they bring to the conversation. The time spent up front will not only save time on introductions, but it will give you powerful insights should conflict occur.

2. Determine clear objectives.

Most meetings ramble because people wait until the last minute to determine what they want from the time spent. Even if you are the only one clear on what is to be accomplished, you can drive the results to meet your needs and declare completion when the objectives are met. That leaves the pressure on the others to justify hanging around.

3. Plan a suggested agenda.

In his book Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni suggests leaving the agenda open until the beginning of the meeting. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider what it looks like until the last minute. Have your preferred agenda prepared and share in the meeting at the beginning. Most likely people will accept your plan or at least voice any necessary alterations that can quickly be agreed upon.

4. Consider any obstacles.

Rather than waiting for the explosions to happen, be prepared for the drama that may come your way. Think about which battles are worth your energy and which ones you are willing to concede. If you are mentally prepared for the emotion and conflict, you can keep your cool and will be ready to move toward resolution quickly.

5. Remove any roadblocks.

You don't have to wait to solve every problem in a meeting. If you identify potential issues and can remove them before the meeting you will save time for the attendees. With enough careful forethought you might even remove the need for the meeting altogether.

6. Decide on desirable outcomes.

Make sure everyone is clear on why the meeting is important and what the grater impact for the involved parties will be. Different than the meeting objectives, which are tactical, this is about understanding how this meeting fits into the big picture strategy. If people aren't clear on this then the effort and results will likely be disconnected at best and useless at worse.

7. Think about follow-up activities.

Before you get in the meeting, budget time to take action that capitalizes on the conversation. Doing a follow-up and follow-through are critical for successful meetings and yet most people don't think about it until after the meeting is over. If you budget time that becomes unnecessary, you can easily reapportion that time to other important efforts.

Published on: Apr 11, 2016