How to Show Up Prepared to a One-on-One Meeting Every Single Time

Showing up to every meeting prepared can be difficult. Here are 5 things you can do to ensure that conversation flows during your one-on-ones.

How to Prepare for Meetings

Whether you’re a manager or an individual contributor, your one-on-one meetings are one of the most important meetings you’ll have.

At Fellow, we view one-on-one meetings as a dedicated space in your calendar for you to connect with each person reporting to you and stay in the loop about priorities, team issues, and potential roadblocks. Most importantly, it’s an anticipated moment where employees can ask in-depth questions, receive coaching on their strengths and weaknesses, and provide feedback — three things they wouldn’t be able to do in a public space or at a team meeting.

Even when we know how valuable these meetings are, showing up to every meeting prepared and with a list of engaging questions can be difficult. The conversation may feel forced and you may be left feeling like you’re not sure what to talk about meeting to meeting.

In this video, we explore five things you can do to ensure that conversation flows during your one-on-ones and you leave those meetings feeling motivated and inspired:

1 Create a Recurring Agenda Template

I find it extremely valuable to set an agenda ahead of the meeting and use that same agenda template for each of my one-on-ones rather than feel like I need to come up with the structure for the meeting AND the talking points every week.

For the meetings I have with my direct reports, I use a simple agenda template that includes the following sections:

In the meeting I have with my manager, I have a slightly different template that includes:

The key is to find something that works for you and reuse it week-to-week. We have a few great one-on-one meeting templates in our meeting template library.

2 Come Prepared with Interesting Questions

Even if you know the benefits of one on one meetings, it can be tough to come up with ideas and conversation topics every time you have one. That’s why we compiled a list of 200 one-on-one meeting questions you can use to have more meaningful conversations with employees. We also have helpful discussion prompts built right into the Fellow platform.

Avoid the trap of making your one-on-one simply a status check-in meeting by leveraging a wide range of topics. For example, chat with your team about:

3 Set Large, Long-Term Goals

An easy way to ensure that you have something to talk about meeting-to-meeting is to set big or long-term goals that you can track over time. If someone on my team signs up for an SEO course, for example, because they want to learn more about that subject and become more proficient in it over time, I can ask about that course during our meetings and check-in on how it’s going or ask them what they are learning.

If you haven’t had the conversation around long-term goals and career development yet, that could be the topic of your next one-on-one!

4 Leverage the Meeting Agenda Throughout the Week

Instead of sitting down before the meeting and trying to come up with a list of engaging and thoughtful questions or points for follow-up, leverage the meeting agenda throughout the week. For example, I’ll often go to my 1-on-1 agenda in Fellow while I’m in deep work to jot down a thought or a question that I don’t need to interrupt my manager or direct report with in the moment.

By getting into the practice of building the agenda as you work, you’ll be much more likely to come to the meeting with a list of questions.

5 Get Present and Focused

Listening is the most important ingredient for building healthy relationships, cohesive teams, and thriving organizations. There are four techniques that will help you master this skill:

  1. Use body language intentionally
  2. Avoid distractions
  3. Leave your ego at the door
  4. Follow-up

You can dive in further on this last point in our One-on-One Meeting Guide.

Well, there you have it. Five steps to a one-on-one meeting that flows naturally and doesn’t feel awkward.

I hope that it helps you craft your next meeting agenda more easily and inspires a more engaged conversation.

I’d also encourage you to give Fellow a try for your next one-on-one meeting! With discussion prompts, note history and collaborative agenda building, your one-on-ones will be even more productive.

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