You wouldn’t run a marathon without training ahead of time or bake an apple pie for the first time without using a recipe.

The same can be said for having a meeting. You wouldn’t call your team together to discuss something important without planning ahead, right?

At least — we hope you wouldn’t. Preparation matters, especially when it comes to running a meeting. When you don’t take the time to prepare properly, no matter what type of meeting you’re having, you’ll end up wasting everyone’s time and energy. 

If you’re unsure how to prepare the right way, Fellow has you covered with these nine tips to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. 

How to prepare for a meeting in 9 steps 

You’re anxious to get your meeting underway, and we don’t blame you. There’s likely a lot to discuss, customer stories to share, and business strategies to agree to. But before you dive in, make sure you do these nine steps to ensure the meeting is as productive as possible.

1 Create a meeting template

First things first — start by creating a meeting template. Doing so gives your meeting structure, allowing for the conversation to stay focused and on topic.

The agenda will start with the time and location (if you’re meeting in person), followed by the purpose of the meeting. It should include information like a list of topics, talking points, action items, and other activities that attendees will discuss.

Providing a clear and comprehensive outline of what will occur when the meeting takes place is crucial to the meeting’s success, as everyone knows what is expected of them, what questions or customer stories they should have ready to share, and what their role will be as it unfolds. 

Need further assistance? Take advantage of the meeting agenda templates, brought to you by Fellow.

Pro tip

Use Fellow to create all your meeting agendas in advance, have others contribute to the note, and take live notes collaboratively during the meeting.

2 Ask attendees to contribute to the agenda

What can turn a good agenda into a great agenda? Asking for attendees to contribute and add their own agenda items. 

Maybe an attendee has a specific bottleneck or challenge they need help overcoming, an update on a milestone the team is working to achieve, or any significant changes to company policy. Ensuring that the meeting agenda is collaborative and easy to share with attendees ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and all action items are discussed.

It can also give attendees a heads up for questions being asked and challenges being discussed, allowing them to think about some of these bottlenecks in advance so that maybe they can come to the meeting with a solution or idea ready to share.

3 Attach or embed supporting documents and graphs

As you create an agenda, you’ll have a better idea of what documents and files the meeting attendees will need to go over to be up to speed on any relevant topics. It’ll also help you to create a winning PowerPoint or Slide Deck that is engaging and informative. 

It’s important that you give meeting attendees enough time to ensure everyone has a chance to look over important information and metrics. So, if there’s any material you want them reviewing ahead of time, be sure to send it out at least 24 hours ahead of time. Express to the attendees that you’d like them to have a look at these materials in advance.

After all, there’s nothing worse than surprising your team with 50 slides when the meeting starts. Knowing what they’re about to walk into sets the meeting up for success.

4 Give people time to prepare comments and questions

Similarly, attaching these materials gives your team enough time to prepare comments, concerns, questions, and stories. If you don’t, you’re going to have a meeting where no one is prepared, with conversation that is all over the place, and that will likely need another meeting to handle the objectives.

The more time your team has to prepare these comments and questions ahead of time, the better the conversation will be in the meeting! It also ensures that everyone stays engaged and on topic so that nothing falls through the cracks.

5 If you’re presenting, practice what you’re going to say

All great presentations take a little practice. 

So, if you’re the meeting host, or the one kicking things off, be sure to practice what you’re going to say before all eyes are on you! No matter if you’re presenting slides, leading the entire conversation, or simply bringing a few questions or talking points to the floor, practice what you’re going to say at least once. You may consider running through different ways to start the meeting or the conversation, whether with an icebreaker or story-share.

You can also write key points down on a piece of paper to bring with you to the meeting room or have a document pulled up electronically for you to read off of. No matter the method you choose, this will ensure that your point comes across as clearly and concisely as possible, and you minimize the amount of rambling as you speak. 

And, if you plan on simply reading off slides, don’t read them verbatim, but instead, switch it up and add some additional commentary so you don’t bore the other attendees.

6 Decide if other people are presenting (and let them know in advance)

The same can be said for other meeting attendees. If they are presenting off the slides, let them know beforehand which slides are up to them to deliver. Also, give them the ability to make their own slides or presentation materials to create the content in their own voice and add some personal flair. Additionally, remember that presenting doesn’t come naturally for everyone, so providing others with enough time to prepare can help ease their nerves and feel more comfortable speaking in front of other attendees.

You should also consider that it’s always best to have more than one person reading off the presentation or switching up the voice of the person speaking in general. Only giving one person the chance to present can make the meeting feel like a one-sided conversation. It makes it feel boring, too. 

7 Define meeting roles such as note-taker and time-keeper

No one likes to have a meeting role sprung on them last minute, so figure out ahead of time who will be taking the meeting notes, the minutes, and who will be the time-keeper.

For example, if someone on your team is great at being punctual, assign them to be the time-keeper, whose role it is to verify that the meeting begins and ends on time and that all items on the agenda are discussed accordingly. Whereas the note keeper should be organized, as they record the key decisions and details made during the meeting. It’s also up to them to send out the notes to the attendees once the meeting has come to a close. 

Remind this person that notes should be sent out within 24 hours after the meeting, so everything stays top of mind.

8Note any action items and key takeaways

It can be helpful to use meeting software that does some of the heavy lifting for you — like providing a place to write down key takeaways from the conversations and action items for what needs to be followed up on.

For instance, a meeting tool like Fellow makes it easy to keep track of action items with a section already available. This way, all relevant and need-to-know information is organized in one place. You never know when the perfect idea will be brought up, so you want to be ready with a place to write it down.

9 If remote, encourage attendees to have cameras on

It can be tricky to hold a productive virtual meeting, but one way to ensure that everyone is engaged, listening, and a part of the conversation is to ask that everyone turns their camera on. Be sure to set this rule in motion ahead of time, so no one is caught off guard looking less-than camera-ready. Seeing your team while they’re speaking and knowing that others are paying attention while you speak makes the meeting more personal.

You can also encourage attendees to make sure they’re sitting in a quiet place away from distractions and mute incoming notifications, so their attention remains on the conversation.

Ready for anything!

Effective meetings don’t happen by surprise. It takes time,  effort, and lots of preparation to be sure that everything falls into place. No matter the type of meeting, how many people are present, or what needs to be discussed, it’s always a good idea to follow these steps so you can be ready for what’s at stake.