Pre-Meeting Planning for Effective Communication

by Debra Kraft
Effective meetings both rely on and enable effective communication.

Effective meetings both rely on and enable effective communication.

Investing time in planning before the meeting promotes effective communication during the meeting, and helps your co-workers recognize that the time spent away from their desks won't be time wasted. Provide invitees with enough information to help them understand why they should step away from their regular work. They'll need clear meeting objectives and an agenda that shows how those objectives can be met.

Meeting Objective

Document the objective and include it in the meeting invitation so all invitees know what to expect in advance and can prepare accordingly. The objective should include both the reason for holding the meeting and the goal or expected outcome. When invitees receive the invitation, a review of the objective should help them understand why they've been invited and what materials or information they should bring when they attend. A clear objective can also help invitees redirect the invitation to others at work who might know more about the topic or have more authority over decisions.

Get the Agenda Out Early

Provide the agenda in advance, along with the meeting invitation and objective. The more time invitees have to review the agenda the better, especially if they're expected to speak on one or more of the agenda topics. Factor how each topic relates to the next to keep the meeting flowing smoothly and to allow each subsequent topic to build upon the information of previous ones. An effective agenda provides a clear bridge between the meeting's purpose and goals and keeps attendees focused.

Attendee Scheduling

Give careful consideration to the list of invitees. Make it clear who needs to attend and why. The larger the meeting, the harder it will be to schedule a day and time during which all required attendees are available. Select the timing based on those whose contributions or decision-making authority is vital to the meeting's success, and inform other required attendees to send representatives if they are unable to attend themselves.

Facilitating the Meeting

Without effective meeting facilitation, attendees could leave frustrated and confused. To keep the communication channel working properly, have the room ready in advance, stick to the agenda and guide discussions to keep them on topic. Communication can shift from productive to unproductive when discussions are allowed to run the meeting instead of the agenda. Be prepared to step in if necessary. Determine who will be facilitating the meeting in advance. Factor in the personalities of the attendees. If the meeting will include several strong personalities, choose a facilitator who is well versed in running productive meetings with the experience to keep the meeting on topic and managing to objectives. Reserve the items in advance if the meeting requires a projector, or other peripherals. Factor in the amount of time required to prepare the meeting room and reserve the room with added time to allow for preparation before attendees arrive. Take time in advance to print of a copy of the agenda for each attendee.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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