4 Steps to Being Prepared for Your Next Meeting

Ever step into a meeting feeling prepared, yet very quickly you recognize you really aren’t?  You start to feel warm, sweat a little, and get a tingling sensation from stress.  You feel uncomfortable and start wondering, “Will the other people notice?  How do I get out of this without anyone thinking that I am completely unprepared and that I just missed it here?”  This happened to me recently.  I walked into a meeting and I thought just because I had been in several other meetings like this before, “No problem.”  Five minutes into the meeting, I realized this was not like the others.  I realized they were talking about things I should have known more about.  What did I do?  I listened, took notes and asked pretty shallow questions.  They noticed and sent me an email later that they were disappointed in the meeting.  I was humbled and listed “Be better prepared for meetings” high on my “2014 Do Better List.”

Here are 4 recommendations to be prepared for your next meeting.

  1. Become familiar with the subject.  Take time to read up on the subject.  You may need to read white papers posted on the internet, blog posts on the topic and internal memos, or set up time to talk with someone who can provide insight and background on the topic.  The bottom line is, don’t wing it; develop at least a baseline knowledge.
  2. Arrive to the meeting with some questions and potential talking points.  I have participated in several meetings or conversation where the person facilitating the meeting asks early in the meeting whether anyone has questions.  In some of cases, there has been dead silence.  Having some questions ready ahead of time tells the person you are interested in the subject, curious and prepared.
  3. Get some background information on the people with whom you will meet.  I should have done this for my meeting.  What positions do they hold?  How does this position relate to the meeting and topic?  You can use LinkedIn or ask colleagues who may know about the people.  You will be able to better build rapport and also better understand their perspective in a meeting.
  4. Be ready to participate.  When I lead a meeting, I prefer to facilitate rather than talk the entire time.  When I talk a lot, I do not learn anything and I also get tired.  I appreciate an open dialogue in a meeting and lots of opinions and ideas being offered up and respected.

These tips can also apply to those who are in the Cameron-Brooks Development and Preparation Program© and have a one-on-one session with a Cameron-Brooks Recruiter.  These sessions are for both the JMO and Cameron-Brooks, and to get the most out of it, both of us need to prepare.  The Cameron-Brooks Recruiter will thoroughly read through your entire file and all of the previous conversations.  From that, he will develop an agenda for the conversation based on previous topics discussed, questions that were not answered in previous sessions, lessons learned from previous Conferences, timing and decision making for a transition, and more.  When the JMO also arrives to the meeting, whether in person or on the phone, with a well thought out agenda of topics, the meeting is engaging and productive.

I had the most productive conversation with one of our June Career Conference JMOs.  He came in with a list of topics printed out and handed them to me.  He allowed me to review and also cover some key issues on my agenda first.  I then worked down his list.  The topics he included the following:  1) Selling his house and when to put it on the market; 2) When to schedule his household goods move; 3) His location preferences and attitude toward other locations; 4) What he learned from building his resume; 5) Getting a better understanding of specific interview questions asked in a sales interview; and, 6) An update on his resignation.  While there are an infinite number of topics to cover, this was a fabulous and engaging session because he did not rely on me to drive the conversation the entire time.  I learned a lot about him, his strengths, goals and concerns.  We both walked away stronger career transition partners.

Take time to be prepared for meetings and appointments.  If you and other people are investing the time to speak with one another, then invest time head of the meeting to make it worthwhile.

Joel