“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” - Paul J. Meyer

I tend to prepare each day for what’s ahead in order to make progress. I stick to rules and set boundaries for productivity in everyday life. With busy schedules and so many distractions in today’s world, having a schedule and preparing are not only helpful tips, but essential exercises for me.

Whether setting time limits to hop on social media, making lists for groceries, chores, and other tasks, or setting a simple alarm, these practices are all part of planning and preparation. They can help most people stay focused and accomplish more in a shorter period. While these practices are helpful in daily life, they can also be applied at work and in meetings as well.

Do you know people who do not prepare before meetings? From what I have seen, whether a speech, large conference, or small work meeting, preparation and planning are essential in making the most of these events.

I like to know what is happening in advance and have a schedule, if possible. It not only helps with time management, but also helps in staying organized and focused. I know people who do not plan ahead and simply hop into meetings without prior thought. While it’s possible to improvise and some people are great at it, I don’t think it produces better results to “wing it,” than to plan ahead.

 There are several things you can do to prepare, but I wanted to share a few basic tips for running a more successful meeting.

1. Plan Ahead

Although meetings may not always go as planned, having goals and objectives ahead of time can help meetings stay focused and on topic. This is especially valuable when there’s a lot to cover and tight deadlines. By preparing what needs to be covered or presented, you can be sure not to forget anything or spend too much time in one area, so you are not leaving out other important material that is lined up. Providing an itinerary can help your team prepare and follow along as each topic is covered.

2. Communicate Internally, First

Be sure your team is on the same page. It’s not fair to your team if they’re expected to provide insightful contributions if the material hasn’t been shared or discussed internally beforehand. By allowing the team to review content prior to client meetings, any lingering questions can be answered and the material can be digested by the team. It's expected by clients and rightfully so, that your team and you are on the same page. If a deadline is tight and there’s not time to meet internally, communicate to the attendees their roles for the meeting. If you feel it’s necessary or applicable, communicate that the content is fresh for all eyes including the internal team. This way the client has a better understanding of where some of your team's comments might be coming from.

3. Listen

When attending a meeting, it’s important to listen. Make sure that distractions are not continual issues and that common respect is shown to every person and observed during meetings. Successful meetings are never one-sided. Each person has a role in the meeting with valuable thoughts, opinions and feedback.

4. Go with the Flow

Agendas can be helpful and keep the meeting on task but make sure to leave room for fluidity. I tend to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Things don’t always go as expected, so if you prepare for unplanned randomness, you won’t be halted, overwhelmed, or caught off guard if things do go awry. Sometimes a topic may need more discussion than originally planned out for, and other topics may need less time. Allowing some flexibility will help make the meeting flow and open the door for comfortable communication within the group.

Due be care, however, that you don't let the meeting get out of control. If you feel the discussion is getting away from the original topic, politely interrupt and ask that you circle back at a later date or once the first question is fully answered.

5. Ask questions

Often times leaving room for a Q&A session can help everyone get on the same page. Open the meeting up for questions so that no one is unclear on covered topics. Likely, if one person has a question, there may be others with the same question. If you run out of time or want to leave the door open for more feedback, make sure to provide instruction on how any additional follow up questions can be answered.

6. Discuss Next Steps

Don’t leave the group confused about what’s to come. To continue building on the momentum created from your productive meeting, be sure to lay out next steps for the group. Help everyone involved know what is expected of them to encourage accountability and complete tasks more quickly. And always follow up the meeting with a set of notes or a transcript.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” - Alexander Graham Bell

Building on what Alexander Graham Bell said about preparation being the key to success, clear communication, listening, and setting objectives will produce more productive and successful meetings.

If you’d like to join the conversation or share your meeting tips, visit us on twitter @madebymunsters #mbmMeetingTips!

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