Timeline of a Meeting: The Before

Submitted by: Josh Erwin

We tend to think of meetings as only existing during their scheduled time, but there is actually a meetings “spectrum;” the before, during and after phases that all ultimately determine a meeting’s effectiveness. In this three-part Meetings Tips series, we’ll investigate these phases and look at some best practices for maximizing your meeting productivity.

Part 1 – The Before
Part 2 – The During
Part 3 – The After

The weeks, days and hours leading up to your meeting can be challenging to manage. Everything from scheduling, agenda-setting and planning, presentation creation and more have to happen amidst all your other work in order to conduct a successful meeting.

Here are some common pre-meeting activities, along with suggested timing and best practices. Your own schedule may differ!

Between 2 Weeks and 1 Day Prior: Scheduling (and Rescheduling)

One of the most potentially painful aspects of any meeting is nailing down a schedule that works for everyone. Depending on how many people you need (and how busy they are), scheduling and rescheduling can go on for weeks.

Be sure and make use of your organization’s calendar tool to determine all of your attendees’ availability; you’d be surprised how often this gets overlooked. And if you’re having trouble nailing down a conference room, consider adding a virtual location for your meeting to get everyone collaborating online.

Between 1 Week and 1 Day Prior: Agenda Setting

A proper agenda should start taking shape at least the week of your meeting. While agendas aren’t always 100% necessary, you should at least take the time to give everyone some high-level ideas of what the purpose of the meeting is. This serves two purposes: one, it keeps your meeting on task and two, it gives anyone who might be included but doesn’t need to be the opportunity to opt out once they see the topics at hand.

Between 1 Week and 1 Day Prior: Presentation Creation (if needed)

If you’re going to be presenting a slide deck at your meeting, give yourself at least a week to begin crafting your presentation (or more if the content requires it). If you’re putting together some simple slides, you can do it more quickly and closer to your meeting with a tool like HaikuDeck. Otherwise, give yourself ample time to craft your perfect presentation.

Between 1 Hour and 5 Minutes Prior: Host Prep

As a meeting host, if you’re giving a presentation, the final hour before your meeting is your last opportunity to practice and ensure all of your documents and files are in order. It’s also a great opportunity to ensure any technological aspects of your meeting—whether it’s conference room screens and projectors or an online meeting tool—are functioning properly. Don’t show up at your meeting start time and hope everything works out!

Between 10 Minutes Prior and 10 Minutes After Start: Guest Arrival

Guest arrival is an unfortunately malleable event. Some come early, others right on time, while some will trickle in several minutes into your meeting. As a host, it’s your job to minimize barriers and miscommunication as much as possible. Ensure your meeting invite has reminders attached to it. If it’s vitally important to start on time, send a quick note to your attendees before your meeting begins. And if you’re using technology to meet online, make sure you’re using guest-friendly online meeting tools that don’t require downloads, plug-ins or other barriers that will make your guests late.

Tip: Check out PGi’s free smart calendar app Agenday to easily join audio and web conferences right from your meeting reminders.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 in the “Timeline of a Meeting” series in the coming weeks!