Ah, the weather forecaster. While often a butt of jokes on the subject of their unreliability, we depend on weather forecasts to plan our wardrobes, schedule the big outdoor barbeque or have a spontaneous meet-up with friends at the lake. The unpredictability of the weather — and the preparations we make to adapt to it — are perfect analogies for meetings. Meetings can be quite unpredictable, too. They can pop up unannounced like a quick summer shower. They can take a sudden turn like a mid-afternoon heat wave, and they can lay waste to carefully laid plans like a thunderstorm on your tailgate party. Here are some lessons from your friendly neighborhood weatherman that you can apply to your next meeting.
Know the Forecast
Few things are as jarring as a sudden and unexpected change of climate. You stroll confidently out the door in short sleeves only to run headlong into a cold front you weren’t aware of. Luckily, you’ve got morning news shows on the TV and radio or even alerts sent directly to your smartphone to keep you informed of the weather as you get ready for the day.
Don’t let a surprise meeting catch you off guard either! There are several ways to make sure you’re always up to date on your meeting schedule for the day. If you’re using Google Calendar, you can get a daily agenda mailed to your inbox every morning. You can also use a tool like If This, Then That to set up all sorts of meeting notifications for yourself, with triggers to text, e-mail, or call you when you’ve got an impending event.
Dress in Layers
Sometimes the best way to be prepared for unpredictable weather is to come equipped with multiple options. Layer a light jacket over your short-sleeved shirt and voila! You’re prepared for the cool morning, the warmer afternoon, and everything in between.
For meetings, particularly with new people, you’re not going to know their work style yet. They might be incredibly formal about things, or they might start the meeting off with a joke and have a more laid-back approach to the whole thing. As a host, you have to be flexible and be able to adapt the tone and flow of your meeting to an appropriate level for your guests. As a guest in someone else’s meeting, the same principle applies; be prepared to adjust the tone of your conversation to match the level of professionalism the host is providing, just like slipping on a coat to walk out to your car after the sun sets.
Have a Backup Plan
Try as they might, the weather forecasters can’t get it right 100% of the time. That’s why, regardless of what the forecast says, it’s always good to have a backup plan – an umbrella you keep in your trunk, for example. Because rest assured: the one time your trusty umbrella isn’t in your car is going to be the one time the weatherman gets it completely wrong and your day in the sun turns into a torrential downpour.
Remember Murphy’s Law: Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. And meetings are no exception. So always have a backup plan. If you go into your conference room only to find that it’s been double-booked, have in mind a secondary location or, better yet, a web conferencing backup plan that everyone can use from their desks or mobile devices. If you’ve got a big presentation to give, be prepared for the eventuality of the projector or monitors going out and consider a screen share or document share option instead.
Don’t let an unpredictable meeting rain on your parade. With these handy tips in tow, your next meeting will be nothing but clear skies.