One Idea Summary – How To Prepare for a Meeting

In a previous post I reviewed a book titled, Running Meetings. In this post I have written a quick summary of one of the ideas I got from the book which is about How to prepare for a meeting. 

How to prepare for a meeting

Having a successful meeting requires preparation and preparation starts with being clear about the purpose of a meeting. You first need to identify which of the following your meeting aims to do:

  • Brainstorm for ideas
  • Inform people about something
  • Make a decision
  • Fix a problem
  • A combination of two or more of the above.

Once you know what purpose your meeting is to achieve, you can go ahead and write the meeting’s objectives. The outcome here is to have a clear statement of purpose and objectives which will help people understand why the meeting is happening.

Also the meeting’s objectives will help to identify those who should be invited to attend the meeting. As a rule of thumb, invite people who:

  • Are key decision makers for issues to be discussed at the meeting.
  • Have information and knowledge about topics on the agenda.
  • Are stakeholders in the issues to be discussed.
  • Need to get information from the meeting to do their jobs.
  • Are going to act on decisions made at the meeting.

Once you have identified who to invite using the criteria above, then personally invite them. Your meeting invitation should include an agenda which will outline:

  • The meeting’s purpose and objectives.
  • Who the participants are.
  • Date, time, duration and venue.
  • Who is calling the meeting.
  • Role and responsibilities of participants in the meeting.
  • Agenda items and who is responsible for each item.
  • Any prior preparation required.
  • Instructions about pre-existing information needed. 

Before the meeting make sure you assign responsibilities to participants where possible. Assigning responsibilities ensures people cover all the important roles and responsibilities during the meeting and it also engages people in the meeting. Responsibilities assigned to people should reflected in the agenda. Although this has already been mentioned, be sure to circulate any pre-meeting information. This will include the agenda, any background reading and material.

A very important part of preparing for a meeting is to ensure you get the right venue with the appropriate size for the number of participants and equipment  for any information you will be presenting (don’t forget to test equipment to ensure it works properly). The meeting room must also be set out in the appropriate format to match the purpose of the meeting. 

Also make sure you give people enough notice about the meeting, so they have adequate time to prepare.

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Book Review – Running Meetings by Nick Morgan

​Running Meetings by Nick Morgan is one of the books from the Harvard Business School Press Pocket Mentor series. This small book with just 97 pages will give you sufficient information to run efficient and effective meetings. The book is divided into two broad sections. The first section titled, All About Meetings, has the main reading content and I’ve briefly reviewed that section below. The second section is a consistent feature of the books in this series, titled Tips and Tools, it contains extra information about the book’s main topic, in this case, running a meeting.

What you can learn from reading section one?

Here is a very brief review of some of what you can learn from reading the information in section one. The section is divided into eight sub-sections.

Getting started

In this section the first question answered is, why have a meeting? The answer to that is followed up with points on who comes to meetings and recognising other types of meetings apart from the usual type of group meetings. There is also some information on how to run a problem-solving meeting.

How to prepare for a meeting

This next section outlines key actions to take when preparing for a meeting. The actions discussed are:

  • Identify the meeting’s purpose.
  • Decide who needs to attend.
  • Think about date, time, place and equipment for the meeting
  • Build the agenda
  • Assign meeting roles and responsibilities
  • Supply any extra pre-meeting information

How groups reach decisions

This third section is all about decision-making meetings.  The section starts out offering some advice on how to prepare for this type of meeting and then discusses three ways decisions may be made which are by:

  1. Majority voting
  2. Group consensus
  3. Leader making the decision

There are also some points on how to guide the decision-making process.

How to conduct a Meeting

After preparation comes conducting the actual meeting which this section discusses. If you want to run a meeting properly, then reading the information here will show you how to:

  • Open a meeting with authority
  • Run a meeting skillfully
  • Know how to get full participation
  • End the meeting properly

When bad things happen to good meetings

This section has an interesting title, but what is it about? It provides us with some steps to take when a meeting goes wrong:

  • Be realistic, no matter how much we prepare, things can still go wrong.
  • During the meeting be prepared. Be vigilant and look out for signs of things going wron so you can act on time.
  • Be ready to act if something actually does go wrong.

This section contains a lot of information that can help with managing meetings when things go wrong. 

How to handle end matters

As the title implies, the information here deals with ending a meeting properly. It provides advice in three areas:

  1. End the meeting on time.
  2. End the meeting early if possible
  3. Provide closure.

How to follow up after a meeting

Following up after a meeting is a major factor that can help to determine if a meeting ends up being successful and some of the things you can do to follow up as discussed in this section are:

  • Communicate with people after the meeting.
  • Make sure you’ve created an action plan for people to work on after the meeting.
  • Evaluate how the meeting went and listen to those who may have complaints about the neeting.

Virtual meetings

This final and short section reminds us that meetings don’t have to be face-to-face all the time. Using videoconferencing, webconferencing, chats rooms and other types of collaborative technology can help us run meetings where everyone is not in the same place. These meetings have the same rules as face-to-face meetings and can be as effective too.

Tips and Tools

This is the second part of the book, albeit a very short one. It contains:

  • Tools for running a meeting which include three templates (Meeting planners checklist, meeting agenda and communication and action plan).
  • Self assessment questions to test your knowledge of the book.
  • References to further information on the subject.

While this is a short book, it’s not short on information. The information in this book is more than sufficient to support anyone to run effective meetings. 

Book Review – Negotiating Outcomes

Negotiating outcomes

 

This is another of the books from the useful Pocket Mentor series from the Harvard Business School Press. The book titled, Negotiating Outcomes, focuses on helping people:

 

  • Understand the basic types of negotiation
  • Prepare for, conduct and close a negotiation
  • Develop and maintain good relationships

Most of us spend time and effort negotiating with people in some shape or form and being able to do it effectively is essential. This short book which spans just 100 pages can give us some ideas on how to become better negotiators.

The book has two major parts. The first section contains the main reading content with 8 sections which cover:

  1. Types of negotiations
  2. Multiphase and multiparty negotiations
  3. Concepts such as BATNA, ZOPA and the reservation price.
  4. Nine steps to a deal
  5. Negotiation tactics
  6. Barriers to agreement
  7. Cognitive traps
  8. The skills of effective negotiators

The second part of the the book has tips and tools which can help you work on your negotiation skills such as worksheets, a short quiz to test yourself, frequently asked questions (FAQs), key terms and a reference to resources that can teach you more about negotiation.

When I go through these books I usually look at one key thing I can learn from the book. The key learning point for me from this book was the nine steps to a deal. Summarily the nine steps are:

  • Step 1 – Determine satisfactory outcomes.
  • Step 2 – Identify opportunities to create value.
  • Step 3 – Identify your BATNA and reservation price.
  • Step 4 – Improve your BATNA.
  • Step 5 – Determine who has authority.
  • Step 6 – Study the other side.
  • Step 7 – Prepare for flexibility in the process.
  • Step 8 – Gather objective criteria to establish fairness.
  • Step 9 – Alter the process in your favour.

Despite being a small book, it has lots of information and you can certainly learn one or two things that will improve your negotiation abilities.

Book Review – Crucial Conversations By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

Crucial Conversations written by Kerry Paterson, Joseph Grenny, Tom McMillan Al Switzler is a book about dialogue. About having healthy dialogue that generates positive results. But first what is a crucial conversation? According to the authors, a crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary and emotions run strong. The authors argument in the book is that those who can handle crucial conversations in a skilful way tend to be more productive and in the book the aim of the authors is to show us how to handle crucial conversations well. Hence the book is subtitled, Tools for talking when stakes are high. According to the authors handling crucial conversations properly not only benefits individuals and their relationships, but can be of benefit to organizations and even communities.

This is not a big book as it has 240 pages and 12 chapters. Also it’s not a very visually appealing book as it uses very little pictures and other graphic elements. But it’s written in a very engaging way with a good level of humour and right from the beginning of the book I was laughing. Following is a brief review of what you can expect to learn from each chapter.

Chapter 1: What’s a crucial conversation and who cares? This Chapter describes what a crucial conversation is in detail. It explains the value of being able to handle crucial conversations effectively using some practical examples.

Chapter 2: Mastering Crucial Conversations – The Power of Dialogue – This Chapter explores the power of dialogue which it defines as the free flow of meaning between two or more or people.

Chapter 3: Start With Heart – How to stay focused on what you really want – This is an important chapter which I really enjoyed reading. In relation to handling crucial conversations it looks at three Key skills:

  • Working on ourselves first because that’s who we can control.
  • Focus on what you really want.
  • Refuse the sucker’s choice. Sucker’s choice refers to the actions of attacking or withholding communication as a way of reacting in a crucial conversation.

Chapter 4: Learn To Look – How to notice when safety is at risk – This is a very important chapter as it introduces us to the concept of “dual processing” which is the ability to listen to the content of a conversation and at the same time look out for conditions that may imply the conversation is becoming unsafe.

Chapter 5: Make It Safe – How to make it safe to talk about almost anything – This chapter develops on the previous one. What do you do when you notice that a conversation has become unsafe? You step out of the conversation, make it safe and then step in again. Easier said than done, but some skills on how to do it are offered. Three skills discussed are:

  • To apologize
  • Contrasting which is about fixing misunderstanding through the use of do/don’t statements
  • CRIB, which is an acronym for Commit to seek mutual purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a mutual purpose and Brainstorm new strategies.

Using these skills helps to rebuild mutual respect and purpose when they are at risk (leading to a loss of safety) in a conversation.

Chapter 6: Master My Stories – How to stay in dialogue when you’re angry, hurt or scared – Another very interesting chapter with lots of useful information. The Focus here is on the stories we tell ourselves in response to a situation which makes us respond in a certain way. A framework is presented here which shows how we move from experience to action and it goes like this:

  • We see or hear something.
  • We create our own stories based on what we saw or heard.
  • The stories we create make us feel a certain way.
  • We then act on how we feel.

Personally I found this model very useful and it made me reflect a lot on how I feel with various experiences I have. The authors go a bit further by giving us two skills to manage our stories. First they challenge us to retrace our path which is about pausing to examine the story we are telling ourselves and then reframe the story to lead us to healthy actions.

Chapter 7: STATE my path – How to speak persuasively and not abrasively – Even when we create the safety conditions for dialogue, we still need to talk. When we discuss sensitive or potentially difficult topics, we can still talk in ways which don’t help us to achieve what we want to say in the dialogue. Here you will learn about five steps that can help to talk about challenging topics effectively. These five steps are defined by the acronym STATE and they are:

  • Share your facts
  • Tell your story
  • Ask for other paths
  • Talk tentatively
  • Encourage testing

Chapter 8: Explore Others Paths – How to listen when others blow up or clam up – Sometimes it may be difficult to get others to have a dialogue with us because of some history or how people feel about us. The easy thing to do is to back off. But it may be absolutely necessary to have that conversation. A great step to take in such situations is to explore the other person’s path. Simply put, understand the other person’s point of view and perception. Getting people to do this especially when they harbour negative feelings about us can be challenging, so we all need some skills. This chapter presents us with some actions to take in such situations. Firstly we need to be ready to listen and to listen we must do it sincerely, with an attitude of curiousity and patience. We can invite people to tell us their story using four skills described by the acronym AMPP which are:

  • Ask to get things rolling
  • Mirror to confirm feelings
  • Paraphrase to acknowledge the story
  • Prime when you are getting nowhere

If after hearing the person’s path you disagree with them, there are three things you can do which are:

  • Agree explicitly with aspects of their path you agree with.
  • Build on the aspects you disagree with.
  • Compare your path with the person’s if you totally disagree with them.

Chapter 9: Move to action – How to Turn Crucial Conversations into Action and Results – The core of this chapter is about teaching us how to make decisions. Four methods of decision making are discussed which are:

  • Command: making decisions without involving others.
  • Consult: collecting input from a group and then a subset of the group makes the final decision.
  • Vote: allowing people to vote to choose a decision.

Chapter 10: Putting it all together – Tools for preparing and learning – This in my own opinion is a brilliant chapter. It is a summary of all the lessons in the book and shows is how to apply them. It has a visual model showing how all the skills fit together and then a section titled, how to prepare for a crucial conversation. This section has a table titled, coaching for crucial conversations, which outlines each crucial conversation skills and how to use it. The chapter concludes with a practical example showing the crucial conversation skills in action.

Chapter 11: Yeah, but – Advice for Tough Cases – This is another practical chapter. It discussed how to use crucial conversation skills with tough cases. Seventeen cases are discussed. Lots of examples to learn from.

Chapter 12: Change your life – how to change ideas into Habits – This chapter contains some thoughts and ideas that can help us master crucial conversation skills and turn them into habits.

Overall I found this to be a highly practical book and at the same time enjoyable. There are lots of skills to learn from this book and I personally think it will be difficult to master all of them. I suggest that you pick at least three key skills relevant to your situation and focus on learning how to use them.

This week’s book – Crucial Conversations

This week I am curating ideas from a brilliant book called Crucial Conversations. I first encountered this book about three years ago. At that time I struggled to read it. But when my boss at work commissioned a training programme called Critical Conversations for managers, I decided to read the book wrongly thinking it has the same information as the training programme. It turned out they are different. But I’m glad I read the book, as I picked up some really important ideas that can improve my communication with people. 

In terms of curating ideas from the book, I will be:

  • Writing a short review of the book.
  • Curating between three to six ideas that I want to learn and apply from it.
  • Turning those ideas into a book summary and group session that I can use to review the ideas from time to time and teach others.