Your Checklist for a Successful Meeting
By Phyllis Ehrlich
You’ve been tapped to organize and orchestrate an important internal meeting with senior leadership. How do you begin to ensure a successful meeting? Start with this simple checklist.
First, align with core team members on the goals of the meeting and desired outcomes.
Some key questions to address:
- Who has requested the meeting
- What is the main purpose?
- What does the team hope to accomplish?
- What is the reaction you want to elicit from senior leadership?
- What are the potential pitfalls?
Once you agree on goals, develop a thoughtful agenda that focuses on achieving priority outcomes. A succinct list of meeting topics and presenters with key bullet points is an optimal format.
Often, senior executives have limited time and can be impatient, so it’s essential to plan wisely. Ensure that everyone logs in or arrives on time, and get started as quickly as possible. If you are using technology — virtually or in person — always test it in advance. For example, a few months ago, I was mortified when a live demo of one of our self-service advertising platforms did not load or project properly on our large conference room screen. Fortunately, one of my colleagues came to the rescue and was able to pull up the demo on his laptop. Flawless meeting execution takes careful and thorough planning. Think about what could go wrong and have a back-up plan.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER RESPONSIBILITIES
As you formulate your plan, assign responsibilities for the meeting’s content and presentation. This may require multiple planning sessions with the full project team as well as smaller group meetings. Based on your timeline, it’s a good idea to put several check-in meetings on the calendar. Continue to iterate your meeting narrative and presentation. Following the agenda, every presentation to senior leadership should include an Executive Summary overview: a concise summary of key points and specific recommendations.
SOLICIT BOLD, DARING IDEAS
Before a recent important meeting with the president of our division about a complex project, our CMO asked all members of the project team to send him answers to two provocative questions in writing. He urged everyone to be bold and daring and aggregated all of the answers for us to discuss at a brainstorming meeting. Everyone felt empowered to contribute ideas, and several themes emerged. We agreed on priority ideas to incorporate into our short, mid, and long-term roadmap, which everyone is now enthusiastically behind. Sometimes all a team needs is the right encouragement to bring bold ideas to the table, and a good meeting schedule will provide the room for that creativity.
SCHEDULE FINAL PREP MEETING
At a final prep meeting, do a run through of the meeting, from the agenda to next steps. Time your run through, and trim as necessary. If the senior team prefers a “sneak peek” of the presentation ahead of the meeting, share the presentation at least a day in advance. Anticipate questions and concerns, and even role play with one another. Build in extra time if one of your senior leaders tends to ask many questions. Leave at least five minutes to recap, and make sure everyone agrees on requested approvals and next steps. Finally, thank everyone for their time and attention, and take a well-deserved sigh of relief… before your next meeting.