5 Key Questions to Ask Before Attending a Meeting

5 Key Questions to Ask Before Attending a Meeting - People Development Network
5 Key Questions to Ask Before Attending a Meeting - People Development Network
Paul Newton
I head the FME team of management and IT professionals from a variety of backgrounds both commercial and non-profit organizations. As a team we are keen to share our expertise and knowledge with individuals at all levels of management. Each eBook, template and checklist has been written to help individuals develop the competencies they need for a successful career.

Attending a meeting doesn’t have to be pointless!

One of my pet hates is attending a meeting which is pointless! To make sure I don’t go to any I ask five key questions before I send my acceptance.

1.    Does is it have an aim?

There has to be a specific reason for attending a meeting. My skills and knowledge must be needed in some way to achieve its aim. Without this, you can find yourself wasting time and wishing you were elsewhere using your time more productively.

Every meeting should state and communicate its purpose. Meetings that have a clear aim set the right tone and environment for a successful meeting.

2.    Does it have a timed Agenda?

I will instantly refuse any meeting that does not have an agenda. Without this simple device, the meeting aim is unclear or non-existent, discussions will become side-tracked as they have no pre-defined focus or time limit and no one can prepare without a detailed structure.

An agenda plays a key role in keeping everyone focused on the purpose of the meeting. It clearly outlines the time allocation for each item and guides attendees in how they should best prepare. Your agenda needs to tell people whether you are going to invite debate or just want to clarify a situation in the meeting.

3.    Are the communications clear?

If I am sent a meeting request that does not clearly communicate how my attendance or contribution will help achieve its aim, it sets alarm bells off!

I ask myself has the request given me sufficient time to prepare my contribution or thoughts? If not my ability to participate properly will be impaired.

Do the time and date give me sufficient time to conclude my assigned actions? If not, is my time better spent performing my current action rather than taking part in discussions that could result in me receiving more assigned actions?

There are always circumstances where your attendance is compulsory and this should be explained why in the original request.

4.    Historically is the meeting timely?

From past experience does the person requesting your attendance start their meetings on time? Do all the participants arrive prepared and punctually?

If not then I seriously consider refusing the request even if the aim is clear. This is because the behavior of other attendees will result in delays and interruptions that will make the meeting an ineffective use of my time.

Once I have committed to a meeting I make sure that I prepare fully and arrive on time.

5.    How well managed is the meeting?

Does the meeting have a chair? Are they effective in this role? I prefer to attend a meeting where I know it is being run by a capable chair.

Without someone carefully managing discussions, timekeeping and summarizing items a meeting can quickly switch from being an efficient operation to a free for all! A good chair keeps everyone focused on the meeting purpose and agenda.

By using my meeting agenda checklist I try to ensure the meetings I attend or hold are an effective use of everyone’s time.

  • Thanks, anything welcome to help make meeting more effective. In addition, we can ask:
    – Is everyone there who should be there
    – Is anyone there who doesn’t need to be there
    – Do we need a meeting for this matter
    – Can we send out pre-meeting reading and information to make sure everyone is well-informed.
    – At the end of each meeting summarise decisions and actions so there is one view and once voice post-meeting.
    Effective meetings help team work, in-effective ones undermine the potential of teams and that is a shame at a time that the team becomes more and more the unit of performance.

    • Hi Erik

      Thanks so much for your helpful additions. Great input, much appreciated.