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Mastering Meeting Preparation: Dealing with the Unprepared

March 18, 2024 12:00 pm

When some participants arrive unprepared for a meeting, it can disrupt the flow and effectiveness of the discussion. Meeting facilitators should handle this situation tactfully to ensure that meetings remain productive and inclusive. The following include strategies that meeting leaders can use to deal with unprepared participants:

  • Set Clear Expectations in Advance:
    • Before the meeting, clearly communicate the expectations for preparation, such as reading materials, reviewing agendas, or conducting research. Make it known that being prepared is essential for productive discussions.
  • Send Meeting Materials Well in Advance:
    • Distribute meeting materials, including agendas, relevant documents, and any pre-reading materials, well in advance of the meeting to give participants ample time to prepare. Consider sending a gentle reminder in the days ahead of the meeting.
  • Start on Time:
    • Begin the meeting on time, regardless of whether everyone is present or prepared. This sets the expectation that punctuality and readiness are valued.

Provide a High-Level Overview, if needed:

If key stakeholders lack critical info needed to achieve meeting outcomes, be prepared to provide a quick overview of the key findings, or better yet, have one of the participants provide a synopsis.

Redirect the Discussion:

If unprepared participants are causing disruptions or derailing the discussion, gently steer the conversation back to the agenda and main topics. Politely acknowledge their input but emphasize the need to address the scheduled items.

Meet Privately with Repeat Offenders:

If unpreparedness persists and is negatively impacting the team, have private conversations with the individuals involved to discuss potential solutions, strategies, or consequences.

Review Meeting Practices:

Periodically review your meeting practices and processes. Ask for feedback from participants on how meetings can be more efficient and effective, which may help prevent unpreparedness in the future.

It’s essential for meeting leaders to strike a balance between holding participants accountable for their preparation and providing support to help them meet expectations. The goal is to create a culture where everyone understands the importance of preparation and actively works toward more productive and efficient meetings.

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