For those of you who are old enough to remember what it was like to attend a meeting before the internet, the only opportunity to speak to that person was at the scheduled appointment.
I remember when I started working as a lawyer and I was going to meet with a client. What would I do? I would prepare!
The Importance of Preparation
Preparation meant something different back then. It meant stopping and thinking long and hard about what topics were going to be addressed, what information I needed to discuss these topics intelligently, and what questions I needed to ask. I would plan to be very thorough, and all of this was based on the assumption that this would be my only opportunity to interact with the client.
This helped focus my attention on being thoughtful and complete about my planning for the meeting.
We would send the agenda for the client in advance for approval and they might send it back to us with their notes. The clients who showed up to those meetings were always well prepared. They had clearly thought through all their questions and brought all the information they wanted to convey.
On both sides, there was an unspoken agreement that we would tackle any questions, advice, or goals we wanted to address within that meeting. It made the process very efficient and productive because everyone understood the situation: If you left something off the agenda or inadvertently forgot to ask a certain question, you wouldn’t get another opportunity for quite a while.
Fragmented and Inefficient Communication
In my experience, things have changed radically in this regard. What happens now?
Since everyone knows they can communicate beforehand and afterward many times, people — even myself — don’t prepare as much for a meeting. They aren’t ready with all the questions they might want to ask or the information they might need to present. There’s often communication beforehand. Instead of sending out an agenda, there might be an idea and some fruitless back-and-forth.
With minimal preparation, the meeting itself results in a heavy discussion and insufficient execution. In essence, it’s wasted time.
Now I find that there is a never-ending stream of fragmented communication before, during, and after the meeting. During this interaction, people aren’t fully focused on what they’re doing. Consequently, it all feels very unsatisfying and the process often ends up taking up a lot more time than it used to.
So for your next meeting, act as if it’s the only opportunity you’re going to have to communicate with that person on this topic for a long time. See what impact this has on you, your time, and how focused you are. Pay attention to how you actually interact with people during the meeting and how you feel afterward. Think of the progress you’ve made and see if it affects other people’s view of the meeting.
This exercise helps me get into a more focused and prepared mindset for the meeting, as I try to picture what I need to do to play as positive a role as possible. Not only does this feel better, but it increases efficiency and productivity.