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“I survived another meeting that should have been an email,” reads the coffee mug on my corporate friend’s desk. We have all been there, so we should do our best not to give others THAT feeling during our own meetings. No one, especially an elected official, has time in the day to be wasted by an ill-prepared group.
A worthwhile and efficient meeting usually requires solid preparation and strong organization. A leader (and we can all be leaders) putting in a little time up-front goes a long way toward achieving objectives and making meeting attendees believe their time is valued.
Below is a 10-step do-it-yourself starter agenda planner to get any advocacy group off on the right meeting foot.
1) Define the meeting purpose: (informing, persuading, making an ask, inviting, etc. — if no specific purpose can be defined, skip the meeting)
2) Establish a clear meeting goal: (signing onto a letter, sponsoring legislation, attending an event, etc.)
3) Make introductions: (be brief, mention the district/state whenever possible, provide an individual’s credibility and relevance for being in the meeting)
4) Share stories/facts/figures/background: (be compelling, be relevant, be accurate)
5) Highlight the district/state/community impact: (officials are elected by constituents so his/her constituents must feel the impact for an official to heavily engage)
6) Make the ask: (be specific — please support H.R. 1234, please sign X letter, please be neutral on this legislation instead of opposed, etc.)
7) Discussion: (think and strategize — what would this person want or need to know that has not already been covered, such as who is already supporting and opposing this, what are the hidden costs, why has it not been done before, etc.)
8) Timeline: (are there deadlines to meet or is it worth including time estimates for each section on the agenda)
9) Wrap-up: (say thank you and share contact information)
10) Follow-up: (send a thank you note with any relevant information requested or needed within one week)
Organizing ahead of time will keep the meeting ordered, on-topic, and goal-centric. Furthermore, sending out a formal agenda about a week before the meeting with a list of participants and any intended handouts will better allow the attendees to be prepared and possibly even conduct relevant background research before the meeting, as opposed to reviewing it while someone is speaking during the meeting.
Finally, government schedulers often plan 30 minutes for a meeting. Aim to finish the meeting agenda in 20 minutes or less to either allow the official more time to discuss, or delight him by adding a few minutes back into his day (this may seem insignificant however, it could mean the difference between a visit to the restroom or eating lunch).
Countless surveys suggest unorganized meetings are one the biggest time wasters at work — start proving this otherwise!
— Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. Like 1492 Communications on Facebook to learn more.