Meeting Preparation Leads to Successful Opportunities
Several years ago, I was asked to be part of a meeting between a nonprofit and a significant business in the community. At first glance, one would expect that the nonprofit did not have the total resources it needed for success. The business the nonprofit was soliciting had tremendous resources, plus community clout. I was just asked to attend and observe. I was not asked to provide input in advance to the nonprofit. My incorrect assumption was that the successful meeting outcome would provide a great deal of “next step” ammunition for me.
I was completely wrong. Due to a total lack of preparation by the nonprofit, the meeting was a disaster. The nonprofit leader believed both organizations had like missions and would be willing to immediately work together for a common good. Due to a lack of pre-meeting essentials, this scheduled two-hour meeting barely lasted 20 minutes. I was embarrassed for the nonprofit. They forgot the basics for a successful meeting, which includes the word preparation.
I was a boy scout growing up in West Virginia. While I wasn’t one for a long time, I remembered the scout motto, which millions of scouts have used since scouting was established in 1907. In the book “Scouting for Boys,” Robert Baden-Powell explains the motto phrase, which is “Be prepared.” It relates to being prepared in mind and in body. Nonprofit leaders must be prepared to do many things, including being an orchestra leader for important meetings whether they are internal or external in nature. One misstep could be very detrimental to the nonprofit organization that you represent.
In Entrepreneur’s article titled “5 Rules for Successful Meetings,” the author states that as an executive or a manager, there are five rules to ensure that your meeting does not end up wasting time, resources and money, which are as follows:
- Before you schedule a meeting, justify it. What is the intended meeting outcome?
- Invite players, not spectators. These individuals must contribute positively to the meeting.
- Meetings should not fill allotted time; allot time to fulfill the meeting. End the meeting when the meeting goals are accomplished.
- You called it, you own it. Drive the agenda and keep the meeting-focused and action-oriented.
- End with action steps. Make everyone accountable for key next steps to keep the ball rolling.
In The Harvard Business Review’s article titled “A Checklist for Planning Your Next Big Meeting,” the author notes that preparation can make or break an important meeting. They prepared a preparation checklist for your next big meeting.
The article asks you if you have:
- Identified the purpose of the meeting
- Made sure you really need a meeting
- Developed a preliminary agenda
- Selected the right participants and assigned roles
- Decided where and when to hold the meeting
- Confirmed availability of the space
- Sent the invitation
- Sent the preliminary agenda to key participants and stakeholders
- Sent pre-reading or requests which require advance preparation
- Followed up with invitees in person, if appropriate
- Chosen the decision-making process that will be used
- Identified, arranged for, and tested any required equipment
- Finalized the agenda and distributed it to all participants?
- Verified that all key participants will attend and know their roles
- Prepared yourself (drafted presentations, printed handouts, etc.)
In Fast Company’s article titled “Six Simple Ways to Prepare for a Meeting: It’s All About Them,” the author notes you can never be too prepared going into a meeting. Make this process a good habit that will serve you well.
Here are the article’s six ways to prepare for a meeting:
- Confirm the date, time, location and participants.
- Google the map and directions at least a day prior.
- Pack everything you need in advance.
- Research the company and everyone who will be in attendance on google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Watch the news or scan the headlines before you leave for the meeting.
- Ask yourself what is the purpose for going to this meeting, who can give you what you want or need to achieve the meeting goal, and what’s in it for them?
I received a call from a corporate contact recently. The contact wanted to meet with my nonprofit as they felt there were items of mutual interest to discuss. I continually attempt to get inside corporate doors, so this was a pleasant surprise to see the process in reverse. The meeting date, time and place was set. Several days before the meeting, I was sitting in church as the following came into my mind: Enhance your preparation efforts for this meeting. I went home and revised the script for the meeting. I noted who should be there and what roles they needed to play. A tour was involved so I determined who would lead the tour. I left no detail to chance as I specifically asked a key corporate representative in advance of the meeting, so we could better prepare, “What is the purpose of this meeting, and what should we bring to the table to ensure success?”
It was a two-hour meeting and because of significant preparation, I felt the meeting was as successful as could have been expected. The key to the meeting outcome was preparation and knowing what to expect in advance. I am glad I was a boy scout, because nonprofit executives should always be prepared. You must make the meeting outcome win-win in nature and have solid action steps at the end of the meeting. If everyone “owns” the process and both sides want joint success to happen, you are on your way. Take nothing for granted and critique both internal and external meeting processes. In our business, meeting failures are not an option.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.