Invest in the art of meeting invitations to have better meetings

Me (Wendy): “Hi Bob, I’m back. Last time, we mentioned I should structure the invitation first by laying down the outcome that we’d like to see achieved from the meeting, and what we need from whom (or what group of people). Also, we spell out the benefits of them participating in the meeting, in that order. And that’s why I need to be careful of what words I use and pay attention to the tone that I take when writing the invite!”

Bob: “Exactly!”

Me: “As to the tone and the words to use, they are to convey what’s in it for all of us instead of beating people over their heads that it’s their obligation to attend, or it’s some privilege to be invited.”

Bob: “Yup.”

Me: “Cool. So, what if there is pre-work to do? How do I frame that work? And how do we even know if the attendees need to do pre-work?”

Bob: “Remember we talk about sync. vs. async meeting? There is work to be done to make the synchronous portion more effective, right? So, all of those work is pre-work. Some are to be done by the facilitator of the meeting (or the meeting maker), some by the attendees.” 

Me: “Ah! I get it now! And for any preparation needed, also just state as that, instead of guilting them that they need to do pre-work.”

Bob: “Yes.”

Me: “But if we don’t guilt them, people won’t do the pre-work…”

Bob: “Again, it’s about the tone and the wording of the invitation. We want them to know what’s in it for them. If we explain this well in the invite, we can clearly show that the pre-work they need to do has a bearing on achieving whatever is in it for them.”

Me: “I think I see it now…”

Bob: “And we need to be very specific with guidelines and go beyond the instructions of what they need to do.”

Me: “What do you mean by that?”

Bob: “Most people think just adding instructions about what needs to be done is enough. But it would help also to give guidance, like, set aside 15 minutes to do the pre-work, or if you’re doing this longer than 15 minutes, you’re overthinking or overdoing this. And we have to send the invite at least a week in advance so that they have the time to do the work.”

Me: “Ah, so basically you’re setting up the right expectations of what the pre-work entails so that they can better prepare themselves.”

Bob: “Exactly! More importantly, we want the pre-work to be impactful, but lightweight. We don’t want them to feel that they have tons more work to do – even before we have a meeting. So you really need to think about how you’re structuring both the invitation *and* the pre-work in this case.”

Me: “I get it now. Hold on…Peter is Slacking me right now – looks urgent.”

Bob: “Ok, ping me when you’re done with Peter.”

Read Wendy’s entire story here

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