Saeed posted this pie chart on the On Product Management blog some time ago:
I’m sure we can all relate. The worst part is when people arrive utterly unprepared, despite a painstakingly prepared pre-read package you send out 1 week in advance. People are busy. Sending out materials doesn’t mean those materials will be read.
How can we make meetings productive? If the meeting is important enough, it is time for a lot of pre-meetings to set expectations and go over any background materials that people need to digest beforehand. The more important the decision to be made, the more work I do at the one-on-one level. No one should be surprised or unprepared, and it’s up to the meeting organizer to take care of that, even if it involves reverting to the oral tradition.
Pre-meetings take a lot of time for the meeting organizer, but the collective time spent on the process comes down dramatically, and the meeting itself becomes efficient and effective. The time spent is definitely worth it.