Four Reasons to Have Meeting “Homework”

You’ve found a date that works for everyone. You’ve found a way to get all the key decision-makers to commit to attending. And you’ve even found a room that can accommodate everyone’s needs!

So how do you accomplish everything you need to accomplish during that precious meeting time – because let’s face it, you can only squeeze so much in to even the most organized of agendas.

While your immediate impulse might be to try to have a longer meeting, have people come prepared so that you can reduce meeting time.  We call this pre-work. 

The Benefits of “Pre-Work”

While the notion of “homework” might conjure negative feelings from your school days, sometimes in order to get the most out of your meeting, participants need to come prepared with information already gathered or research already completed.

Assigning Pre-Work accomplishes these things:

  • Allow you to shorten (or at least not lengthen) meeting time
  • Ensures everyone has a common understanding or background of the situation.
  • Allows the participants to reflect and consider the information prior to the meeting
  • Enables the participants to come with data relevant to their given situation or department.

If pre-work is a new concept for your organization, you might initially run into resistance to the notion. After all, these are busy professionals with overflowing schedules and never-ending to-do lists! So selling the notion of completing their prep work is key.

  • Include only what’s needed. No more. No less. There are no bonus points or extra credit in the real world.
  • Focus your participants’ attention. For example, if you’re including a three-page article that provides background info on a topic, consider yellow highlighting the most important points or inserting comments so that your readers aren’t left wondering “what was it I was supposed to get from this?”
  • Make everything relevant and applicable. For example, if your meeting is to discuss how to implement a new remote officing or telework program, ask your attendees to review the proposed materials in light of how the program will affect their departments and bring specific examples to be discussed.
  • Explain why you’re asking them to do it – and what’s in it for them. Let your attendees know that part of the meeting will involve the data they’re gathering (and provide the form for them to use) and how this will help make the meeting effective by keeping the discussion on topic, and relevant so that you can accomplish the task at hand.


What Should the Prep-Work be?

Think about what you’d ideally like your attendees to be familiar with or to have reviewed prior to coming to your meeting. What knowledge should they have – that will ultimately help you accomplish the objective of the meeting? Then consider what is the best format for that knowledge?

For example, if you’re having a meeting to discuss establishing sales objectives for next year, you may certainly want to include operating budgets and previous sales revenues. But who likes looking at spreadsheets all the time? Consider including visual representations of these figures as well: pie charts, line charts to show change over time, or even geographic maps to help illustrate where your revenues are coming from. Yes, this might mean a little extra prep-work on your part – but if it helps your attendees come to the meeting more prepared, it’ll be worth it.

Pre-work can include:

  • Company reports
  • Slide decks
  • Articles/websites
  • Forms for gathering specific data

Remember – the key to assigning homework to over-stretched professionals is keeping it as lean, relevant, and critical for accomplishing your meeting objectives. Taking a little time to help your attendees understand how the prep-work can make the meeting more effective can go a long way towards making your meeting time efficient.


Check out our books and courses to learn more about how to run effective meetings.

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