The concept seems like a no-brainer, and maybe it is just my personal experience, but anytime a poll of the meeting attendees is run asking if they reviewed the material sent prior to the meeting, the overwhelming majority response is “no”.
I was reminded of the importance of being prepared while listening to an episode of one my favorite podcasts, “Think Fast, Talk Smart” (please see my YouTube channel for a link to the podcast playlist and subscribe to my channel while you are there so I can finally get a vanity URL). The episode was titled Communicating Our Mistakes: How to Avoid Common Flaws and Make Better Decisions, which I admit was not one of my favorite episodes, but it did spend some time on this topic of preparation, which triggered a confirmation bias response from me. It started with a learning approach where the teacher asked students to complete the lessons before the lecture so that lecture time was spent building on top of that, then moved on to how meetings are more effective if people review the material in advance and discuss in the meeting…
[sounds of wood scraping across the floor as the author pulls his soap box out]
There are corporate cultures where materials are not provided in advance, probably because of the tendency for people not to review them. This makes the problem worse. These same cultures also frequently have meetings schedule with no agenda. I had someone on one of my teams who refused to attend meetings without an agenda. It was difficult for me to fault him, as I agreed with his reasoning.
People hate meetings because they are often inefficient and inclusive. My approach is to go the opposite direction of those who stop sending the material in advance and including agendas: I avoid reviewing the material in the meeting and instead advise those who didn’t to take notes and review it after the meeting. Depending on the purpose of the meeting, I may just reschedule it and advise everyone to come to the next meeting prepared. This may seem anti-[your pet sentiment here], but my experience has been that people become much more productive when they come prepared as a result of the meeting being more productive and few meetings because things were accomplished the first time.
[author returns his soap box to easily-accessible storage location]
© Scott S. Nelson