We all hate meetings.  Maybe not all of us. My therapist said I wasn't supposed to use words like always or never, but I am pretty sure we all hate meetings.  Yet we have them because... Well, we have them because that is the way we work. I am not totally sure who came up with this idea, but we have meetings.  And no matter how I try, we will not bet getting rid of them any time soon.  They might, in fact, be getting worse.

So what do we do about them? First, we have to learn to use them to our advantage.  But how, you ask? Let me tell you.

Before the meeting, there is the Pre Meeting, then there is the Meeting, and after the meeting, there is the Post Meeting. Of the three of these, the least important is the meeting.  I may have made up the Pre-meeting and Post-meeting because I am not sure they are a thing, but they should be.  They are also not actually meetings per see, but they are activities that will help you leverage your time and increase your influence. So let me explain why the Pre and Post are so much more important than the actual meeting and the reasons to use each pre and post.    

Before we get into what is best for pre and post, let's discuss the activities that make up the work that is a part of the pre and post. The following is a list of Pre and Post Meeting activities.  You are smart, so you will know which to pick in the right situation, and you will know the right person to talk with.  Usually, it is the person who has the most authority, most influence, or who scheduled the meeting.

Pre/Post-Meeting Activities

  • An In-Person Conversation
  • A Video Conference or phone call
  • Instant Message
  • A Text message
  • An Email

The Pre Meeting

Now let's talk about the pre-meeting activities. Recently I needed to escalate an issue and get bosses involved.  These are always a pain.  My team was blocked and needed help from another team. It was one of those meetings where blame and finger-pointing would surely happen. Don't you love these meetings?  They are never fun for anyone, the person scheduling or the person being volunscheduled.

This is the perfect example of leveraging the pre-meeting activities.  In this instance, I knew a couple of days in advance that the storm was brewing.  So I messaged the team lead and let him know what was going on, and I told him that if I didn't have any progress, I would schedule a meeting with both of our teams.  Then I messaged my boss and let him know I was planning to escalate the issue, and I let him know I messaged the other team's lead. The next day came. I scheduled the meeting, everyone knew what was happening, and we worked through the issues without collateral damage. Below is are some examples of Pre Meeting Activities.

Pre-Meeting Reasons

  • Letting everyone know about an escalation plan
  • Removing yourself from the meetings if you are no longer needed. Ask and see.
  • Suppose someone is presenting to a large crowd. Let them know you are rooting for them.
  • If you expect to get pushback in the meeting, then reach out to you your supporters and let them know your plan and that you would appreciate your support. Ask for their input too. Everyone likes sharing their opinion.

The Post Meeting

Post-meeting activities are more about making sure the meeting had a purpose.  The easiest post-meeting activity is to ask if the meeting was helpful.  Recently I was in an all-hands meeting.  One of the focuses of the meeting was the recent attrition and stain on the employees.  The leaders on the call were taking questions.  Hard questions. Tough questions.  Early in my career, I would have asked one of those hard questions.  Now I reach out to the leaders after the meeting, thanking them for their comments and answering their questions. This is the perfect Post Meeting activity and it is a great way to connect with people 1 to 2 levels above you in the corporate hierarchy.  The Post-Meeting activities are all about building up or clarifying any next steps.  It is a great way to grow your influence in a company.

Post-Meeting Activities

  • Asking the key people in the meeting if the meeting was helpful
  • If someone took a gut punch in an all-hands meeting, message them, thank them, and let them know they are appreciated
  • Follow up on an escalation meeting thanking the other team for helping
  • If the team is capacity constrained and they have to meet. Thank them for taking the time to meet
  • Follow up with the person with the most influence in the meeting, asking if you missed anything or could have done anything differently

The Pre/Post Meeting doesn't negate the meeting, especially if you schedule it, but they should enhance any meeting you attend.