1. Meeting Request. Start by sending participants an official meeting request that can be added to their calendar. Whether you do this through MS Outlook, Google Calendar, or iCal sending a meeting request ensures that the participants will have a reminder of the meeting. If you are conducting a Web meeting, some software such as Webex will send participants an email directly, if desired, with all necessary information.
If you send the request yourself, be sure to include the obvious: date, time, and duration. Depending on where/how the meeting is being held, include the following applicable information: location, conference phone number, or Web meeting link.
2. Meeting Agenda. Always include a meeting agenda with the meeting request you send to participants. If your meeting software is sending the request for you, then follow it up with an email containing the agenda. Here are the benefits of a meeting agenda:
a. Participants know exactly what is to be discussed. This allows them to prepare questions or comments ahead of time.
b. It helps to keep the meeting on track and moving along. When everyone is aware of the items that need to be discussed, it is helpful to keep things moving if the meeting veers off track.
c. It assists you as the organizer and meeting leader to be organized ahead of time and ready to discuss the agenda items.
3. Note-Taking. This is a crucial piece to any meeting. Many participants will take notes for important information or action items. However, you as the organizer should take notes of the entire meeting. Writing down due dates, specific items discussed and by whom, action items, conclusions and decisions, questions to be answered later, and who attended the meeting are all key items. Depending on the situation, you may be sending out meeting minutes as a follow-up, in which case accurate and complete note-taking is a must.
There are convenient ways to take meeting notes without just pen and paper, although those are always a sure thing. Consider using your laptop or tablet, cell phone voice recording feature, or recording gadget (there are pens that record conversations which are perfect for meetings).
4. Recap Before Adjourning. Be sure that before the meeting ends you recap items from your notes. This is especially important for action items and concluded deadlines. For those not taking notes of these significant pieces, reminding everyone before adjourning helps to confirm what is expected.
5. Follow-Up. Although a recap comes when the meeting is ending, an official follow-up is still an essential piece to making sure the meeting was a success. For longer, complex meetings with many action items, deadlines, and participants, consider emailing everyone the meeting minutes. For shorter, less complex meetings, a short email with the same types of items may suffice.
Additionally, sending out reminders before an action item is due and/or follow-ups afterwards to be sure items have been completed is helpful for all that participated. If due dates are spread out over an amount of time, then regular, recurring follow-ups may be necessary.
You do not have to work in a physical office to be responsible, prepared, and proactive when it comes to meetings. Whether it is an in-person meeting, Web meeting, or conference call, having these essentials as your side will show your professionalism and keep you organized before and after.