BEST PRACTICE: include "Session Purpose", "Session Goals" and "Preparations" clauses to your meeting invites!

2010 12 09 MV: Ambiguity is the hidden serial killer of productivity in any organization. In organizations which hold lots of meetings with lots of attendees, much time is wasted with poorly-worded invites. Obscure titles, no clear purpose or goals… the result is all too often a bunch of people getting together, mindlessly discussing whatever comes to mind… and accomplishing nothing. Because nothing is precisely what was set as the goal.

Mission Accomplished?

How to battle this more-common-than-uncommon phenomena?

Simple: no matter your technology (Outlook, GMail, Yahoo, Novell, whatever) for creating & sending invites, simply make it a best practice of including the following sections in all your invites…

A single sentence clearly describing the overall purpose of the “session”; Usually starts with “To [fill in the rest of this sentence with an “action verb” followed by a little text as possible which explains the purpose]”…
Example: “To review SharePoint’s out-of-the-box image upload functionality,and devise possible improvements.”

   1. Attendees understand Concept A;
   2. Attendees understand Point B;
   3. This sub-group understands Concept C;
   4. This other sub-group understands Point D;

Goals should be stated as if they’d already been achieved – NEVER using any words like “try”…

   Attendee 1 – read this doc;
   Attendee 2 – prepare this slide deck;
   Attendee 3 – none;

Preparations should name a specific person or groups, start with an”action” verb, and be worded so that each task is measureable as having been completed.

IMPORTANT CONCEPT – merely adding an “Agenda” does NOT improve your ability to achieve anything productive other than covering the agenda. An agenda can be useful, but ultimately it is nothing more than a roadmap, but it is neither the purpose nor the goals of the session. Don’t fool yourself into thinking an agenda without goals will lead to a truly productive session – merely an organized-but-UN-productive one. Think about it…

That’s it – pretty simple, yet ambiguity is all but eliminated, and the result is an organization-wide surge in productivity due to genuinely useful meetings.


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