Provide Advance Notice for Meetings

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How much time do you and your team waste because the right people haven’t turned up to your meetings. No advance notice for the meetings was given, so how can you expect people to rearrange their schedule to fit in with you.

Problem: Last minute meetings disrupt your team

In most companies, everyone is busy, and they don’t have time to waste. People need (and most people prefer) to see what is happening and when.

Yet many managers and other meeting organisers call meetings at the last minute or at very short notice. This disrupts people’s plans for their work, slows them down, and is generally just bad planning.

This is particularly worse when people don’t understand why the meeting is being called, and why it is important.

Solution: Give advance notice of meetings

If you are the project manager, set an example by scheduling meetings with as much advance notice as possible. A minimum of a few days is good, but a week or more advance notice is much better.

You should only call last minute meetings (as in on the same day) in extreme circumstances, such as a critical unplanned event, a safety incident that must be announced immediately or a similar urgent reason. And if you do call a last minute meeting, let people know why and remind them that you would not normally call an unplanned meeting. You should still prepare as much as possible, even for late planned meetings.

Encourage your team members to schedule their meetings in advance as well.

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Scheduling meetings well in advance helps people plan their work and increases efficiency. It also allows more of the invited people to attend, as a late scheduled meeting will often clash with the plans of many other people.

You should also make yourself aware of any policies your company has regarding the minimum notice required for meetings. That is an unusual requirement in my experience, but may be present in more unionised workplaces. You should of course follow these guidelines or policies, but even then, you should aim to schedule your meetings further in advance than the required minimum.

Another big advantage of planning your meetings in advance is that you will find it easier to find space in people’s calendars the further ahead you book the meetings. In my experience, finding space in multiple people’s calendars today is nearly impossible, this week unlikely, next week possible, two or three weeks from now likely, and more than three weeks from now very likely or nearly always possible. (I hope your company uses a good calendar software system, and that all your team uses it properly to show their meeting times, available time, and focus time.)

Advance planning and advance notice also allows more people to see the invite and accept it. How many times have you invited a group of people to a meeting and had no one accept it until the last minute? You wonder whether they consider the meeting important, or perhaps they are all busy, or maybe they just don’t like you. Giving advance notice for the meeting gives people reasonable time to accept the meeting invite, and with enough warning, few people will not accept it unless you have invited someone who shouldn’t need to be there).

Meetings such as regular repeating project status meetings should especially be booked as far in advance as possible. It is often important to get as many of the invited people to attend these, so getting the invites into people’s calendars early will go a long way to ensuring attendance, engagement and preparedness. (Here is a good article from the PMI on how to run a project status meeting). Of course, along with advance notice for project meetings, you should also include an agenda, start the meeting on time, stick to the agenda, and it is particularly important to go to the meeting prepared.

Lesson: Don’t waste team time, give advance notice for meetings

Booking last minute meetings causes distraction, delays projects, slows people’s work, and doesn’t encourage good attendance. This is not good for your projects, your team or the business.

Schedule meetings with as much advance notice as possible, and encourage (or even require) your team to do the same. This will save time in trying to find suitable meeting times, and will increase the number of your team that can and do attend meetings.

You should always give advance notice for meetings. The only exception to this should be in emergencies (project emergencies or physical emergencies).

If you do call a last minute meeting, you should acknowledge that this is unusual, and give a clear reason why you are calling a meeting without advance notice.

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