One handy tip I picked up at Accenture:
If you have a meeting with your boss, a client, or just about anybody else higher than you in the food chain, take a few minutes beforehand to prepare the agenda.
In the worst case scenario, someone will have prepared one as well and you will have ‘wasted’ a few minutes. (Which you won’t, because having thought about the meeting beforehand will help you look brilliant.)
But in the case that your overly busy boss asks you to meet him for a few of his precious minutes, and, when you meet him a few days later, he has his ‘it’d better be important’ stare as he asks “so what is it that you wanted to talk about?”, you’ll be ready.
So always prepare the agenda. Even if you didn’t call the meeting
Oh, and keep it to (a maximum of) three things. And, of course, do your best to ensure that these topics are right on target, from his perspective.
If they’re not your boss might think that you’re not exactly as bright as can be… or himself. But even that is secondary: by being prepared you’ll convey the feeling that you’re proactive, organized, and respectful of his time. And, these days, most bosses will tell you that it’s pretty tough to find professionals with these qualities.
And, while you’re at it, take minutes
The corollary is that you should take meeting’s minutes whenever possible. Considering that everyone has a laptop and/or an iPad these days, minute taking won’t take you much time after the meeting anyway. So it has very low cost, but a high payoff:
- First, you look proactive and know how to take one for the team. Let’s face it, nobody likes to take minutes and, usually, it falls down to the most junior person—i.e. you—anyway. So why not volunteer?
- Second, it forces you to pay attention during the meeting. That’s right, no more day dreaming–you’ll need to stay engaged.
- Third, you get to, well, shape the collective memory.
That third point makes it worthwhile to take minutes even when you’re not the junior person in the room. And I don’t mean that you should use taking minutes as a way to manipulate what has been said in the meeting; I mean it as a way to ensure that you get the key points that are valuable to you recorded in the way that you need them to be recorded.