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Virtual First | Communication Kit

Prepare with a pre-read

“Provide people with a pre-read,” they said. But… what makes a great pre-read? Great meetings are made great in part by what happens in advance. The art of the pre-read is to provide the right amount of context in the most efficient manner. That way, attendees actively engage with the material you point them to and come to the meeting ready to share their thoughts. 


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Step 1: Share the minimum viable context

Lessons learned in write for understanding and write with brevity apply here. Pre-reads should achieve one goal: provide enough information to someone who may have little to no context so that they can meaningfully contribute in the meeting. Your pre-read should take the place of the common “Let me bring folks up to speed…” part of the meeting, saving five to ten minutes upfront. Attendees should be able to grasp the basics in five minutes or less. Try to format your pre-read in bullets to force clarity. Bonus points if you’re able to link out to meaningful components where folks can optionally learn more in advance (example: a Dropbox folder, a collaborative document like Paper document, or a ticket in a project management system).

Step 2: Put the pre-read in the agenda

An effective way to train those who routinely attend meetings you organize is to maintain a single source of truth. By putting your pre-read materials in the shared agenda document that’s already attached to your meeting invite, you’re conditioning attendees to refer to the agenda before, during, and after meetings. It’s a good idea to share the pre-read one to two business days in advance. If all else fails, allocate time for silent reads to begin your meeting. When sharing, remind folks what they’re expected to read, why they’re expected to read it, and that you’re linking the same agenda doc that’s already in the meeting invite. 

Step 3: Ask for feedback

As you share the pre-read, ask folks to provide feedback if something is ambiguous or confusing. This not only helps you craft future pre-reads to be more concise and focused on the right things, but it also serves as a subtle nudge for attendees to actually read the pre-read. This tiny step adds a layer of accountability and touches on the power of reciprocity. Attendees will recognize that you’re going above and beyond by providing a pre-read and asking for feedback, which in turn makes them more likely to reciprocate by reading (and hopefully, sharing a bit of input).
From Dropbox

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3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Add a pre-read (and share out to attendees) for an upcoming meeting.
  • Next week: Ask for feedback on you pre-read format and approach. 
  • Quarterly: Ask your broader team to join you in teeing up pre-reads to create organizational momentum.