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The Official P.A.D.A Format: A standard for better meeting invites

P.A.D.A.

Purpose | Agenda | Documents | Actions

1. Context

Meetings are aimed at discussions where the perspective of attendees is key to solve important matters and reach conclusions. Meetings are not group working sessions that are aimed at getting something done. Meetings should range between 5 minutes and 30 minutes. Working sessions range from 30 minutes to 4 hours.

2. Meeting Invite

Use the P.A.D.A. format in every meeting invite:

  • Purpose: Explain what's the expected outcome of the meeting.
    • Every meeting should have a well-defined goal, otherwise, you are wasting your time and your colleague's in wandering conversations.
  • Agenda: List every topic that needs to be discussed.
    • A well-defined set of points makes meetings more organized, allowing you to know where you are at, what's the next topic, and how much is left to be discussed.
  • Documents: Attach every document that is going to be presented during the meeting.
    • It is a commom pattern to organize meetings just to present something. Meetings are aimed at discussions, not presentations. Instead, send your slides in the meeting invite, and use the allocated time to discuss the details.
  • Actions: Highligh tasks attendees are supposed to carry out before the session.
    • This is your opportunity to harness everyone's time even more by having work done before the actual session. For example, if a meeting is aimed at dicussing a hard decision, then ask everyone to bring at least 1 plausible solution.

3. Examples

Example #1: Technical Meeting (20 minutes)

  • Purpose: Define a technical architecture for our brand new application
  • Agenda:
    • Answer questions on the product requirements attached
    • Suggest plausible architectures
    • Vote on the best alternative
  • Documents:
    • Product Requirements.docx
  • Actions:
    • Bring at least 1 architecture idea that have been used in similiar circumtances

Example #2: Budget Meeting (15 minutes)

  • Purpose: Discuss how the HR budget will be allocated in the next 6 months
  • Agenda:
    • Answer questions from the participants related to the budget allocation
    • Review and vote on the suggestions
    • Officially approve budget allocation
  • Documents:
    • HR Budget Allocation.docx
  • Actions:
    • Bring questions in case something is not clear
    • In case of having suggestions, bring them up for discussions.

4. Best Practices

4.1 Before the Meeting

  • Technical Setup: The organizer is in charge of setting up any technical aspects required before the meeting starts.
  • Lunch Time: Lunch in on the meeting organizer when meetings are schedule during lunch time.
  • Waiting: Meetings start at most 5 minutes after the proposed time with whoever is in the room. The meeting might be postponed if key people is missing.

4.2 During the Meeting

  • Start with PADA: Start your meetings validating the purpose, agenda, documents, and actions that were shared in the meeting invite. Make sure everyone is on the same page before comenzing.
  • Duration: Meetings should never take more time than allocated. If more time is required, the meeting will be extended only if the attendees agree to do so.
  • Email Notes: Take notes in an email. When the meeting is done you just send it to every attendee. This way you no longer need to spend time (after the meeting) formatting your notes and forwanding them.

4.3 During debates

  • Be brief and clear: Your points should take less than 3 minutes. Sintetize, think before speaking, and be clear. If you need to talk for more than 4 minutes straight, then you are not sintetizing.
  • Avoid Devices: Don't use smartphones or laptops while someone is speaking, unless it is for note taking.
  • Voice Raising: Never raise your voice during the meeting, if you want to talk while someone else is doing it, raise up your hand.
  • Postpone Details: Meetings are to discuss high-level matters. Comments regarding specific matters can be discussed offline, don't waste everyone's time on small details.
  • Interruptions: Never interrupt anyone unless the person speaking is jeopardizing the meeting's primary purpose.
  • One voice: No more than one person speaks at a time, doing the opposite is obnoxious.

5. Dodging Meetings [BONUS]

When someone can't get their point across in an email, it just means they're going to have an even harder time explaining it in person

  • The next time someone writes you asking if you have time to meet, try responding: "What do you want to talk about?"
  • They'll write you back with an answer.
  • Then respond: "OK — what are your thoughts on that?"
  • They'll write you back with an answer.
  • Then respond with your own thoughts on the matter if necessary. Or just say: "OK — sounds good."
  • Phew. Meeting dodged.
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