6 Ways to Make Pre-Work Compelling
By Danuta McCall

Posted July 13, 2014

Most facilitators and team leaders I’ve talked to see the value of assigning some sort of pre-work before a virtual meeting and bemoan the fact that only a small fraction of the participants take this request seriously and complete their assignments. It’s time to take a new look at how to make meeting pre-work more valuable and more compelling.

There are two important reasons to design pre-work into your webinar, online conference or workshop. The first is to get your participants ready to take full advantage of the session by thinking ahead about the content, beginning to formulate ideas or getting to know the group. Participants who have completed well thought out pre-work are “primed” for active and open participation in the real-time event.

The second is to get you ready to facilitate the session effectively. By knowing more about your participants and their interests, you are in a position to develop focused questions that will stimulate ideas. In a virtual setting this becomes even more critical, as you typically have less time in which to achieve your meeting objectives and lack the visual cues that make it easier to adjust your course in mid-stream.

The impact of pre-work on a meeting or webinar can be huge. Successful pre-work can:

  • Increase personal investment in the live session
  • Build interest and preparedness for an interactive session
  • Keep participants engaged and reduce multi-tasking
  • Result in a personal connection with the facilitator
  • Connect participants with others who will also attend the session
  • Enable participants to self select out of a session if it is not for them

But the reality is that participants often put their pre-work on the back burner and assume that they can “wing” their way in the live session. In fact, this undermines the meeting outcome, the participants’ feeling of productivity and your confidence as the facilitator.

Engaging Participants Ahead of Time – Ensuring that Pre-Work Gets Done

Things to consider: How can we reframe expectations to reap the benefit of pre-work? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that the pre-work gets done? How might looking at pre-work from the point of view of a contract, a requirement, a marketing opportunity or an incentive improve the level of participation?

There are ways to make pre-work compelling, enjoyable and productive. While specific tactics will vary according to the meeting format, objectives and size, they fall into six broad categories.

  1. Design pre-work that adds value
  2. Create a sense of urgency
  3. Provide incentives
  4. Make it fun
  5. Implement accountability
  6. Build a thoughtful communication plan

What techniques have you developed to make pre-work more compelling? Please join the conversation by adding your comments here.

We’ve written a more substantial article on this topic as part of our series “Designing Productive Virtual Meetings”. Read this and more at our library of articles, tips and white papers.

Posted by Danuta McCall