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Failure Modes of Sending Pre-Read Materials for Meetings

Alex Velez sends us documents in advance:

This could be a hot take, but I’m not a fan of pre-reads and will respectfully decline most requests to share content before a meeting. 

Before I elaborate on why, let’s start by exploring what pre-reads are, why they often fail, and some more effective alternatives.

I think the viable but difficult alternative is to do what Jeff Bezos did at Amazon: for each meeting, there is a 2-page primer covering all of the relevant context for the meeting. After people are in the room, you distribute the 2-pager and everybody spends 5 minutes reading it first. That serves the intent of the pre-read but there are strict social cues to do the reading, something that does not exist with pre-reads. It also prevents people from going around in circles because they have different subsets of information and don’t realize it.

Of course, this is a challenge to pull off in practice and requires more effort from the standpoint of meeting hosts, but I’m also of the belief that there should be some level of pain involved in scheduling a meeting, as that will cut out many of the “This could have been an e-mail” types of meetings.

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