Last week we discussed steps leaders can take to ensure more productive meetings. And while it IS up to the leader to set the tone, it’s up to the attendees to make sure that meetings go smoothly and accomplish the goals that are set out.
Here are some things you can do, as a meeting attendee, to ensure the time is well spent.
1. Ask if you can help
Unfortunately not every leader read last week’s article, nor is every leader effective at meetings. There’s no need to suffer in silence. Ask the leader if you can help! Instead of criticizing his/her working style…never a winning move…couch it in terms of how it will help everyone else.
Privately chat with the meeting leader and say, “Have you noticed we tend to ramble a little as we discuss our week’s workload? What would you think about limiting everyone to 3 minutes to just hit the highlights of their week with fewer details that don’t pertain to all of us?” At that point you can even suggest that the leader add the time limits on the agenda.
No agenda? Ask the leader if he/she thinks an agenda would be useful. Again, cloak it in terms of how it would help you. “I think it would be great if we all knew what was going to be discussed so we could have our input ready!”
2. Be a shining example of good meeting etiquette
Get to the meeting on time, even if no one else does. Unfortunately in many organizations, the “last one” to the meeting appears to be the busiest, most important person and then everyone decides to push back their arrival times.
If you find people routinely take 10 minutes to gather, you can be on time and still not waste those 10 minutes. Use that time to update your to-do list, read a quick magazine article, chat with someone whose path you don’t cross very often.
When the meeting begins, make sure to immediately stash the papers you were working on or put down your own device, and concentrate on the speaker.
3. Be an active participant…
Nothing weighs a meeting down faster than a group who doesn’t respond. Clearly your presence was requested because the leader thinks you have something to offer. So, do it! Speaking up at meetings is a wonderful way to further your career by showing others within and out of your department that you are bright, capable and engaged.
If information is requested prior to the meeting, make sure you are prepared. Make quick notes so you will stay on message and sound confident and informed.
4. But not TOO active
Take care not to contribute to discussions going off topic. Help gently steer them back. Or, if you have something additional you’d like to add, ask permission of the speaker to go in that direction or ask the leader if they prefer the topic be tabled for another time or be a whole different meeting.
Wait until it’s your turn to talk and don’t feel the need to comment on everything that is said.
And, it goes without saying, side conversations are never ok.
5. Offer to take notes
Do you find your mind or your texty fingers wandering during meetings? A sure fire way to ensure you will be engaged in a meeting is having to record it! Bring your laptop and make yourself useful by keeping the minutes or notes for the meeting. Not only will it ensure your attention stays on whatever scintillating topic is being explored, but it will telegraph to your boss and department that you are eager to help.
If you go into a meeting with a positive mind frame, you are apt to find it worth your time. A meeting can be a wonderful opportunity to showcase your projects and personality to others. Everyone appreciates the employee who is positive, upbeat and helpful and no one more so than a meeting leader!