Most of us attend more meetings than we chair, and it can be difficult to remain motivated when every day brings a new meeting challenge. Therefore, it’s important to know how to be a great meeting participant. You are more likely to get the best from the meetings you attend, you will hopefully increase the success of these appointments and perhaps even reduce the frequency of meetings.
Here are eight useful tips to try out when you next attend a meeting:
1. Only attend meetings that are relevant to you
This may seem really obvious, but we tend to invite everyone to meetings at times. When you are invited, think about how relevant it is to you; how useful will it be for you to attend? Is it useful for you, and is it useful for the other participants? Could you just read the minutes or have someone brief you afterwards? Is there someone else in your team who would benefit more from attending or who would cost less to attend? This can not only save you many wasted hours at meetings you don’t really need to be at, but can also provide development for the team member who goes in your place.
2. Be prepared
Read the agenda and brush up on what’s going on. If you’re not sure what the meeting’s about, ask someone so you can prepare. If the meeting is a regular meeting with minutes taken, read the minutes of past meetings to learn what’s already been discussed and decided.
Send in your agenda items when asked so you don’t disrupt the beginning of the meeting asking for them to be added, and ultimately lengthening an already packed agenda.
3. Only speak when you have something useful to contribute and be concise
It’s easy to get caught up in discussions or to want to ‘join in’, but do you have anything valuable to contribute or are you just going to add to the ‘white noise’? Avoid talking too much as this could dilute your impact on the more important subjects.
When the time is right to make a point, make sure you have the organiser’s permission to speak and then clearly state what you have to say. Respect other peoples’ rights to disagree and don’t labour your point. Remember, it’s not just your meeting - other people will want to move on to different subjects.
4. Pick your battles
If someone makes an error or you disagree with them, think before you speak. Don’t show someone up if you can correct them in private later. Even if the person is one of your team members or someone you don’t like, others in the room will wonder whether you’ll have their back in the future. Think about how you would feel if someone did that to you.
5. Don’t dominate
Enthusiasm is great but be careful you don’t come across as dominating the meeting. Even if you have several valuable questions and comments that contribute to the meeting, don’t dominate the discussion. After you make a point, wait for others to chime in. They might make another point you were going to add, giving you a chance to sit back and contribute later.
6. Think about your timing
Diplomacy can be a valuable meeting skill. Don’t always be the first one to comment on a presentation or proposal if you’re not senior management or an expert. Your questions and comments might be answered by someone else who goes after you and you might learn that you misinterpreted what was said. If nobody raises what you were going to say then continue, but be mindful of the impact of how you make your contribution.
7. Follow-up on any actions you agreed to and do them on time, in full and with enthusiasm!
When the minutes are published, read them carefully and compare them with your own memory of what was discussed. Let the organiser know right away about any significant differences.
Make sure you know what actions were assigned to you and follow-up on them as quickly as you can. Think about how impressive it is when you see somebody else complete their action items immediately after a meeting. Following through on what you agreed to do in front of a group is a good opportunity to demonstrate that you do what you say you will and are not one to ‘drop the ball’.
8. Give feedback to the chair
If you have a good feeling about the meeting, let the chair know. After all, everybody likes to hear positive feedback. If there was something that you didn’t like about the meeting think carefully about how to communicate this. A gentle suggestion of “how to make the meeting more useful than it was” will go down much better than a more direct, negative approach.
In my next blog I will share my top tips for effective meetings.
Want more tips and ideas on effective meetings? I am presenting a live webinar on 8th December called ‘The Secrets to Effective Meetings’. To find out more and register for the webinar, click here now.
Stephanie Evans, Coaching and Mentoring Consultant, Bray Leino Learning
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