Meetings – the Rodney Dangerfield of the Business World

We all attend those meetings, and we may even be guilty of orchestrating them! You know, the ones that are never-ending, lack focus, become a forum for one or two people, and conclude with no outcome or action plan for the attendees. No reason meetings get no respect!

The good news is we can transform meetings into idea-generating, direction providing, time that is well-spent and fosters employee engagement. So you ask me how, well read on to learn the three steps you can take to make the most of each meeting that you are part of.

It all starts with the invite

Transforming a meeting from an endless drum solo to a collaborative jam session begins with the invite.

  • Why are meeting?: Did you ever get an invite without knowing its purpose, lack of or unclear agenda, or better yet, what is your role in the conversation and why you need to attend? It leaves you with that “call to the principal’s office” feeling. Well, meeting attendees, you have rights! The right to know what is expected of you before you walk into the meeting. So the next time that invite hits your calendar that lacks sufficient detail before you hit the accept button ask the organizer for more information.
  • Be prepared: OK, now you know the purpose, structure, and why you need to attend, take a few minutes and think about what you can bring to the table. What can you contribute to the conversation, what expertise do you have on the topic? Do you have a point on any of the agenda items, and do you think anyone will want to listen to what you have to say? If you can answer yes to any of this, then get ready and spend some time thinking about what you will bring to the table. I would suggest that you even give the meeting organizer a “heads up” that you will be prepared and have a few thoughts to share on the topic(s) during the meeting.
  • Eliminate distractions: You need to stay focused during the meeting, so if it is a Zoom meeting, turn off your email, cell phone, ask to have your calls held, and not to be disturbed. If it is an in-person meeting, turn your smartphone off; if you use a tablet, etc. to take notes, turn off incoming messages. Find a spot at the table that is comfortable and easy for you to pay attention.
  • Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?: To give your best during a meeting, you need to know your style and what is necessary to get the best out of you. A pre-call to the meeting leader, letting them know how you would like to participate. For example, perhaps you are the quiet type during a meeting, which is fine, but let the leader know that being quiet still means you are engaged and enables you to process the information and may need to share your ideas in an email after the meeting. If you are the type of individual who does not do well when put on the spot, plan to offer some of your ideas either before the meeting or early in the conversation.

During the meeting

Have you ever experienced the frustration of thinking of the perfect response after it is too late to say it? If you put careful meeting preparation into practice, you can minimize the post-meeting “should have” statement that plays in our head after the meeting.

  • Observe to improve performance. In the next meeting you attend, observe the roles each participant plays. Meetings are like improve groups. The producer organized the meeting; the director runs the meeting, and the cast who are the attendees. Take note of each individual’s role and what strengths or weaknesses they bring to the meeting. Use what you observe to improve your performance.
  • Take advantage of your style. Early talkers set the tone and have an advantage during the meeting. For an introvert, while uncomfortable, this can be a strategic first move on your part. Extroverts tend to be more comfortable with jumping right into the conversation. By doing so, they establish their position in the meeting early and content flows from there. For most introverts who delay joining the conversation will struggle to steer the direction of the discussion. Being the first to express an idea or opinion anchors the discussion topic and direction. But by interjecting with a thoughtful question, you can steer the discussion in another direction.
  • Nonverbal behavior and self-perception. Research on this topic by Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business professor, noted for example that your posture directly influences your level of confidence during meetings. By sitting up straight, leaning forward when speaking, as opposed to slumping or huddling in your chair, goes a long way in establishing self and others’ perception. If interrupted, you can deflect the interruption by raising your hand and your decibel level slightly. If you want to feel stronger and more confident during conference calls, try standing instead of sitting.

After the meeting

OK, the meeting is over, what next? Productive or not, you have work to do even if it was not a formal assignment. Take a moment, reflect on what just happened, and make sure what you need to do.

  • Meeting review. Review your notes, and once you get the meeting minutes, compare them to make sure they agree. If they disagree, follow up with the meeting leader for clarification.
  • Outcome. Knowing what is expected of me following a meeting is critical. Do I have action items, shared responsibilities with colleagues, or deadlines as a result of the meeting? Clarification is critical, takes a few minutes, and can save you time in the long run.
  • The “Yeah” or “OMG” reaction post-meeting. We all experience it, and if we don’t address it right away, it could come back to haunt us. It can be a simple acknowledgment to someone who impressed you, a concern, or a new idea that you need to express to the meeting leader, or a quick follow-up with a team member. Don’t wait; your memory fades fast, and the longer you wait, the fewer details you will remember, or you may not follow up at all.

Either you love them or hate them, but meetings will always be an integral part of just about any job. You can make meetings meaningful by thinking ahead and then taking action.

Let MYPTHRM help you reshape your meetings to improve performance and employee engagement. To learn more contact us at 516 522-0078 or email us at [email protected]

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