Are you a good meeting participant?

Meetings can waste enormous amounts of time, often with nothing to show for them except a roomful of warm, stale air. But they need not be that way. The more meetings you attend, the more you need to know how to make them work.

First, do any preparation work you need to do. This might be a bit of pre-reading of documents or thinking your way through the agenda and what contributions you can make on the various items. Or it might be making sure you’ve done any assigned tasks from the previous meeting. Whatever it is, don’t blow your credibility by turning up unprepared.

Or by turning up late. Always be on time for meetings because when you hold up the meeting, you’re wasting everyone else’s valuable – and expensive – time, and that’s thoughtless and rude.

Speak up when you have something to contribute but don’t take up more than your fair share of the speaking time or waste time with personal stories, jokes or anecdotes unless they make a point. Look around the table as you speak, making a few seconds eye contact with each person, and when you want to disagree with or build on something someone else has said, quickly re-cap it first. If people have a habit of talking over you, you can pre-empt this by saying something like ‘I have two points I’d like to make about this.’ Or if they do interrupt, you can keep the floor by saying something like ‘I haven’t quite finished, Sam, and continue with what you were saying.

And here are two don’ts: Don’t hold side conversations. And don’t disagree with something unless you have an alternative to offer.

Discussion questions

What do meeting participants do that you appreciate? What do they do that annoys you? Are you polishing or tarnishing your reputation and personal brand by your meeting behaviour?