I am 100% sure I am not alone when I say, “I hate going to meetings that are unproductive, and a waste of everyone’s time.” I attend some meetings where half the people are paying attention, some are on their phones, and others are trying to pay attention but cannot stop thinking about everyone that is not. Is it their fault? Or, their bosses’? Or, the fault of the meeting organizer? Should they have been invited? Attendees may be saying to themselves, “What am I doing here? This has nothing to do with me,” or, “Why’d we spend half the meeting reiterating why we are here?”
It is everyone’s responsibility to know a meetings’ agenda prior to attending, and to know if they have a role in that meeting. If not, don’t go!
A long time ago I was trained to be a black belt in 6-Sigma, a set of techniques and tools to ensure flawless outputs and process improvements. While 6-Sigma was meant for manufacturing and definitely not for the white collar workforce, I did learn a lot about productive meetings.
So, here are some rules to ensure you are in a meeting that will be beneficial to you. Some of these pertain to internal meetings, and others to client meetings. In all cases, I promise following these simple rules will make you more professional.
- Ask the Organizer for an agenda. If you are the organizer, create an agenda.
- Understand your role in the meeting. If you don’t know, ASK! And, if you don’t have a role, don’t go.
- Don’t have meetings just to have meetings. Make sure there is a reason to get together.
- Be on time.
- (Ok, this may be me calling the kettle black, but it is really important. Being late says to others, “Your time isn’t as important as mine!)
- Come prepared. Don’t show up without being prepared or you have wasted everyone else’s time.
- Make sure everyone knows everyone in the room. If not, make introductions.
- In client meetings, introduce yourself as people walk into the room. And stand up to do it. If possible, mingle a little before the start. It will make the meeting attendees much more comfortable.
- Speak up loud and clear, and remember that body language speaks louder than your words.
- Holding your head up with your hands, slouching, looking down—all no-nos
- Leave your phone out of the room, or at least, out of reach.
- If you have to bring them along, give the client or organizer a reason (I am waiting for a family emergency, vendor that is fixing an issue, or using it to take notes—in fact, these are the only excusable reasons to be on your phone)
- Be concise when you are the one talking. Talk clearly, loud enough for everyone to hear, and get your point across fast.
- Finally, LISTEN.
- Do not talk over people or disrupt someone when they are talking.
- If you think of something important to say, write it down so you don’t forget. This will allow you to pay attention to the person that is talking.