Improve and influence meetings

Great meetings are concise leading to decisions and action but that’s not always the case. It’s not always possible to avoid or fix unproductive meetings but there are ways to influence and improve them. How you participate in meetings is important, both for yourself and colleagues inside and outside the meeting.

How to influence and improve poor meetings

Regardless of seniority you can have a positive impact on a poor meeting and improve it.

Turn up on time and fully prepped

Lead by example and be there on time, this seems like an insignificant action but it shows you are taking the meeting seriously and value peoples time. Being fully prepped is also key, it gives you context for the meeting and allows you to concentrate on the discussion as opposed to trying to figure out what is going on.

Identify gaps and fill them

Recognising a meeting as poor is one thing, but figuring out why it’s poor is much better. Once you have identified some reasons, figure out if you can fix some of them e.g. if you notice nobody is taking minutes, start taking the minutes and circulate to the participants afterwards. By spotting these gaps and taking a proactive step to addressing them, you are raising the standard of the meeting.

Pay attention and show interest

This is something you may need to remind yourself throughout the meeting depending on the subject matter and enthusiasm in the room. All it takes is a few people paying attention and showing interest to raise the bar of participation in any meeting. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, so make a conscious decision to be one of the the interested people :)

Avoid distractions

Laptops, phones, smart watches… The most common culprits for distracting meeting participants, can be a difficult habit to kick. This is especially true when there are activities happening simultaneously with your meeting and updates are available via email or on instant messenger, it is very difficult to stop yourself from checking the status. There will be occasions when you absolutely need to receive the updates live and they warrant the distraction but it should be the exception to the rule. Simply not bringing devices to the meeting is the best way to avoid temptation unless you are using the device for tracking the meeting minutes etc.

How to excel in productive meetings

If your meetings are productive in nature, congratulations, that’s a great start! Now it’s time to shine in those meetings helping both yourself and your colleagues.

Meaningful contribution

Engage your inner monologue before contributing in the meeting with a question or statement. By this I mean; think before speaking. Do you already know the answer to the question? Is it relevant? You will notice in meetings people say things for the sake of speaking or being heard, you do not want to be one of those people! Contribute when you have something meaningful to say and deliver it concisely.

Stick with facts

Feelings and listening to your gut are useful but it is preferable to stick to facts and ask for factual information from those who have made statements so you can fully understand their meaning. Sticking with facts also contributes to building a trusted reputation.

Take notes for follow up questions

Everybody makes mistakes, but calling someone out on a mistake in the middle of a meeting can embarrass them unnecessarily. If you hear something questionable during a meeting, take note of it and follow up individually with the person afterwards. One exception to this is if decisions are made in the meeting based on this information, in this case you may need to question the info during the meeting.

Know your audience and prepare

There is a big difference between meetings with colleagues and external partners or clients. Make sure you know who is attending the meeting and adjust your data appropriately. For example, you may have charts or graphs in a slide or document containing sensitive company information such as sales numbers or customer data. Make sure you read your data before presenting it and remove sensitive data when people outside of your company are present.

Connect early

Remote meetings are very convenient in a geographically spread organisation but are notorious for connectivity problems. Dial in early if possible to make sure your video and mic are working properly and the conference information you have is correct. If there is a problem, you have a few minutes to resolve.

The next time you are in a meeting, notice how your colleagues are participating and decide who you think brings value to the meeting. Learning from those around us is all part of professional growth.