Everyone hates meetings. I hate them, you hate them, often for good reason because they are not managed effectively and lack a meeting agenda. But, don't be shortsighted. If you’re kicking back or multi-tasking during business meetings you may be missing out big time. If you haven't put two and two together yet, let Your Office Mom do the math for you and share some advice.
Have you stopped to wonder if you're missing out because you're so passive and disengaged during meetings? Do you miss important information you don't share with customers? Are there dots you don't connect? Persuasive arguments you can’t make to close a deal? New product features you can't explain? Relationships you don't build? Career opportunities you don’t know about? Changes going on you're oblivious to? My advice? Maybe it’s time you have a different perspective about meetings and use them for your benefit.
Think of meetings as scheduled opportunities to learn, network and build relationships. If you feel left out or overlooked, start using meetings to your advantage. Broaden your circle of work contacts by expanding who you interact with on a regular basis. Meetings are where it's happening, so here are some suggestions in four easy to follow steps.
1. Check it out
Begin by taking notice of the meeting invite. Simple right? Don’t just click “accept” and be done. Is there an agenda? Who else is invited? Ask yourself “What’s in it for me if I actively engage?" Do some digging. Don't recognize a name? Check their title, department and location. And, if all else fails, ask the meeting leader for more info. For regularly scheduled meetings, it’s all about assessing your mindset and what’s going on. Why have you disengaged? Boredom? Lack of motivation? Are you missing opportunities to learn? Get ahead? Are you getting to know people in your department and elsewhere?
Meeting prep shouldn't take more than 5 to 10 minutes. If there’s an agenda, take the initiative to research the topics be it people, products, customers, competitors or whatever. If there’s no agenda, go back and check your email for updates, product releases, announcements that you just glanced over or ignored and study up. Jot down bullet points for meeting day in case you want to make intelligent comments or ask insightful questions.
With regularly scheduled meetings with the same peeps, think about how you can amp it up. Is there anything you can do differently? Do some serious reflection. And I get it. Some meetings just suck, or the leader isn't a good facilitator or doesn't take opportunities to change the agenda or meeting format to involve people. That's on the leader. What about you? Can you still learn, network and build relationships? What behaviors can YOU change? You want to shake it up baby!
3. Meet, Greet & Engage
Try your best to arrive a couple of minutes early to settle in, meet and greet everyone. Yes, everyone! Don't be lame and feign being busy to avoid eye contact with some people. Silence your phone and put it down. If it's a web meeting the same concept applies. Talk to people. Remember you’re on a mission to learn, get ahead and strengthen relationships. Once the meeting starts pay attention because anyone speaking deserves your attention. Good questions are usually appreciated. If nothing else it wakes people up, so don't be afraid to ask them. Just make sure it's on point. People hate tangents more than they hate meetings.
Don't hesitate to volunteer for projects or assignments, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be a suck up. If you get a chance to work with people in different departments or locations jump on it. It's a great way to make new contacts and get out of your day-to-day routine.
Whether you need to think something, research something or do something always follow through. Immediately document your action items, set reminders, and deadlines. If people have to text, chat, email, ask or call to find out when they're getting something you promised to deliver you failed, and you’ve got a credibility problem. Don't let that happen.
If a colleague’s expertise is important to you, reach out after the meeting. Don't know what to say? If nothing else, they are an expert, and you want to become one. "I want to learn more about _____" is usually sufficient. Ask if they can recommend contacts, websites or LinkedIn groups. People are happy to talk about things they're passionate about as long as you’re sincere, and you catch them at a good time. After this initial conversation others are likely to follow.
If you have lunch or coffee at the office be approachable (look up from your phone). Ask people to join you. Take people up on offers to go for coffee, lunch or drinks after work instead of doing the 'same old' with the same crowd all the time. And, be sure to reciprocate by inviting people to join you or your group too. Some will accept others won't. But being approachable and inclusive speaks volumes about your character and values.
Please share your insights and what works for you in the comments! Carpe diem!