Mention an upcoming meeting to most employees and you’d think you asked them to clean the office toilets. How often have you heard variations of the following?
- “Aw, another waste of time.”
- “Great. Another interruption. Now I’ll have to say for sure.”
- “They never say anything worthwhile.”
- “I’ll just take my work with me into the meetings.”
- “Meetings are like soap operas: you can miss six months of them and still get the idea of what’s going on.”
- “Time to listen to the boss drone on again.”
How We Spend Our Time in Meetings
According to a network MCI Conferencing white Paper, professionals who attend meetings on a regular basis admit to doing the following during meetings:
- Daydreaming (91%)
- Missing meetings (96%)
- Missing parts of meetings (95%)
- Bringing other work to meetings (73%)
- Dozing during meetings (39%)
Meetings Do Matter!
Meetings are a place not only to get information, but also where people make judgment about each other. Meetings are your stage to present yourself in a positive light. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. It could make or break your career!
In the rest of this lesson you’ll get tips for getting more from meetings, as well as making a good impression while you’re there.
Meeting Behavior Basics
In order to really shine in business meetings, there are some behavior basics for meetings that will serve you well.
Making Your Entrance
- Enter decisively.
- Don’t stand in the doorway.
- While standing, shake hands, and call peple by their first names.
- Introduce yourself to those you don’t know.
- If you are seated and introduced to someone new, stand up, smile, and shake hands.
Where to Sit
- Avoid sitting at either end of the table.
- Don’t sit next to the chairperson or senior officer. That chair may be reserved for his or her aide or secretary.
- If you’re not familiar with the seating arrangement, ask if it’s okay to sit any where.
What Not to Do
- Don’t fiddle – leave paperclips unbent and don’t bounce them.
- Don’t doodle on a notepad. (People will start trying to see what you’re doing. And this draws attention to the fact that you’re not paying attention.)
- Don’t chew gum or pop mints or candy into your mouth.
- PLEASE don’t chew ice cubes!!!
- Don’t ask for coffee or other refreshments unless they are being offered.
- If food and drinks are offered, clear your plate as soon as possible.
- Avoid letting your mind wander, no matter how boring the meeting may seem.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language
- Sit straight, both feet on the floor.
- Even though you’re sitting straight, appear relaxed, and attentive.
- If you do cross your legs, cross them at the ankles.
- Don’t cross your arms in front of you: it communicates resistance – or even hostility.
- For men – keep your jacket and tie on unless otherwise specified.
The Cost of Unproductive Meetings
According to a network MCI Conferencing white paper, most professional attend a total of 61.8 meetings per month. Research from Nelson and Economy (Better Business Meetings) indicates that over 50 percent of this meeting time is wasted. Assuming each of these meetings is one hour long, professionals lose 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings, or approximately four work days.
There is nothing more aggravating in a meeting that not being able to hear the person who is speaking. Speaking too softly conveys that you believe what you’re saying really has no merit, if you don’t think it’s important, why should the rest of the group?
Some other tips for speaking at meetings:
- Don’t stand up, unless people routinely stand while speaking at such meetings or unless you’re asked to stand up.
- Take a second to frame your thoughts. You don’t have to start blurting out, the second you’re called upon to speak.
- BLT – Put the bottom line on top. Say the most important thing first.
- Be brief.
- Don’t ramble.
- Don’t repeat yourself.
- Use positive language.
- Never begin with an apology, e.g., “This might not work, but….”
- Avoid confrontational language such as, “That idea won’t work,” or “That’s completely irrelevant to the issue.”
- Use “We.” Whenever referring to your department, company, team, or a project group, always use the pronoun “we.” If things are going well, it shows you’re a real team player by sharing the glory. If things are going poorly, it takes the focus off of you and spreads the responsibility around.
- Whatever you say, say it with authority. Use a confident tone.
Basic Rules and Etiquette for Business Meetings
These so-called “rules” are pretty basic. But someone ignores them at nearly every meeting. So here’s a quick review:
Be ready. Prepare ahead of time. Arrive with all the materials you think you may need: report, pen, paper, notebook, or laptop .
Keep the materials you need handy so people won’t have to wait while you fish around for things.
Always put your briefcase or purse on the floor next to you. Never put these on the conference table.
Show up on time or little early.
If you do have to be late, let the meeting organizer know ahead of time so a seat can be reserved for you in an area that won’t cause too much disturbance when you do arrive.
If you are late, apologize and give a reason. If you don’t give a good reason, you’ll generate resentment from the people who did arrive on time. Plus, if you fail to give a good reason, you’re basically saying the meeting isn’t important enough for you to show up on time.
Decide ahead of time what you have to say about the issue at hand and prepare your remarks. Practice mentally a few times before you arrive at the meetings.
Handing Conflict and Objections During a Meeting
Whether it’s resistance to your proposal or a heckler in the back of the room, conflict will inevitably arise if you attend enough meetings.
Some Common Meeting Disrupters – And How to Handle Each Type
Every meeting seems to contain at least one of the following:
Side Talkers These are the people who just can’t seem to stop having side conversations with the other people at the table. To handle a side-talker:
Complete your thought, look at the person, and pause until they stop talking.
Ramblers Good grief? We’ve all been in meetings where the speaker just can’t seem to get to the point. To move them along:” Acknowledge the question, then use a CLOSED-ENDED (can only be answered with a yes or no) question to refocus the participant to the topic at hand.
EXAMPLE: “I liked your question about how this new marketing plan will impact the workload of the telesales center. Are you concerned about increased call volume or the added paperwork that the center will have to process with the anticipated increase in orders?”
Hecklers Simply put, these are the rude people at the meeting. There’s no other way to say it. You have several choices when managing a heckler: Ignore them, Redirect them by asking a question appropriate to the topic, Defer the problem.
Challengers There’s one in every crowd. You know who they are. They’re usually sitting in the back of the room, arms folded, hanging on your every word. Then, when the moment is right, they fire their verbal salvos at you. They’ll raise their hand, and in their most authoritative voice say something like, “Isn’t it true that.”Challengers could have several purposes: (1) to reduce your credibility or (2) to increase their prestige in the eyes of the group. Either way, a challenger usually has a pretty fragile ego, so handle with care.
One option to handle a challenger is to say one of the following: “help me understand what you mean, or where, specifically, you think this program will fail.” “That’s certainly one option. It’s not the one we’re recommending now, and I would be interested in hearing the benefits to your option. Could you write that up for me and put it on my desk? Then, I’ll put that on the agenda for the next meeting.”
These are the people who sit there and say nothing. You don’t know if they’re on your side, if they think everything you’re saying is bogus, or if they’re just sleep-deprived.
To get a non-participant to participate, the best strategy is to ask them a question to get them involved. A simple “What do you think?”May be enough to initiate an interaction.
MEETING MASTER CHECKLIST
Before The Meeting
- Is a Meeting The best way to handle your Communication Need? (Consider A memo, Conference Call, E-mail, Video Conference, Presentation, etc.)
- What Must you leave the meeting with (A Decision, Commitment, Ideas, Consensus etc.) in order For it to be A success? (After you Answer This, Revisit The Question Above)
- What is The Sequence of Topic That Must Be Addressed in Order To Accomplish Your Meeting Objective?
- In What Ways (Discussion, Brainstorming, Planning, etc.) Must You Address Each Topic And For How Long?
- Who Must Be Present At Your Meeting For you to Accomplish Your Objective?
- Where should the meeting be held in order to increase Comfort And Reduce influence? (Ie. You influence More in Your Office)
- When Should You Meet And For How Long?
- Have You Prepared And Sent A Detailed Agenda To all Participants?
During The Meeting
- Did you Arrive early enough to prep the meeting room and yourself?
- Did you start the meeting on time?
- Did you confirm that everyone received and understand the agenda and is prepared to work?
- Did you introduce the first agenda topic and indicate the preferred way of addressing it (eg. “Generating ideas is the approach I’d like to suggest with our first item, sales initiatives.”)
- Did you encourage the less talkative and ride herd on monopolizers?
- Did you alert the meeting members when agenda items were within 2 to 5 minutes of their allotted time? (eg. “We’ve Got five minutes left with this item, so…”)
- Did you use A Concerns flipchart to capture unfinished business?
- Did you summarize a confirm conclusions and commitments?
- Did you Thank Participants?
- Did You Take Notes?
After The Meeting
- Did you complete A short, Clear summary of the meeting, with emphasis on decisions and commitments that were made?
- Did you distribute the meeting summary to every participant and anyone else with a need to know within 36 hours of the meeting?
- Did you begin and/or complete any and all of the actions that you committed to during the meeting?
- Did you follow up with any meeting participant who made A commitment?
- Did you express thanks to any participate who added superior levels of value to your meeting?
- Did you probe any participants who were unusually quiet or who expressed reservations with topics or outcomes?