Five Ways to Make the Most of Meetings

Throughout your career, you will be involved in hundreds or even thousands of meetings.  What’s the best way to participate in them? Many people never really give much thought to this. The biggest mistake you can make is to be too passive (in other words, not active enough). 

Here are five tips to get the most out of meetings. 

  1. Arrive Early
    You will look rather foolish rushing in late, you won’t be able to concentrate and you might miss something important. By arriving early, you will have a better understanding of what the meeting is all about as well as feeling more relaxed and less nervous. Always arrive a few minutes before the meeting is due to start.
  1. Stay Alert
    Pay attention to what is being discussed. When other people are speaking, show them you’re interested via your facial expressions and your body language. Never check your mobile phone or emails during the meeting. Remain mentally alert and interested in what’s being said. Smile and be pleasant. 
  1. Be Prepared 
    In some meetings, you may be expected to present a report or explain something to everyone else. Always prepare what you’re going to say in advance. This includes anticipating questions and being ready to answer them. It looks unprofessional if someone asks a reasonably predictable question and you have to refer to your laptop to try to find the answer. Thorough preparation is always worthwhile. 
  1. Take Notes 
    Always have a notebook with you in meetings and write down anything you need to remember. At the very least, make a note of who was present, the three most important points that were discussed and any ‘action points’ or things you personally have to do after the meeting.
  1. Play An Active Role
    When you’re young and relatively inexperienced, it’s tempting to take a passive role in meetings. The easiest option is always just to sit quietly and listen. But if everyone is passive, nothing gets done. It’s frustrating for whoever is running the meeting if nobody says anything, asks questions or offers comments. Don’t feel you have to say anything particularly brilliant. You just have to avoid saying nothing. Here are three ways to take an active role in meetings:
  1. Offer comments and express your opinion, for example when someone has given a report or made a presentation. It may be enough to say, “That’s a good suggestion” or to explain why you felt it was good. 
  2. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Don’t worry that others might think your question is stupid. They are probably wondering about the same things as you. 
  3. Offer ideas and suggestions. Show that you have an opinion.