We have all been there in a meeting that started late, had missing guests critical to the topics at hand, and revealed unmet deadlines. Whether it is a fault of traffic, schedules, or too many shifting priorities, there are so many things we can do as guests to have a more positive impact on good meeting habits and help the host, as well as ourselves, to use effective meeting strategies.
Even before the meeting starts, there are so many ways to help pave a path for a successful discussion.
Understand the Purpose
The meeting is called for a reason so make sure that reason is clear. If the purpose is not articulated in an agenda, request an agenda from the meeting organizer. You may find that the topic is not one you can contribute to so feel empowered to tell the organizer to determine if it is worth your time and theirs to participate. Sometimes organizers guess and overload the guest list in an attempt to find the right person.
When agenda templates and pre-reads are provided, take the time to glance through them and start ideating on ideas and questions. If there are questions you can answer before or without a meeting, take the time to share the information in advance. Sometimes this can be enough to not have to have the meeting and your information can save everyone time.
Once we’ve identified the meeting is one we should be in and we are prepared for the session, here are a few things we can do during the meeting to make the time together as productive as possible.
Be On Time
This is one of the most important things any of us can do to help drive meeting success. Even just one person being late to a meeting can have a huge snowball effect when it comes to what it can do to all other meetings across an organization. If there is a good reason keeping you from being on time, notify the organizer as far in advance as possible and try to find a substitute so you are not the reason a room full of people cannot get work done.
If you reside in the same building, be in the room. Relationships are key to communication. Take the time to show interest and a spirit of teamwork and be a part of the meeting atmosphere. However, if you cannot be present, use your camera to simulate your presence as much as possible. No make-up and bad days are not enough of a reason to avoid camera sharing…just a bad connection. The communication benefits to see who is speaking will help for a smoother meeting.
Taking notes does not mean logging a diary. Taking notes means you were listening and engaged and when something important is said, even if you can remember it, it should be logged in the meeting for all to see. It is easy to fall all note-taking to the default scribe in the room, be it the meeting organizer, scrum leader, or executive assistants, however, if they document a note or a task that isn’t a topic of their understanding, they may not be able to articulate it as clearly as you could. Lean in and let everyone know you will document the note, task, or issue and they will have greater confidence that the subject matter expert (SME) took responsibility for this.
Bring and Share
Not only does your inner SME help you take better notes but it can also be the driver of a productive conversation. Don’t wait to be called on to help address challenges or give ideas in a conversation. Offer to help lead the discussion when topics being covered fall into your area of expertise or proactively bring what you know to the table.
Stay on Topic
It is easy to think of related topics or start a tangential conversation but remember that the meeting was called for a specific purpose. Unless everyone agrees with the introduction of a new topic is appropriate, know the balance of sharing for next time or seeking approval from the meeting organizer if it should take higher priority.
The real work of being a good meeting guest happens after the meeting is adjourned and the recap is distributed. This is a critical time where we work independently on taking the decisions made in the meeting and working independently to drive work forward. Use this time to be organized and proactive as an extension of the meeting.
Be Task Proactive
From the moment you leave the meeting, do whatever is necessary to make the tasks assigned to you a priority. Log them somewhere among your other tasks and note their priority so you can plan accordingly to get the work done on time, if not sooner. Let others know as soon as possible if deadlines are unrealistic and provide proactive updates to those parties of interest so they don’t have to wonder, worry, or pester for a status. You don’t have to wait for the next meeting to share status.
If the meeting you are in is a recurring meeting and the format is consistent, plan ahead to what topics you may want to share for the agenda, what task deadlines you need to meet, and set time aside to prep for the meeting.
If the above sounds like a lot of work, it can be the first few times around. Using a meeting tool like Docket can help everyone involved be prepared, run an efficient meeting, and help with task follow-through after the meeting, bringing clarity, alignment, and transparency while helping everyone be productive as a team.