Leanna Cruz, Editorial Director
Meetings are often considered the bane of the workplace – time wasters, or worse, platforms for some to engage in monologues while others are held hostage. Hence the strategies to keep attendees attentive – keep the temperature in the meeting room low so that people won’t fall asleep, and have plenty of coffee to keep everyone alert. But rather than seeing meetings as something to be endured, think about how you can use them to accelerate your career success. Meetings, after all, are where important announcements are made, and smart employees and board members network, get to know each other and maybe meld together a little better as a team. Whether you are just starting out in your career, in a new position, or just need a jump start mid-career, performing well at meetings can give you a self confidence boost fairly easily.
Craig Harrison, professional and personal coach and facilitator, has written a humorous article about the “Ten Characters You’ll Meet at a Business Meeting” He lists the monopolizer, the tangent talker, the devil’s advocate, the cynic, the fence sitter, the Pandora’s Box opener, the brown noser, the attacker, the joker, and the robots. With a little confidence building, you can add one more to his roster: the standout!
To be a standout, you need to keep a few concepts in mind. These are fairly common sense, but easy to forget, so are worth underscoring, as is any professional development information:
- Be prepared. Read all reports and documents sent ahead of time so that you are clearly engaged in the meeting and able to participate. If you are going to comment, make sure your comments are relevant. Speaking just to get your voice heard is not necessarily going to get you the kind of points you are looking for.
- Add value. Make sure whatever you say either provides useful information and advances or clarifies agenda items. Don’t be one of the characters listed above.
- Arrive early. Make sure you are settled in your chair at the start time or better yet arrive ten minutes early. You’ll get to greet those who know that networking occurs before meetings start and that presenters and facilitators, that is, those with influence, always arrive early. But, if you know you are going to be late or have to leave early, mention it to the facilitator ahead of time. You’ll be noticed as being conscientious rather than disrespectfully late or the one who disrupts meetings because you have to be someplace more important.
- Be attentive. Maintain good body posture and eye contact and don’t slouch in your seat. Look engaged. Keep your mind on the meeting. Don’t be tempted to attract attention by looking at your Evo, Blackberry or iPhone! Nothing brings negative attention like body language indicating that there are other things going on in your life that are more important than the meeting called by the people who can help advance your career.
- Volunteer. Be available to take on tasks and be responsible for action items, but make sure you can actually carry through.
Not all meetings are run well and that provides great opportunity for you to standout. Help the facilitator keep the meetings running smoothly:
When there seems to be no order: If the discussion goes off point, ask the facilitator to clarify the issue being discussion to help refocus the group.
When discussion is prolonged and the group is making no headway: If an attendee is monopolizing time and has engaged him self in a monolog, politely interrupt and then summarize what Mr. Monolog has said and turn the meeting back to the facilitator. Or, if there is prolonged discussion with no consensus in sight, suggest a separate meeting to vet the issue.
When a key member is absent, offer to take on the duties of that person. Perhaps the technology expert in the group hasn’t arrived yet and no one can figure out how to get the slide presentation going. Or the recording secretary is absent or delayed, offer to take the minutes. Or if there is no recording secretary take notes and at the end of the meeting create summaries and a list of next steps.
When there has been chatter of discourse before the meeting: If there is something causing you concern and needing clarification, you can bet others have similar concerns. But generally, most attendees are too cautious to question those in leadership positions. You’ll standout among your peers and leadership if you are the brave one who asks for clarification.
There are several ways to stand out at meetings including arriving late and creating a distraction with noises as you settle and speaking out with insincere and nonessential comments simply to be heard. But we want you to have career success and suggest that you can accelerate your career advancement by standing out in a positive and helpful way.