Now that we know what not to do in meetings, let’s have a look at some of the Do’s. Specifically, what you need to arm yourself with before going into the meeting room.
So what are the top five things you should always be prepared for when attending an office conclave?
What’s the purpose of a meeting if not discussing an agenda? Whoever summoned you prefers face to face discussions as opposed to phone or email. There’s a chance your presence there isn’t even required, but in case it is, you want to be prepared. So be sure to check the agenda and do your homework beforehand. Don’t expect to be brilliant just because your friends consider you spontaneous. Dodging questions using tricks like “I already sent you an email” doesn’t cut it in meetings. Same goes for “let me answer that by asking you this.” It only works in politics.
Sometimes you just have to go out on a limb. Whether you’re the boss or just a simple staffer, if you’re not 100% sure you’re hitting all the right notes, talk slowly and carefully notice any subtle changes in behavior around the table. Some things to look for:
Refusal to make eye contact – It means a) they’re embarrassed to let you know they know; b) they’re waiting for you to finish your nonsense; c) they’re waiting to backfire
Much quieter than normal – If one member is quiet, he/she has probably had a rough night. But if no one is saying a word, maybe it’s time to change the tune.
Fake laugh – Doesn’t need an explanation. In addition to the high-pitched tone, notice if the muscles around the cheekbones are relaxed or not. Stiff usually means fake. Same goes for over-the-top laugh.
There’s nothing worse than being the only person in the room who doesn’t have a grip on things. Surely you’ve been there at least once. Everyone recites their poem and when your turn comes, you freeze. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you’ll probably go through this more than once. But I have news for you. The sooner you shake those cold feet, the better. My advice? Open your mouth before your turn comes. Speak up with every chance you get – as long as you have something pertinent to say, of course. The more you let the pressure build up, the more your voice will tremble when it’s your turn to speak. So don’t wait for your turn if you have valuable input sitting on the tip of your tongue.
You can’t be right about everything, but sometimes you’re bound to listen to some pretty ridiculous assertions. Don’t jump out of your chair when that happens. Unless your promotion depends on it, wait and see if anyone else is rolling their eyes before this person has finished yapping. When it’s finally time to speak, go easy on them. Don’t say things like “that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard,” or “what are you talking about?” Instead, go with “I’m not sure that’s going to work,” or “that might work, but what if…” and try to adjust their thinking using elegant vocabulary.
Get assigned stuff
The holy grail of meetings – and when I say holy grail I mean holy agony – assignments are almost always on the agenda. Unless the meeting is a one-way discussion where the CEO pats everyone on the back for their hard work that quarter, there’s a good chance of getting something thrown in your lap. Being prepared for this means keeping the discontent to yourself. Just keep cool, listen, and see what the assignment is all about. If it’s in your ballpark, handle it like a pro. If it’s not, speak out. Either way, you’ll appear as your own boss in the eyes of everyone at the table.
Disclaimer: Some people are naturally fake, quiet, aggressive, slow talkers, hard of hearing, or they avoid eye contact as a general rule. Don’t put everyone in the same boat, and be your own judge when the situation calls for it.