Meetings and I have a love hate relationship. Do you agree? I enjoy having meetings to collaborate, build connection, communicate and learn. I also love celebrating progress and finding out where projects or people could really use support. But let’s be honest, if a meeting isn’t productive or facilitated well, they are extremely painful and a waste of time. There are lots of ways that a meeting can be successful, but being mindful as a participant can be your direct impact. Here are some tips I have learned along the way that I’d like to share with you.
Be prepared. Whether this is a new meeting or part of a series of meetings, the best thing that a participant can do is be prepared. If you have any questions, project updates, or handout, write them down in a concise manner and bring them all with you. If you’re using technology, make sure it works.
Be on time. Promptness has never been one of my skills and it takes a lot of work for me to be on time. When I am on time, I notice that I am calmer and more present. Someone once told me that being late is disrespectful of other people’s time. Duh. This was an aha moment for me and has pushed me to be more on time out of empathy and mutual respect.
Set your intention. In life, we have a deeper intention with each action we take. This includes meetings. Take a moment to connect with what your intention for the meeting is. Some examples are to be: present, open-minded, participatory, active listening, inquisitive, collaborate, build relationships, find solutions, reach a goal, calm, supportive, productive, or timely. As you prepare for your meeting, remind yourself of your intention and take a deep breath. Write it down on the top of your notepad if necessary. Each time that something comes up for you doing the meeting, remember your intention to guide your action.
Be aware. What are you feeling during the meeting? How do you feel it in your emotions? How do you feel it physically in your body? Notice, talk stock and connect to what these feelings mean to you.
Write things down. Maybe I am getting old, but I just don’t know how people remember things without writing them down?! Writing things down to help you remember key points or tasks during a meeting does not make you weaker. With the amount of information thrown at us today, no one is expected to just remember.
Practice active listening & clarify. When a colleague has a complaint about a part of the project or meeting, try to hear through their complaints and ask them what their needs are. This will make people feel understood, heard and add productivity.
Be present. Even if your meeting is painful, try to remain present. If it’s a conference call, turn away from your computer and stay focused. Surfing the web takes away from your ability to participate and truly be present. If you’re in a live meeting, put your devices down and actually be in the meeting until it ends (bathroom breaks excused). I can remember a time when I was in a meeting and the person next to me had their phone out and was playing solitaire. Don’t do it!
Specify Requests. If someone asks something of you or a colleague that may not be exactly clear, don’t be afraid to clarify. Ask what exactly is requested and expected of you, any clarification on how you are going to do it and the deadline. Then write it down as such. This is your opportunity to get all the information you need to be successful.
Save tasks for outside of the meeting. I find it frustrating when you ask for someone to send you something or to perform a task that would be helpful for the project. They say they will do it right now then you spend the next two to ten minutes watching them disconnect from the meeting and take time away from everyone by performing the task. Write down whatever tasks you are asked to perform, no matter the size, and complete them outside of the meeting.
Be inquisitive. If meetings are going nowhere and are at a high pain level, start respectfully asking questions. You can say that you are lost and want to be clear on the objectives or expectations. Ask if meeting this frequently is necessary. Ask if there is a different way that information can be shared. If no one brings it up, the organizer may have no idea their meetings are not productive.
Be honest and authentic. While I believe in on-going communication between meetings, if you are put on the spotlight and have not completed a task; be honest. There will be a larger consequence if everyone thinks you have done something and you have not. Yep, don’t lie. Be honest in why you have not completed it. Perhaps there is an inefficiency or you need help. Or maybe you were given a larger project that took up your time. Get to the bottom of why you didn’t complete the task, find a solution or ask for help.
Use an affirmation. Going along with your intention, setting your affirmation for the meeting is important. It can relate to your intention or how you are feeling. Examples may be; I am calm, I am present, I am productive, I am collaborative, my team respects and values me, I am creative, I’m grateful for the job I have. Affirmations are always positive. Take a deep breath and repeat your affirmation prior to starting the meeting and once again at the end.
Meetings are not going to stop. They are completely necessary for productivity and human relation. With all the distractions and ability to work from anywhere, meetings can become more complicated. The best thing you can do to contribute to a meeting’s success is to approach them with mindfulness and intention.
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