Show Up and Show Them Who You Are: 13 Tips for Making the Most of Meetings

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It seems that more and more of our workdays are consumed by meetings. During the pandemic, organized on-line meetings were often the primary way that we communicated with each other, taking the place of casual meetings at the proverbial water cooler and impromptu meetings around the office. Meetings have always been an important opportunity to contribute and shine, whether you are the one leading the meeting or attending it. Meetings are where information and ideas are gathered and the more you contribute and the better you represent your ideas, the more you will be recognized for what you have to offer.

Here are some key tips for running or attending a meeting…

  1. Have an agenda, know what it is, and stick to it. Optimally, the agenda is made available before the meeting so that attendees can prepare.
  2. Be punctual, starting and ending on time. This is sometimes difficult with back-to-back meetings, but it’s important that you arrive at the meeting on time and it’s also important that the coordinator end the meeting on time. Follow-up meetings or conversations can always be scheduled if it’s taking longer than expected to cover the agenda.
  3. Before you sign on to a virtual meeting, make sure you’re familiar with the platform. You may need to download or update the platform, so be prepared.
  4. Everyone should participate. Everyone invited to a meeting is there for a reason and should be given the opportunity to contribute. Speak your mind, but also encourage others to do so by asking for opinions and allowing for thoughtful responses. Don’t allow “elephants” in the room and sacrifice as many “sacred cows” (old ways of doing things that no one questions) as possible.
  5. Come with curiosity. Plan to find out more and collaborate instead of planning to bring the answer.
  6. Foster healthy conflict, attacking problems not people. Different opinions and perspectives are key to a good meeting. It’s often why you’re getting together. Many people are uncomfortable with conflict, but it can be handled in a calm and constructive way and facilitators who encourage healthy, open discussions often find that the team comes up with great new ideas and solutions. I love it when someone pushes me out of my stubbornly-held perspective and presents something that I never would have thought of. It’s like receiving a wonderful gift.
  7. If you’re the leader, be the last to speak. This will provide space, when problem solving, for people to present their unique ideas first, without the influence of trying to please or align with the leader.
  8. Understand that silence is agreement. If you don’t comment of something said or presented, everyone will assume that you agree with it, so speak your mind if you have a different opinion.
  9. Be fully present. Put your camera on. If you’re the meeting leader, request that everyone has their cameras on. We’re some of the few women in Flexography, so show your face! The more people see you, the better they feel they know you and will think of you if an opportunity or need comes up that you can help with.  Focus on the meeting and actively participate. Show them that you’re engaged and knowledgeable.
  10. To mute or not to mute…This is dependent on the meeting. Respecting others by keeping background noise to a minimum may necessitate muting, but if the meeting is more conversational, keep your microphone on so that you are fully participating as you would if you were in person. If your microphone and camera are off, the meeting leader may feel that you are not participating, only observing. You’ll lose points for that.
  11. No sidebar conversations. This used to happen more in live meetings and usually involves two people quietly discussing the topic between themselves while the meeting is going on. The modern version of this is texting to have a side conversation. Any and all ideas that you have about the topic are worthy of discussing with the entire group. Speak up and throw it out there! This one is related to a pet peeve that I have about people who don’t express their opinions during the meeting, but wait to present them outside of the meeting afterwards. Ugh.
  12. Be accountable. If you commit to something during the meeting, make sure you follow through. You will stand out for doing this!
  13. Do your follow-ups. Before you close the meeting, discuss when you’ll meet again and set a timeline for the follow-ups.

Remember that meetings are a great opportunity to market your ideas and abilities. You don’t need to be the meeting leader to shine as a leader in the meeting. Being fully engaged and open also make the meeting more interesting to you and you’ll get a lot more out of it which often comes in handy later. My father often told me,” If you’re not going to do something right, don’t do it at all.” Meetings can be a tremendous help to your career if handled correctly and a big detriment to your career if you don’t do them “right”.

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