Why does every article ever written about effective meetings focus on running them? Where are all the articles on being an effective meeting attendee?
Let’s take a look at the numbers: a 10 person meeting has 1 meeting organizer and 9 attendees. Most of the articles we’ve ever read talk about planning and running an effective meeting from the organizer’s point of view. In reality, they should be written from the perspective of 90% of the people in the meeting.
If we could get 90% of the people in meetings to adhere to a few best practices, what kind of effect do you think this might have on the sorry state of meetings in America? A big one.
We’re here to reconcile this massive oversight.
This is the most comprehensive treatise we’re aware of that speaks directly to what makes for an awesome meeting attendee. Print this out, email it to your team, post it outside the meeting room door – whatever it takes to get everyone onside.
Heck, reach out to us and we’d be happy to talk to your team. The point is this – you should be spending SIGNIFICANTLY more time training meeting attendees vs. meeting organizers. More leverage = more impact.
Here we go…
Roadmaps for meetings
The meeting organizer should determine the timing, purpose and expected outcome of meetings.
This is a throwback to the time before we had phones, email and software that allowed for collaborative planning – the meeting organizer had a free pass to determine what meetings were all about. Unfortunately, company culture, organizational hierarchy and inertia have kept this largely intact.
As an empowered meeting attendee, you should respectfully disagree.
Great meeting attendees get involved in formulating what gets done. They collaborate on the agenda (using something like Trackmeet), and actively — but supportively — question aspects of it in order to deliver the best meeting experience possible.
Just say no to meetings
That’s right, you shouldn’t be attending meetings.
Meetings that don’t have a purpose.
We see this a lot in matrixed organizations or in meetings that span departments or involve external participants – its all too easy to call a meeting with no stated purpose or agenda and where the organizer just wants to “get work done”.
A great way to take the high road in cases like this is to defer to the team – you can politely refuse to attend, pointing out that its in everyone’s best interest to know what you’re trying to accomplish AND have a roadmap (agenda) for getting there.
Offer to capture tasks and notes
Lets face it, meeting organizers are pretty flustered – they’re probably juggling a few team demands, wrangling with technology, addressing a last minute addition to the agenda…
And that’s before the meeting even starts.
Throw in the responsibility to capture meeting minutes and action items and our poor organizer is going to blow a gasket (or two).
Do them a huge favor and ask them if you can do all this housekeeping for them.
Tools like these help a ton here:
And… make sure to discuss this in advance. Why? Because you need to…
Get a sense for expectations around what you’re doing. Does she want a verbose accounting for what was said? Are you to infer what action items were discussed and who they’re assigned to? Is there a specific format she likes?
Arrive on time
This goes without saying, but for the benefit of completeness, we’ve thrown this in here.
What happens when you show up late?
You waste time – a lot of it. (Use our calculator to figure out exactly how much.)
To be exact, you waste everyone else’s time AND show a significant lack of respect. You should be called out for this IF the organizer is on her toes.
Actually follow up
Too many people readily agree to follow up on tasks assigned at meetings but never do.
You could rely on the meeting organizer to follow up with you, but you’re a sharp attendee right?
The fact is, demonstrating that you have a track record for taking the initiative to complete tasks with little or no prompting positions you as a trusted go-to for new and challenging efforts.