How To Participate In A Meeting Effectively

How to participate in a meeting effectively.About a month ago I wrote about how to lead a meeting effectively. Now it is time to look at some principles that will help us to participate in a meeting effectively. As the leader of your team, it is imperative that you help your team make the most of the meetings they participate in.  

The common perception of meetings is that they are drudgery.  The reality is, however, that meetings can be a time when the magic happens.  But magic won’t happen if the wrong people are in the meeting, or if not everyone is fully engaged, giving everything they have for the time at hand.  

And think about how expensive each meeting is.  If you add up the hourly rate of those participating in the meeting, you will want to make sure that there is magic for those dollars.

If everyone participates effectively, you will see the following:

  • Overall engagement of team members goes up.
  • Team members fight for each other.
  • Meeting time is used most beneficially.
  • The members are taking steps towards becoming a high-performing team.

The good news is that any team member can be trained to participate in a meeting effectively.

Use the following principles as a guide. Teach them to:

1. Be Prepared.

Encourage your team to read the agenda as soon as it comes out.  Help them to remember that the earlier the agenda arrives, the more pre-work they need to complete.

If they don’t understand an agenda item, encourage them to discuss the meaning of that item with the presenter or someone else who understands that section.

Ask them to determine where they will be counted on to give the best input.  If they don’t see it in the agenda, this is a great time to ask the presenter where it is. The last thing your team members need is to be sitting in a meeting where they don’t need to be.

Also encourage them to have questions for each of the agenda items.  If they have pertinent questions, they will focus better during the meeting because they want to receive the answers.

Make sure they know what the desired outcome of the meeting is so they can focus on that and fully orient themselves to it.

2. Be early to the meeting.

As stated earlier, meetings are an expensive process.  As such, it is important that they start on time and end on time.  I am a big believer in running 50min meetings instead of hour-long meetings.  The shorter time brings focus, and if your team members have back-to-back meetings, it gives them a chance to get to the next meeting early, which helps the presenter feel respected and valued.

3. Listen to understand, not necessarily to reply.

Encourage your team to listen to understand the presenter’s perspective.  They will be of tremendous value to the presenter if they show that they see the presenter’s perspective before they reply or ask questions.

Listening to understand also increases engagement.

4. Contribute Meaningfully.

Share with your team the fact that if they are asked to be in a meeting, it is because their contribution is valued.

As such, they should be making a contribution in each meeting they are a part of.  

As you know from my last post on leading effective meetings, I am not big on having informational meetings.  I believe meetings need to be about decisions.  So find a way to ask a question, make a comment, lend an insight, or be sincerely supportive in a way that helps make effective decisions.  

Also encourage your team not to forget to keep the goal of the meeting in mind when they contribute. Derailing a meeting by introducing side issues has a ripple effect that will be costly.  

Finally, encourage the extroverts on your team to resist their natural inclinations to interrupt (see point 3 above).

5. Choose Their Timing.

If you want each team member’s ingenuity, encourage them to speak before you do. Like it or not, they may be waiting to hear what you or someone higher up the chain of authority has to say about a presentation. But it you let them know that you value their perspective, it can make a positive difference in the decisions that come from meetings, even if not everyone’s perspective is used in this particular meeting.  

They do need to choose their timing, so ask them to be considerate. If one of their peers is more of an expert in the area, they need to defer to that member.  It will help them to grow to listen to what the expert has to say.

6. Fight for What is Essential.

Encourage them to be careful when they correct someone.  Others in the room may feel like the person doing the correcting does not have that person’s back, which can ultimately lead to others pulling away from them.

If what needs to be corrected is essential, then encourage team members to correct it in a way that shows they value the presenter.  One way to do this would be to ask a question instead of flatly stating that someone is wrong.  So instead of saying, “We don’t have time to complete this project by your deadline,” ask “What needs to happen for us to meet this project deadline? And then they can follow up with, “How much time do you believe each of those parts will take?”

7. Not Dominate. 

The name of the game in meetings is to get the magic going.  Magic comes best when multiple people are contributing towards a decision that needs to be made.  Therefore, encourage your team not to dominate the discussion.  Instead, they should make a point, then see if others add things that they had thought of with respect to that point.  If not, then the person can come back and add what they had thought of initially.  The more people that are engaged and contributing, the more likely magic will happen.

8. Speak up if there are any future topics that you want discussed.

Since you’ve encouraged your team to stay focused on the desired outcome, there may be other topics that need to be discussed.  Encourage them to speak up and get those topics on the calendar.

9. Read the minutes as soon as they are published.

If minutes were taken during the meeting, encourage the team to read them as soon as possible, while their memories are still fresh, and submit any significant differences.  That way the record can be amended before other people read the minutes with the error in them.

10. Complete the work assigned to them as soon as possible after the meeting.

It is really impressive when someone bangs out their assigned work quickly after meetings.  Encourage your team to block off time after the meeting to do just that.  If the work can’t be fully completed in the allotted time, then even an outline detailing how the work will be completed and when meaningful segments will be completed, would do a lot to assure the team that the member has it under control.

The more your team is trained to participate in a meeting, the more you and your team will realize true value from them.

Chew On This:

  • What will you do to train your team to participate in meetings effectively?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.