How to add value to a meeting
In some business environments staff spend so much time in meetings that proving time spent in meetings has sustained, measurable results has become an activity in its own right!
Successful meeting management is now a priority for organisations and those employees responsible for hosting or managing meetings. You will find plenty of information to help on the internet or even attend workshops on meeting management.
But if you are invited to a meeting, and have no input on its organisation, management or facilitation, what can you do to make your attendance worthwhile?
Here are some simple tips that will help you make sure you add value to any meeting you have to attend:
Before the Meeting
Preparation is just as critical for attendees as it is for hosts. The first step is to qualify the value of the meeting. Use these questions to check what value you will get, and add, to each meeting and decide if you need to attend:
- Does the meeting have any relevance to the work you do?
- Will the meeting solve a problem, improve a process, or make an ongoing plan.
- Do you have anything to contribute?
- Can you learn anything that will help you in your work? Meetings can be a good way for employees to find out what is going on in the business and how it is managed however, if this is the purpose make sure you know when it is the right time to stop attending.
- If your input is only required for part of the meeting (e.g. a project you are working on) ask the host or organiser if you can attend just for that section. This is common practice and can make meetings run much more efficiently.
- If the meeting is to pass information - can you get it any other way e.g. via email?
If you are still in doubt check with the host.
Having decided that you definitely should attend you need to prepare:
- Check your diary and make sure you have space before and after the proposed time. Why? Extra time before the meeting to allows you to get there and settled into your seat (instead of dashing into the room at the last minute!); and extra time is useful after the meeting just in case it overruns.
- For regular meetings review any minutes, notes and actions from the previous meeting to make sure you have complete your own actions or, if not, are prepared to give an update at the meeting.
- Read all relevant papers and presentations (these should be sent out with the invitation to the meeting). Make a note of any questions or comments you would like to make at the meeting.
Don’t leave things to the last minute - the more time you have to prepare the more effective your contribution will be.
At the Meeting
There are three principle areas to focus on at the meeting:
1. Make sure you arrive on time.
I always try and arrive at the meeting point with a few minutes to spare so that I can choose my seat, say hello to everyone and get comfortable. It always takes a few minutes for people to settle down so showing some consideration for the host always goes down well.
If you are delayed at all, make sure you join the meeting with as little fuss as possible and offer your apologies to the host. You can explain what happened after the meeting but avoid interrupting the flow of the discussion when you arrive.
This is where your preparation will make a real difference. People attending meetings want to hear meaningful contributions i.e. insights, solutions, observations, facts or useful questions. They don’t want to hear ‘waffle’ from people just so that they can be ‘seen’! Do your homework and come along with points to add or questions to ask.
3. Take notes.
Note taking also helps you stay tuned in to the conversation. it is also is helpful for longer meetings or those where your input is only required in a specific area. You never know when you may be asked to comment so be prepared!
At formal meetings there will usually be a Chair and a minute taker. At less formal meetings they may ask for a volunteer to take notes. In either scenario always take your own notes, and specifically any actions that directly or indirectly are assigned to you, just in case there is a delay in sending out the minutes after the meeting.
After the Meeting
At the end of the meeting it helps to spend a few minutes reflecting on the outcome and your contribution. Were you well prepared? Did you make a useful contribution? Did you learn anything new? Do you have any actions? Could you have done more?
Finally, if you have been given any actions during the meeting make sure they are added to your schedule.