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As an Attendee at a Meeting, What Can I do to Make the Meeting More Productive?

It may not be your meeting, but as a participant you have specific responsibilities as well. You need to:

  • Get there on time.
  • Sit opposite the leader if possible.
  • Respect the leader.
  • Come prepared.
  • Don’t create subconscious, nonverbal barriers to communication.
  • Participate.
  • Stick to the agenda.
  • Be optimistic about the group.
  • Criticize ideas, not people.
  • Take on a leadership role when needed.
  • Follow through on commitments made.

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  • Get there on time. You’ll distract the group by coming late.
  • Sit opposite the leader if possible. The more visible you are to the team leader, the more attentive you will make an effort to be. And, in the end, you’ll find you were more involved in the discussion.
  • Respect the leader. No off-stage conversations with neighbors. Likewise, if your own manager is engaging in another conversation when you are making a presentation, you can either ignore it, if it isn’t lengthy, or wait briefly to regain the attention of those whose attention is elsewhere. Once you have everyone’s interest, you can continue.
  • Come prepared. Read the agenda; anticipate the needs of the group and bring related information with you if it will help the group.
  • Don’t create subconscious, nonverbal barriers to communication. Be especially careful if you are in the habit of folding your arms across your chest. Sit with an erect posture. Don’t slump. Posture provides the context for everything said. Keep your arms on the table. Lean forward slightly with a bit of an angle to your head when you want to express interest. Moving physically closer, even slightly, increases the sense of involvement others get.
  • Participate. Speak up. Be candid yet tactful. You should participate, but that doesn’t mean you should monopolize the discussion. If you are making a comment on every issue, you’re probably talking more than you should. It will help if you think not about what you want to say but about what members have to hear. To ensure this, listen carefully to others’ remarks. Good listeners are as welcome as active participants. They process the information that is thrown on the table and, with good analytical skills, often come up with the right solutions when they finally get around to speaking.
  • Stick to the agenda. Don’t use the meeting as a platform for your personal agenda. Don’t change the focus of the discussion based on your interests or concerns. Rather than promoting your own ideas, build on others’ thoughts.
  • Be optimistic about the group. Come to the meeting with a positive attitude about what the group can accomplish and how you can help.
  • Criticize ideas, not people. You aren’t fulfilling your responsibilities if you don’t question statements when it is appropriate, but you should do it in a professional manner. Make your concern clear. Challenge the person by asking, for instance, "what if" questions that reflect your doubts.
  • Take on a leadership role when needed. It’s not the same as assuming the chair, but there may be critical points during the team’s existence during which your knowledge demands you take over and lead the discussion. When the discussion moves on, be prepared to return leadership of the group to the formal chair.
  • Follow through on commitments made. If few people deliver on their promises, you’ll stand out by coming through.