We live in times when corporate world is obsessed with meetings.  And while many of us find them useless, only few of us take practical steps to add more meaning to this madness. So if you got trapped into the vicious cycle of meeting requests, minutes and conference calls, this post is for you.

If you work in any type of sizable company one day or another you will say: “I am tired of meetings!” And there is no shame in that. The bad news is that more you progress in your career more people will want to meet with you and you will have to get used to having more meetings and being tired of them.

The reasons behind the fatigue caused by meetings are endless. Here are just a few of them:

  • Too many meetings during a day require constant switching between topics, wasting time for setting in and dismissing of some day to day responsibilities. All that can add up to a pile of delays and excessive working causing stress and fatigue.
  • Poor content of meetings. For example, when organizer didn’t think it through or didn’t prepare. Or even worse, when organizer prepared a pile of meaningless corporate b****t that no one truly cares about.
  • Irrelevant subjects. That is, for instance, when Sales VP participates in Health and Safety meeting for production employees. That is good to know, but very little to add.
  • Bad timing of meetings can be a killer as they are often booked weeks in advance and day to day reality doesn’t always follow the meeting schedule. Thus people will have to adopt and sacrifice their personal time to complete usual activities.
  • Low value added meetings. Those are meetings with no drive, no action and no purpose. They can literally destroy the mood for the whole day.

That doesn’t sound promising, right? But there is a good news too – you can do something about all the above and improve your meeting practices. How? I will share a few tricks that worked for me:

(1) Avoid meetings as much as you can: I literally mean as much as you can. Challenge your presence in any meeting. Why do I have to be there? What will I get out of it? How can I contribute to this meeting? If the answers to those questions are “just sit there, smile and listen” then you shouldn’t be there at all (unless you are some kind of a toffee employee that was hired to please everyone’s eyes). Don’t feel obliged to accept anything that comes in because after all you will pay for it with your personal time.

(2) Prepare for meeting as well as you can: that is key! Even if you are not in charge of the meeting always check who is participating, go through the meeting documents and write down your questions. Not only you will look professional and well organized you will also show respect to your colleagues. And one day they will do the same!

(3) Train your attention span: focus on being focused as much as possible. Because if people in a meeting are not worthy of your attention then you actually shouldn’t be sitting there at all. Yes, often presentations are boring and presenters’ styles even more so, but none of us is perfect. Try to find some new information, challenge some claims or simply look at participant’s face expressions and try to guess what they think. In other words, just be present.

(4) Talk when you can: occasionally say something relevant. It will boost your brain, inspire action and make you noticed. After all, if you have nothing to add to the meeting then you shouldn’t waste your time and company’s money and go to add value somewhere else.

(5) Take meaningful notes: always try to squeeze out learning points and ideas out of each meeting. Unless you are taking some sort of old fashioned minutes, don’t just automatically write down who said what and who will do what. Here quality matters! Capture interesting thoughts that may be applicable to different projects you work on; highlight actions you could take outside the official agenda or why not write down participants’ jokes (this is a great exercise by the way).

And that’s it! As simple as it may sound those 5 steps completely changed my office life and opened a handful of opportunities. Sure not all the meetings I go to are equally nice and inspiring, but they are certainly all potentially life changing and worth going to.

 

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