Every time I teach a “Making Meetings Work” workshop, I ask the group, “How many of you enjoy going to meetings?”
Can you guess how many hands go up? You’re right — none!
Since so many of us don’t like to go to meetings, I think we’ve developed some bad habits as a subconscious rebellion. Unfortunately, our own bad meeting habits are what contribute to making meetings ineffective and as a result, make us hate going to meetings. We’re creating our own problem!
Here are some of the most common poor meeting habits I’ve observed and even some I’ve been guilty of myself. If you read one (or several) that sound like you- it’s time to start breaking those bad habits.
1. Arriving late. If the meeting starts at 9 a.m., this doesn’t mean you get there at 9 a.m. (or later) it means you should be seated and ready to go BY 9 a.m.
2. Completing other tasks. If you have other things to do that are more important than the meeting, skip the meeting. If you’ve been invited to participate in a meeting, you can’t do that and do other things at the same time.
3. Make or take phone calls. It doesn’t matter how important you are, it’s generally considered rude to take a call during a meeting. If you’re anticipating an emergency call, for example, if a loved one is in the hospital, put your phone on vibrate and step out of the room if you get a call. If you’re getting several calls and need to keep stepping out, you’ve now become a distraction to the meeting and you should probably leave.
4. Arrive unprepared. If the meeting leader has sent out an agenda, be sure to review it in advance and come prepared to discuss the agenda topics. This might require research, bringing certain information/documents, etc. It’s a waste of time when agenda items have to be “tabled” until the next meeting because participants were unprepared to discuss an item.
5. Not participating. Assuming you’ve done your homework by talking to the person who invited you to the meeting and you’ve both determined you need to be there, participate! Actively listen, ask questions, if you don’t understand something- say so, if you disagree- do so- respectfully. Your presence was requested, along with the other participants, because someone believed you had something to give– do your part!
6. Monopolizing the conversation. On the flip side of # 5 above, don’t take your participation obligation too far. It’s great to contribute, but be sure you let others participate as well. Additionally, if you’re someone in a position of power, consider withholding your opinions until others have had a chance to so you don’t influence their opinions or input.
7. Taking the meeting off the agenda. Even though you might have other topics you’d like to discuss with the group, stick to the agenda. If the meeting leader has planned well, the agenda items are exactly what can be covered in the allotted meeting time. Bringing up other subjects takes the meeting off track and is a big reason why meetings run past their end time.
These are just a few of the things you shouldn’t do in a meeting. What other “bad behavior” have you observed? Comment and let me know!