Jennie Marshall | 29 January 2013
I’ve been working over the last few days with a variety of delegates looking at good meeting practice. It’s always a good insight to hear about the things that happen in meetings that I’d forgotten existed out there in the non-learning environment world.
Many people comment on how they spend more hours in meetings
than out of them. Thankfully, being in a training room most days
excuses me from this predicament. On digging further I found
statistics that stated that over your average lifetime you'll spend
3 years in meetings. Wow - that's more time than we spend getting
dressed and cleaning ourselves put together.
Over the years I've kept a growing list of annoying meeting behaviours that I've experienced or heard about from delegates - I like to call them AMB's for short.
None of these behaviours alone are bothersome, but when you combine three or four of them in one meeting it's a different story.
I've written this to the person exhibiting the behaviour(s). That's not you, of course. But if you want to 'earwig' in, that's fine.
Arriving late. This ends up wasting everyone's time. Not only do you miss out, but it often forces the group to start the meeting again just to get you up-to-speed. It also screams, "I'm disorganised. I can't manage my time." Is that really the impression you want to create?
Taking phone calls. This is probably the most obnoxious behaviour. You might as well say, "Excuse me, but I have someone else more important trying to reach me." At the very least, have the courtesy to quietly excuse yourself and step out of the meeting. And, don't answer the phone on your way out the door. Try to be as discreet as possible.
Checking e-mail, texts and tweets. This is similar to taking a phone call. It communicates that you have something more important to do than pay attention to the meeting. Just say, "No." Leave the laptop in your office unless you need it for a formal presentation. And, please, PLEASE resist the urge to pull your Blackberry or iPhone out every five minutes and check your messages as soon as that little red light calls to you. Even better, leave the phone in your desk drawer.
Engaging in side conversations . A good meeting only has one conversation going on at a time. A side conversation is, at best, distracting. At worst, it is a challenge to the meeting leader for control of the conversation. Engage in a little self-control. If you need to follow-up with someone, write yourself a note, and do it after the meeting.
Not taking notes. If it is not worth taking notes, why are you there? This communicates, "Nothing going on in this meeting is worth remembering or following-up on." You'll be surprised how much more interesting the meeting becomes when you are capturing your thoughts or what others are sharing.
Talking too much. There's nothing worse than the person who feels the need to comment on everything. Or worse, once they get the floor, they won't give it up. They just keep talking … and talking … and talking. Come on, give the rest of us a chance!
Interrupting others. Okay, you have a great idea. You're smart. We've got it. But can you wait until the person currently talking is done? The worst form of this is the person who randomly changes the subject. When you make a sharp left turn, you can give everyone else in the meeting whiplash.
Not coming prepared. Maybe you got away with this in school. But this is real life. People notice. When you are invited to attend a meeting, people expect you to make a contribution. If you don't contribute, people assume you haven't done your homework.
Chasing rabbits. This is one of those behaviours that makes meetings longer than they need to be. You don't need to respond to every comment with a quip. You don't have to tell some long, drawn-out story that everyone has already heard before. Stay focused. You can do it! The sooner we get through the agenda, the sooner we can get back to our offices and get some real work done.
Not speaking up. Every meeting seems to have them. Dead wood. How can you sit quietly for the whole meeting? Sometimes I want to pull out a mirror, hold it under your nose, and make sure you can fog it! Why do you keep coming to meetings? Worse, why do we keep inviting you? Speak up or bow out.
When you really get down to it, all of these flow from the same basic problem: disrespect. Just think how much more productive we could make our meetings if we all showed one another respect and eliminated these behaviours.
QA Learning Expert: Leadership, Management and Business Skills
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