“Maybe if I am a good participant I will be invited to more meetings.” – Anonymous, perhaps no one, at least not with happy anticipation.
Informal research shows that the majority of people do not enjoy meetings. In MOST groups of people only one or two of them will indicate that they like attending meetings. A significant number will indicate that they do not enjoy meetings, while a smaller percentage will claim that they are indifferent to them. Who are these people and where was this research conducted? Good question!
Research participants were project managers or project managers to be, because the question, “Who enjoys attending meetings?” was posed to them while they attended courses on project management. And who conducted the research? Well, I did. This leads to discussion about why most people do not enjoy meetings, which in turn leads to discussion on how to make meetings effective. The majority of the group is willing to concede that there are some meetings worth attending, perhaps even enjoyable. Our job as project managers is to ensure that when we conduct meetings we make them valuable and even enjoyableIt helps our attendees when we are organized and prepared. Good facilitation is appreciated. But we cannot do it all by ourselves. We need good participants. What makes a good participant? Thank you for asking!
- Be on time and stay for the duration of the meeting. If you are late please do not be disruptive when you join the meeting. If you must leave early please do so quietly.
- If you cannot attend and your attendance is required, advise the meeting facilitator as soon as possible. It is rude to allow an entire group of people to show up and wait, only to have to disband because a key participant is missing.
- Come prepared to discuss the subject at hand. If you have been given an agenda and a meeting topic, consider this your cue to do whatever research is required of you to participate fully.
- If you notice that someone important to the topic or a key decision maker is not invited, say something in advance. Maybe it will be OK, but better to know in advance if a key person has been overlooked.
- Listen while others are talking, do not interrupt and do not talk over them.
- Speak to ALL participants respectfully. Even if they do not return the courtesy.
- Think before you speak. This bears repeating. Think before you speak.
- Ask helpful questions. A helpful question moves the discussion along, helps to bring potential issues or solutions to light or clarifies discussion points.
- Do not speak just to make your presence known. If you do not have anything to say, then say nothing. Become known for making useful and intelligent comments, not for loving the sound of your own voice.
- It is OK to help the facilitator. You can do this by asking questions such as “Are we getting off topic here?” or “Is this something to be tabled for later?”
- Act and speak from a place of helpfulness. What will be the most useful to the group, to the customer, to the project? What supports the purpose of the meeting?
Returning to our opening quote, “Maybe if I am a good participant I will be invited to more meetings.” You are going to be invited to meetings, being a good participant should not change the frequency. But it will change how people perceive you. Meetings are an opportunity to showcase your professionalism, make sure you put your best behaviors on display.