6 ways to be an all-star in every meeting

Can you believe that this meeting has been dragging on for an hour and a half, and we still have so much ground to cover? Why is he talking over me again? If I ask this question, am I going to sound like I don’t belong here? 

If these questions have ever flooded your mind during a meeting, you’re surely not alone. At one time or another, we have all doubted the course of human progress while being forced to watch one more Power Point presentation. So here’s how to be a team player and conduct successful meetings—whether you’re leading or sitting in on one.

Respect your colleagues’ time

People don’t have a lot of time to waste— especially at work. Meetings should have hard time limits.

Neal Hartman writes about this in a Forbes article.

“If you have responsibility for running regular meetings and you have a reputation for being someone who starts and ends promptly, you will be amazed how many of your colleagues will make every effort to attend your meetings. People appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable. Another note on time: Do not schedule any meeting to last longer than an hour. Sixty minutes is generally the longest time workers can remain truly engaged,” Hartman writes.

Fix the hidden power dynamic in your seating

Vivian Giang features advice from Barbara Pachter, career coach and author of the book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success, in a Business Insider article.

“If it’s a sit-down meeting, you need to adjust your chair so that you’re at equal height with everyone else at the table. ‘Some people don’t adjust their chairs, so they end up being the little kid in the meeting,’ says Pachter,” Giang writes.

Don’t let that chatty coworker dominate the discussion

Meetings are everyone’s time to shine, but inevitably one or two people will try to derail any gathering of people to focus on themselves.

Les McKeown provides strategies to “change the behaviors” of employees who talk too much during meetings in an Inc. article.

“Once they’ve run out of steam, it’s essential not to respond to everything your can’t-stop-talking colleague has said. No matter how contentious, annoying or downright wrong much of what they said may be, restrict yourself only to any comments that were (a) relevant to them topic under discussion, and (b) helpful in moving the discussion forward. If there were no such comments (not uncommon experience with blowhards), then simply thank them for their comments and move on—again, with a neutral emotive expression,” McKeown writes.

If you suspect you might be that chatty coworker, try to understand that every word you say comes at the expense of several other people’s time. Before you bring up a point, determine whether your point helps the decision-making process in the room. If it doesn’t, save it until afterwards.

Minimize distractions

Yes, it would be so much more fun to scroll through Facebook or Twitter right now— or even those incoming texts— but try to give your undivided attention to who is leading the meeting and to what your colleagues are saying. If they’re listening to you, they’ll expect you to listen to them. Paying attention to people can be a powerful signal that you actually care what they think, and they’ll remember it.

It will be also be easier to participate if you know what your colleagues are talking about.

Another thing to watch out for: if you want to look engaged and impressive in a meeting, don’t face a window or other fascinating visual aspect of the room, like a mesmerizing painting. Your eye will be drawn there, which will make it look you’re spacing out.

In addition, we hate to tell you this, but: everyone can see you doodling. Use paper only for your notes, not to show people that stick figures are more interesting than their ideas.

Prepare and don’t be afraid to speak up early

Introverts should know their stuff and share it at the beginning of the meeting.

Dana Rousmaniere features advice from Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and co-founder of The Quiet Leadership Institute, in a Harvard Business Review article.

For this interview question, Rousmaniere asked Cain how introverts can “avoid coming across as disengaged or even apathetic during a meeting, when they’re actually very deeply in thought.”

“One thing I often tell introverts is to do a lot of prep work before a meeting begins, whether or not you’ve been formally asked to do so, because it’s probably what you need to personally do. Preparing your thoughts ahead of time can also help give you a push to be one of the first people to speak up, which is probably not your normal style. In general, it’s best to advance your ideas early. On a psychological level, it helps you feel a part of the meeting earlier, and people will often in turn direct their comments to you, whereas if you wait awhile to speak, the opposite usually happens,” Cain told the publication.

Be sure to balance your input with others’ and share valuable contributions, and bask in the new respect you’ll have.