In order to succeed at anything, you have to be there. And not just there "physically". Being there means being present, as in mentally present and engaged. Which brings us to the infamous meeting.
As you move up, you attend more meetings
More people require your time. More people require your guidance. As your responsibility increases, so does the value of your presence. Whether by choice or by force, you will find yourself in more meetings. So how do you improve your meeting power before this point?
Let’s start with your personal behavior. Show up on time. More importantly, show up early. It demonstrates interest and garners respect from your peers. Bring some sort of note taking device. Pen and Paper, Evernote, Dragon Dictation. It helps recall the meeting, and it demonstrates your engagement on the topic.
You know what else makes your enthusiasm shine like a lighthouse? Showing up early. One good habit for students to practice is showing up early to class, meetings, and get togethers. Especially if you get to talk to the host. When you are early, you learn certain things. These informational tidbits may not be repeated for people who show up late. And you know what they say about knowledge...
Behold the power of note taking
A manager calls in two employees to heard updates about a meeting. "Tell me what happened" the boss exclaims.
Employee A stammers and says, "Well, we met and discussed the project."
"Great" the boss yells, "Now what are we supposed to do?"
"I uh, I'm not sure" says Employee A.
An awkward three seconds pass before Employee B calmly replies. "The client wants us to send a proposal by Thursday. They want to know our fee, and they want to know if we can help on another project"
The manager is happy, and dismisses both employees.
"How did you remember all that" asks Employee A.
Employee B smiles, "Simple. I wrote it down."
Not paying attention
You want to alienate team members? Do everything found on this list.
Slouching is a double-edged sword. First, slouching shows you are over-relaxed. You have no serious interest in the meeting content. Second, it displays a nonchalant attitude.
Almost as bad as nonchalance is a jittery demeanor. Fidgeting indicates nervousness. When you fidget, it announces to the world, I'm nervous and uncomfortable. It projects insecurity. It broadcasts disinterest. Case in point: I'm a notorious finger picker. I pick my fingers far more often than I care to admit. I noticed I have a subconscious reaction to do this in bland meeting settings. I also do it when I hear boring discussions.
There is a penalty for not paying attention. Forbes wrote an about relevance, and people want to know they matter. When you doze off in a meeting, you remove all doubt.
Meetings and Physical Presence
I'll share a story with you: Years ago, a corporate executive flew into our little town for a day to meet with the team. For 3 years, he avoided our office like the plague. Over the last 15 months of that time, our team took on a significant amount of work. So much work, the executive felt necessary to come down and visit us. The executive bought us lunch and gave a speech afterwards. Now, had the executive stopped there, it would have meant the world to a few of my teammates.
"I just want him to know how much we do" said one teammate.
Heard from another teammate: "I need him to care about your team."
Ah, but here is where our story takes a dark turn. You see, one of my teammates walked up to the executive after the meeting. My teammate introduced herself, and proceeded to fill in the executive on what we did and how she wanted to help drive the business forward. She followed that up with her excitement about our recent visibility in the company. Now here is where the arrogant executive killed the mood. He looked my teammate dead in the eye, and calmly whispered, "It must feel good to finally be relevant."
You could have heard a pin drop. My teammate broke down. She realized the executive's perception of our team. All this time, she assumed working hard and getting things done was the key to advancement in the company.
She forgot the old saying: Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.
The executive did not stop there. He proceeded to promote another colleague of ours who worked half as hard and finished a fraction of the tasks the rest of the team completed. Why then, was the colleague promoted?
Simple. The colleague made it a point to be seen at, and even hold, regular meetings and made sure to copy the executive on every email related to the meeting.
Visibility, young Padawan, builds compatibility. If an executive has nothing else to go off but your presence and decorum at regular meetings, they will choose face time on every day ending in "y". Your skills are invisible to a boss if they don’t spend time with you. Face time is necessary. Face time ensures you are not forgotten. Because your work gets you so far, but being around and engaged goes much farther. A boss who feels like you care is a boss who will easily remember you.
The Power of Belonging
Meetings attendance and engagement signal a sense of belonging. Human Nature demands we find a sense of belonging. It's why people form tribes and self-organize in groups. Recognition and belonging explains rabid loyalty in sports, music, and brands.
Groups and tribes bring another hidden benefit: sharing. Encourage a person, and watch them blow you away by returning the favor. They will share more, they will engage with you more, and they will take more pride in the goals of the group.
Get Started in School
Students should take an interest in attending meetings, even on a weekly basis. If they plan on going in the corporate workforce, this skill is vital. Think of it as breathing, you cannot exist without it.
Stand out from the crowd
If you run a meeting, use this as a stepping stone to shine. How do you do this?
Punctuality. Send out a detailed agenda before the meeting.
Make sure everybody feels included. You do this by encouraging participation and intervening when somebody is interrupted.
Offer Time for questions and answers? More brainpower leads to more creativity and discovery.
Send out a summary after the meeting. What did you discuss? What were the action plans? Who is responsible for certain tasks?