Home > Articles > Business & Management

Participating Effectively in Meetings

  • Print
  • + Share This
Undoubtedly you've attended meetings for work, family, community, and so on. Were you a good attendee? Pat Brans reminds us that being an effective attendee is as important as being an effective presenter. For the sake of everyone else in the meeting, you need to prepare ahead of time, behave appropriately during the meeting, and "take care of business" afterward.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

How can I ever forget the meetings I attended in my first professional job? I was so concerned that I wouldn't be heard that I frequently spoke out of turn. Sometimes I would be so focused on making my point that I would wind up derailing the meeting. The results were often painful—I didn't always get invited to come back.

I think I've learned a few things since then. At least, I've had time to observe other people and develop a well-founded opinion on who is most effective in meetings and why. I'd like to share some of the things I've learned.

Almost everything you see written about making meetings effective is directed toward organizers. But, with a few exceptions, most people are more often attendees than organizers, so let's focus on what you can do to make meetings more effective as a participant. You'll be surprised at how useful you can be if you follow a few simple rules.

What to Do Before the Meeting

Some basic things you need to find out well before the meeting:

  • Purpose of getting together
  • What items will be covered, and for approximately how long
  • Who else will attend
  • Desired outcome
  • Location
  • Start and end times

Most importantly, make sure that you know what's expected of you during the meeting, and whether you need to do any reading or other research beforehand.

If the agenda is published early (it will be, if the organizer read my article "Running Efficient Meetings"), and you think a topic needs to be added or covered in more detail, let the organizer know immediately. If you don't get to see the agenda early, email the organizer before the meeting anyway, to let him or her know that you want to make sure that specific topic is covered.

When you get a chance to look over the agenda, think about how you stand on each topic. Write down any questions you have or points you'd like to make. If no new information will be disseminated, and you don't need to be part of any decisions being made, you may not need to attend the meeting at all. Discuss this option with the organizer, who probably doesn't want more attendees than necessary.

What to Do During the Meeting

If the agenda is discussed at the beginning of the meeting, as any good organizer is sure to arrange, you can raise the point about something you'd like to be covered. But if the organizer has already explicitly refused your request, it's better not to bring it up again. Causing contention at the outset will get the meeting off to a bad start—and, believe me, you might not get invited back a second time.

As items are being covered, keep an eye on the notes you jotted down beforehand about the topics of interest to you. Avoid talking too much, as that could dilute your impact on the more important subjects. If somebody else has already said what you wanted to say, there's no need to make the same point a second time. If you want to show support for what was already said, you can provide an abbreviated version of the arguments, or you can simply nod or provide short verbal cues, such as, "yes," "uh huh," or "I agree." In most cases, though, "Yeehaw!" would be out of place.

When the time is right to make a point, make sure that you have the organizer's permission to speak, and then clearly state what you have to say. Respect the rights of other people to disagree, and don't belabor your point. Remember, it's not your meeting, and other people want to move on to different subjects.

If you don't agree with something, let people know how you feel, but make it known that you have no intention of derailing the meeting. If you overstate a position, you risk damaging relationships, and people will be less receptive to your views. If you can manage to be more subtle, what you say will carry more weight.

A common problem in meetings is when one person monopolizes the discussion, or a small number of people prevent everybody else from speaking. If the organizer doesn't prevent this hijacking of the meeting (or if the organizer is actually the one straying from the agenda), raise your hand and point out that only so much time is left, and some topics are yet to be covered. If you can't get a word in, the meeting has probably really gotten out of hand and has become a complete waste of time. Consider leaving, if you can get away with it.

An inherent problem with any human gathering is that attendees leave the room with different opinions about what happened. This phenomenon can be demonstrated easily through the following experiment. Next time you have a chance to talk individually with different people who attended the same meeting, ask each one what was covered during a session. You'll probably notice that the accounts vary widely.

The organizer should minimize this problem of diverging recollections by summarizing key points during the meeting and then publishing accurate minutes afterward. But you can also take notes to jog your own memory, and at the end of the meeting (or when you view the minutes), you can compare your notes with the organizer's version of what was decided. If the organizer doesn't provide a summary or minutes, raise your hand and say what you think was decided. Ask if your understanding is correct.

Before sticking your neck out too far, though, think about this: Noticing that you take good notes, a poor organizer might ask you to take minutes for the next meeting, which may not be a natural role for you, and could keep you so busy that you can't cover your own points. If you want to avoid being assigned this role, work out a good excuse beforehand. For example, you could point out that you only take careful notes on certain subjects, and therefore wouldn't be the right person to record everything covered.

On the other hand, if you're looking for an active role in upcoming meetings, being the official note-taker might work out nicely. Writing the minutes usually means that your version of the meeting becomes the "official" one, which can give you an advantage in other ways.

What to Do After the Meeting

When the minutes are published, read them carefully and compare them with your own memory of what was discussed. Let the organizer know right away about any significant differences. If the minutes are not made available, send the organizer your version of what was covered and ask for confirmation that your understanding is correct.

Make sure that you know what actions were assigned to you, and follow up on them as quickly as you can. Think about how impressive it is when you see somebody else knock out his or her action items immediately after a meeting. Following through with what you agreed to do in front of a group is a good opportunity to demonstrate that you're not one to drop the ball.

If you have a good feeling about the meeting, let the organizer know. After all, everybody likes to hear positive feedback. But be a little more judicious about communicating negative views about how the meeting was run and the value of the topics covered. Being supportive of the organizer is a pretty good way to help the meeting run smoothly.

In fact, if you support the meeting organizer at all stages, from the moment you first learn about the meeting (starting as soon as you get the invitation), you will help to make the meeting more successful. Pay close attention to the purpose of the meeting and what will be covered. Gently point out anything that was left out of the agenda, so you can help the organizer to prepare and communicate expectations. (When people know what will be covered, they take the meeting more seriously, and they're more likely to come ready to participate.) Be attentive and supportive of the organizer during the meeting, and provide honest (useful!) feedback afterward. With these techniques, you will be a more effective participant, and you may help the organizer to produce a more effective meeting, this time and in the future.

Given the importance of letting people know what to expect, let me tell you what I plan to cover in my next article. The next time you hear from me will be to discuss email and some effective ways of using this powerful tool. I hope you'll find that topic useful.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020