There are no excuses. Amazing how some people can get it so wrong…
1. Forget The Agenda
If it’s your meeting, call the meeting without an agenda.
2. Make The Meeting A ‘Firedrill’
Don’t give people any real notice that you’re going to have a meeting but insist that it has to happen.
This will make you seem really important and your meeting too.
The technical term for this kind of last minute action is a ‘firedrill‘. People who can’t respond to such a request will soon be exposed as the losers they are.
3. Keep The Meeting Open-Ended
Objectives can stifle a meeting.
Instead, try and have a meeting without any stated outcomes or objectives.
Leaving your meeting open-ended in this way will allow people to express themselves more and tease out talking points that would otherwise be out of scope.
4. Banish the Word ‘Scope’
In a meeting, the word ‘scope’ can be dangerous.
Such as in the last point, discussing what is in and out of scope for the meeting can be a complete waste of time and derail an otherwise productive meeting.
It’s probably best to ignore the word scope altogether and if someone mentions it, quell the danger by using the expression ‘Perhaps we should take that one offline‘.
5. Silence for The Boss
The Boss will always be the latest one to the meeting because he/she is a very busy individual and also because they understand the importance of the most important person in the room being fashionably late.
You should start discussing things before the boss arrives in any case so as not to waste time but when the boss does arrive to the meeting, you should stop any conversations you were having immediately and greet the boss with a respectful silence.
This will show that you recognize that the most important contribution to the meeting is that of your boss and also avoid any mistakes which could result in you or your colleagues being subjected to reputational loss or being fired.
6. Sit Back in Your Seat
Contrary to popular opinion, sitting back in your seat or even ‘slouching‘ is actually the appropriate posture for a meeting structure, particularly in a big room, with lots of people and if sat around a large table. This allows the energy in the room to flow, people to see each other and conversations to progress well.
Sitting forward whilst often seen as showing an interest in conversation, will actually block energy and communication flow from your left and right.
7. Refreshments Etiquette
All meetings in today’s world should contain refreshments, ideally tea, coffee and both sparkling and still water; preferably with biscuits. Sandwiches too if the meeting is particularly long.
This is a health and safety issue.
If refreshments are provided, then you should help yourself to these as early and as often as possible. This will show your colleagues that the refreshments are there and help less experienced colleagues to follow the correct refreshment etiquette.
In a large meeting setting, it is customary to rattle the crockery a little when serving yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to ask other people whether they would like some refreshments, this is simply common sense and avoids people congestion.
If refreshments do not exist in the meeting then it is your duty to ask why not and suggest that perhaps some should be ordered.
8. Being Agreeable
This is a highly complicated matter and the correct form varies drastically depending upon the type of meeting.
In short, if the meeting is being chaired by your boss or even by another very senior stakeholder, then you should be agreeable, nod, say ‘Yes’ and if possible try and finish the sentences of the person speaking to show agreement in the form of real-time active listening.
If the meeting is a meeting among your peers with no single key stakeholder in the room then you should try and disagree with as much as possible and come up with counter-arguments however ridiculous these may sound.
This is called being ‘Devils Advocate‘ and using any argument however ridiculous is called ‘Brainstorming‘. If anyone ever challenges this approach (such as for example, someone unprofessional or extremely inexperienced), then you can always address this issue by saying ‘I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate.’
Obviously to impress your boss in a meeting where he/she wasn’t present, you need word to get back to him/her so when playing Devils Advocate and Brainstorming you should do as much of the talking as possible and do so with enthusiasm so that your colleagues can recognize and talk about your contribution to the meeting.
9. Controlling the Meeting
Even if you are not the chair of the meeting, you can lead from within by using a number of very special expressions which very sophisticated professionals use in meeting situations.
The most useful is particularly for controlling what gets discussed in a meeting and should be used diligently to prevent a meeting from going off track.
This very special phrase is ‘Perhaps we should take that one offline‘. The use of this expression will result in the topic of discussion immediately being ceased for another time and then the meeting can continue uninhibited.
You can also use expressions such as declaring something a ‘win/win situation‘, ‘let’s run that one up the flagpole and see who salutes‘ and ‘Absolutely‘ to show your support for certain passages of discussion during the meeting.
10. Don’t Provide Materials
If there are papers to be discussed in the meeting, don’t print out copies for attendees. Instead insist that each attendee brings their own copy.
This is far more efficient and saves paper as some attendees may forget to print theirs. In this case they can share.
In the rare case that all attendees (except you of course) turns up without any papers you can pass yours around.
OK, so perhaps a pinch of that was a little tongue in cheek, but there’s some serious advice hidden in there somewhere… and it is amazing how many people get it wrong (how to conduct a good meeting, that is).