Meeting Snafus …Taking the Jerks and Jerkettes Out of Them

It’s that time again … the Monday morning meeting. George has got the fastest thumbs in the West as he texts to all; Emily has mastered her latest doodle (and is thinking about bring color pens to enhance it to the next meeting); Michelle is cracking her gum so loudly that you can’t hear what’s being said; and Harry manages to get another 30 minutes of shut-eye with his new shaded glasses.A classic clip in a Woody Allen film referenced his idea of purgatory was being stuck in a room with an insurance salesman. Fast forward to today. For many, purgatory could be the classic office meeting. A huge waste of time and mind-numbing.

To be more efficient, try:

Time … Show up early

For the Leader: Be there before the meeting starts. If you are late, the message you send to those attending is that they aren’t so important. Make sure that you determined the time you called the meeting is the best overall for the attendees during the day.

For the Participant: Show up, on time. Arriving even a few minutes late says that the meeting is unimportant; you don’t respect the leader who called it or your co-workers.

Unprepared … Have some type of agenda or handout

For the Leader: Make sure your meeting space is reserved; if appropriate, have food and beverage; technical or audio support is set up and working; and create an agenda and include any background info that would expedite the meeting (email to all at least a day before the meeting). If you need items brought to the meeting, let attendees know ahead of time.

For the Participant: Read anything that you’ve received in advance; and if it’s at your chair, peruse it before the meeting starts. The savvy participant tries to have some idea of the background, purpose and what strengths they bring to the table beforehand. If you‘ve been asked to bring anything to the meeting, bring it.

Being Rude … Don’t display inappropriate body language and activities

For the Leader: If anyone is snoozing, being a meeting hog, eating loudly, fiddling in their chair, using their cell phones or PDAs, making facial gestures or displaying body language that implies they don’t care, doing other activities that aren’t conducive to the meeting or anything that is distracting to others, stop it. If attendees are having side-conversations, deal with it—ask if there is anything they would like to add or if there’s a question about what was just said. Don’t bring your cell phone or PDA; as the leader, you don’t want to be distracted. And don’t chew gum.

For the Participant: Sleep before you come to work; leave your PDA, cell phone at your desk (and if there is an important reason to bring it, put it on vibrate); eat quietly; no gum; don’t slouch or attempt to find out how all the levers on your chair work; once in the meeting, stay in the meeting and only break when breaks are called; facial expressions should be responsive to the topic/presenter; and stay “present”—don’t have a side chat with your another. Being rude tells all that you are a jerk.

Don’t be an Oinker … Having a mouth doesn’t mean you use it all the time

For the Leader: Calling the meeting doesn’t mean that you speak all the time (or let someone else dominate the meeting). Good leaders get others involved … think more like a facilitator.

For the Participant: Learn to be brief and to the point; don’t talk on and on; add input when it’s useful to the group and discussion.

The great put-down … Know when to argue and when not to

For the Leader: It’s OK to disagree, but there’s a fine line between disagreeing and discrediting another’s ideas or contributions to the discussion. Be as professional as you can.

For the Participant: Don’t make someone look bad in front of others (includes the boss, leader and co-participants). Being condescending and pointing out an attendee’s mistake may make you feel good but most view you as a jerk. If you really disagree, do so privately.

The silent or stealth approach … How to become invisible fast

For the Leader: Leaders lead … so don’t just toss out a topic and expect your attendees to take it from there. You want to get others to participate; if they are slow in reacting to a question or query you state, direct it to a specific person. If you don’t, you will soon disappear in their eyes.

For the Participant: If you don’t speak, why show up? Fellow attendees and the leader will think you have nothing to offer. You may be viewed as uncreative, uninvolved or unmotivated—not good labels to carry. Make it a point to add at least one idea to the general discussion.

It’s over … what to do next

For the Leader: Summarize the key points from the meeting and distribute to those who attended. If appropriate, post them in a visible place.

For the Participant: Too many employees display memory loss after a meeting, don’t. Keep handout material along with the agenda in a file. If you have any questions, contact the leader, not other participants.

Woody would approve.

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