[Tweet “” People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” Thomas Sowell”]
Despite meetings being considered to be time-consuming and time-wasting in equal measure, we are all exhorted to excel and standout in them. This truthfully seems a bit strange to me. J.K. Galbraith, the world reputed economist adds “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” I have read huge amounts of advice on how to become visible in meetings. I have even tried some tips, although not all myself. Some work OK, others are simply crass and the rest are just plain annoying.
The problem is everyone else has read those tips too.
Collective white noise
What we seem to be confronted with frequently today, are cohorts of super savyy meeting participants, all with one thing in mind. To stand out and over shadow everyone else. The result is that we are all going into a series of meetings, dominated and over powered by the collective white noise of dozens of individual “personal brands” vying for attention. This only serves to contribute further to meetings being universally regarded as ineffective time eaters, which don’t stay on topic or produce productive, actionable outcomes.
With an estimated 11 million formal business meetings each day in the US, it is thought that as much as $37 Billion is lost. Yes BILLION. Many companies are now taking steps to reduce digression and other unproductive spin offs of interpersonal communication, shifting to computer supported meetings. Here software completes a triage of input based on significance and relevance. At the same time this fosters anonymity, allowing individuals to be more candid than they might have been if they had simply put their hands up. It can also reduces the domination of the meeting by the aforementioned pushy or stronger personalities.
Calculating the cost of a meeting
The challenge is to keep a meeting on track without stifling creativity, but reducing individual show boating. With apps such as Meeting Meter it’s possible to for any organisation now to work out the cost of all their meetings.
So where does that leave all those old suggestions on how to be come visible in meetings? Even more confusion!
- Arrive late: true everyone will remember you but not for a good reason. You were late and wasted the collective time. If I’m late for a meeting I get hot and bothered and it’s not a good first impression.
- Speak up: clearly this is a good tip because if you don’t no one can hear you. If you contribute via software support the value of your contribution will be ranked.
- Speak early/first: this is widely regarded to be necessary, but will depend on the nature of the meeting and the content of your sound bite. Once again your contribution will be ranked if presented via software support.
- Leave to take a call : Rude
- Be confident: Obvious
- Prepare questions: Clearly be prepared and ask questions if relevant. Don’t ask if they are not. You should have seen an agenda.
- Walk around: could be strange unless part of your company culture. If others do, it will be messy.
- Take notes: only if you need them
- Don’t take notes: what if you do need some?
- Interrupt: rude and annoying. Signalling to the chair that you would like to ask a question is not being deferential, it’s being polite.
- Re-stating data in another format: Whether it’s 1 in 4, or 25%, to repeat data already presented runs the risk of appearing dim.
The best stand out performances I have observed from attending hundreds of meetings myself are actually by-products of listening. It’s the person (male or female) who simply cuts through the white noise and just asks: Can you repeat that? Can you go back to ..? Can you clarify…?
The irony is that how to become visible in meetings can now actually be more about what you don’t say than what you do.
[Tweet “It’s the person who just shuts up and listens before they cut through the white noise with a pertinent question”]
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway.