8 Ways to Add Value to Meetings
Making a Strong Contribution
Have you ever come out of a meeting feeling that you didn't perform at your best? Maybe you forgot to bring data to backup a colleague, or felt that you didn't get your point across, or just sat in silence for long periods.
Meetings don't have to be like this and, with the right approach, it's possible to make valuable contributions to meetings, and so get more from them. In this article, we'll explore eight practical ways that you can do this.
Why Adding Value Matters
Bringing value to meetings can benefit you and your colleagues. On a personal level, it can help to position you as an effective team player. Also, if you can contribute pertinent comments, constructive criticism, and practical suggestions, you'll be seen as a "driver" rather than as a "passenger."
Teams perform best when people contribute and collaborate, and by bringing value to team meetings you'll help to create a supportive, productive and constructive atmosphere, where effective decisions can be reached.
Research shows that meetings are often costly and unproductive, and another study suggests that people can spend almost 20 percent of their working week in meetings. That's a lot of time to potentially waste. But, if you treat each meeting as an opportunity to add value, both you and your colleagues will gain far more from them.
8 Ways to Add Value to Meetings
Here are eight ways that you can make an effective contribution to every meeting that you attend:
1. Be Selective
Being selective about what meetings to attend can help you to focus your time and energy on those where you have something positive to offer, or that you need to attend because of their potential impact on you.
If you are invited to a meeting where you genuinely feel that you don't have the expertise or knowledge to add value, then politely ask the facilitator why you've been invited. It may be that you can suggest a more appropriate replacement.
If lack of time is the problem, ask if you could attend just the part of the meeting that is relevant to you. If it really is impossible for you to attend, ask if you can send your thoughts to the chairperson by email, so you can still contribute, albeit remotely.
2. Consider Alternative Locations
Meeting in the same room or at the same time each week can sap energy from even the most enthusiastic people.
If you feel that this is happening with your team, suggest a change of scenery. New surroundings can revitalize and refresh people, and encourage new perspectives and positive thinking.
Perhaps you could swap an uninspiring meeting room for a local coffee shop or experiment with walking meetings.
Think about whether you need to have a formal sit-down meeting. If appropriate, you can suggest replacing it with a shorter "stand up" meeting in another part of the office. See our article on scrum meetings for more details on this.
Be sure to consider any security or confidentiality issues when you hold meetings away from your usual venue or premises. It would be unwise to discuss private matters in public areas. And remember the practicalities, too. A walking meeting wouldn't be suitable if the attendees needed laptops or other equipment.
3. Prepare Your Points
Before the meeting starts, make sure that you have a copy of the agenda. Research your subjects, write down the key questions that you want to ask and points that you want to make, and jot down any information or comments that will make your case more credible.
Find out who else is attending, and why. Think about what information or contribution they expect from you, such as facts, figures or more specialist information.
4. Identify Your Role
Clarify why you've been invited to the meeting. Are you there to support your colleagues, to critique a proposal, or to present an idea? If you're unsure, ask the chairperson in advance what he expects your contribution to be.
If you don't seem to have a clear role, but your attendance is mandatory, then create one. Ask the chairperson or other attendees if there's any research that you could carry out or support that you could offer. This might include anything from checking that the meeting room equipment is in working order to buying cookies to share.
5. Play to Your Strengths
Playing to your individual strengths can maximize the value that you can add. If you lack a little self-confidence or are something of an introvert, you may feel uncomfortable speaking in public, so your strength might be in providing more thoughtful, considered insights.
You could offer to provide an analysis of the meeting's subject beforehand, for example, or share your reflections in writing after the meeting has finished.
If you're more outgoing, chances are that you're valued for your ability to speak up and get discussions moving. But remember that adding value includes the ability to listen so that you really "take in" and understand what other people are saying, and then offer a response.
6. Help Others to Be Heard
Productive meetings are about sharing different perspectives. You don't need to be chairing the meeting to help other people to get their points across.
As we suggest in our article, How to Get Your Voice Heard in Meetings, you can steer attention back to a colleague if she was interrupted or ignored. It can be something as simple as, "Excuse me, Sandie, what were you going to say?"
If someone says something that you agree with, say so. Having given her the credit for her idea, you might want to build on it by adding your own ideas.
Inviting colleagues to comment can help them to feel supported and will create an inclusive atmosphere. Prompts such as: "Tariq, you've worked on this kind of project before. How do you usually solve this issue?" can be the introduction they're waiting for.
7. Use Positive Body Language
You can contribute to a meeting with just your body language. Sitting up straight, smiling at the person who's speaking, and unfolding your arms would demonstrate that you're open to new ideas and ready to listen.
It helps the speaker to feel supported and other attendees to feel encouraged to speak. It sets an upbeat example that others will notice and want to follow, which helps to create a positive, energetic and constructive atmosphere.
On the other hand, sitting slumped in a chair and fiddling with your tablet or cell phone could give the impression that you'd rather be somewhere else. It could lower the energy level in the room and encourage others to disengage.
8. Take Effective Notes
The opportunity for you to add value doesn't end when the meeting closes. Taking careful notes provides you with a useful record of what was discussed and what you've taken away from the meeting.
If the meeting did not have an official note-taker, you could offer to share your notes or a summary of the meeting with other attendees and with people who were unable to attend.
For more information on carrying out effective and productive meetings, see our resources on Writing Meeting Notes, Avoiding Cognitive Bias in Meetings, Company Town Hall Meetings, and How to Run Effective Virtual Meetings.
Every meeting offers an opportunity for you to add value. But first, decide whether you need to attend, and work out a positive way of saying "no" if not.
Consider suggesting alternative meeting styles such as "scrums" or walking meetings, and prepare the points you want to get across beforehand.
Identify what your role will be in the meeting, and if you don't have one, consider taking the minutes so that you still have a way to add value.
Bear in mind whether you tend towards introversion or extroversion and play to your strengths, while helping others to speak up. That way, you can help to ensure that everyone gets a say in the discussion.
Positive body language creates a positive atmosphere, and taking notes shows that you're engaged, and can offer a starting point for further research.
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