Participating in a Meeting
The fourth stage in our model for effective meetings is Participating in a Meeting. On the MeetingArk website you can find discussion groups about Participating in a Meeting, and a set of FAQs (and answers) relating to Participating in a Meeting.
Our discussion groups on Participating in a Meeting embrace a number of topics, starting with making a contribution. Probably the most important topic in this set covering: how to ensure you make your points effectively, how to be concise and to the point, how to answer questions when you’re unsure of the answer, and how to build on others’ contributions.
A related topic is intervening appropriately. This discussion group focuses on how to interrupt gracefully so you can make your contribution, particularly if other participants are hogging the conversation. Also in this group is the discussion of how to challenge, refute and generally debate points when you don’t agree with other participants’ arguments.
Almost all participants complain about meetings veering off topic, but we should recognise that keeping on topic is the responsibility of each and every one of us. Whilst we all may enjoy those interesting and amusing digressions, they often add nothing to the progress of a meeting and frequently play havoc with timekeeping and impede more relevant discussions. So how should we avoid them?
Making a presentation is a useful topic for discussion. Whilst many tips for making an effective presentation boil down to preparation, more preparation and a good structure (introduce what you’re going to tell them, tell them, summarise what you’ve told them), there are many other great ideas to be shared here.
There is also a discussion group on the use of hand-outs, white boards and flip charts (and their virtual equivalents). Effective use of such materials can really enhance a discussion. But should material be circulated in advance, which might aid understanding, or does their introduction during the meeting increase their impact? Chalk-and-talk techniques can also be very effective for advancing, resolving and summarising discussions.
All of that naturally overlaps with taking notes (many people make notes on hand-out materials, which usually adds to their value). There are often ‘official’ notes, prepared and circulated by the meeting organiser, but most participants will find it useful to take their own notes. If you agree to take on a follow-up action, you’ll usually find that any personal note adds context and makes it easier to fulfil your obligations. And, of course, you may want to note thoughts that occur to you during the meeting that won’t be picked up by in the ‘official’ notes.
The final discussion topic under Participating in a Meeting is managing personal discomfort / unease. Many people find some aspects of meetings intimidating, so any thoughts or advice in this discussion group are likely to be very welcome.
We hope you find these discussion groups useful and hope you will contribute to some or all of these discussions about Participating in a Meeting.