Meetings. Ugh. How many of us truly look forward to most meetings?
In the workplace, they’re a necessary evil. If we want to effectively communicate with our colleagues, supervisors, employees, and clients, we better learn to effectively manage meetings.
Even if you’re not the manager of the meeting, you can personally benefit from participating fully in meetings, maintaining a positive attitude, paying attention to everyone, and “turning on your listening ears,” as I often advise my resident preschooler.
Why? Because meetings are great places–physical places or virtual places–for professional networking. Think about it–some of your lasting impressions of your boss and your favorite (or least favorite) coworkers were probably formed during meetings. They might say the same about you. When you seek a promotion internally, you rely on the impressions formed in the workplace (during meetings, over coffee, at lunch). When you move on to another company, you want to leave on great terms so you can ask your former colleagues to serve as references for you. This is all part of professional networking.
Clearly, meetings matter.
Here are five classic networking mistakes you’ll want to avoid making during meetings.
1. Arriving late.
Arriving on time to meetings is the easiest way to win friends in the workplace. No one likes to wait on the late person. Don’t be the late person.
If you cannot avoid late arrival, call/text/email in advance. If you genuinely forget or must show up late without notifying your meeting mates in advance, apologize verbally and discreetly without upsetting the entire flow of the meeting when you enter. Offer a more extensive apology (with explanation) after the meeting unless the meeting manager stops the meeting and asks for an explanation when you enter the room/call. It’s one thing to be late–it’s another thing to throw off the whole meeting by causing a scene when you arrive. This behavior leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths, and this is a great way to guarantee your coworkers will put you on their bad lists permanently.
2. Lots of talking and very little listening.
Unless you’re a presenter or speaker during the meeting, you should aim to speak less than you listen to others. It’s fine to chime in, make key points, and ask questions, but do so thoughtfully. Pay attention to how many times you chime in. You don’t need to say everything you think. Trust me–your coworkers will thank you for withholding some of your brilliant epiphanies. Instead, take great notes during the meeting, and if you brainstorm long enough, you’ll either find that those epiphanies weren’t that worthwhile after all or that you’re onto something excellent which you should share with your boss in a private meeting.
3. Debbie Downer vibes.
Nobody (except for another Debbie Downer) wants to sit with or network with a Debbie Downer during a meeting. Negative people bring down the mood in a room, and long-term, you want people to remember you as someone with positive energy. What if you seek a promotion within the company in six months? Do you think the woman attending committee meetings with you–who’s observed your negative attitude for six months–is going to advocate for you to join her team? Not likely. You don’t have to be fake in order to be polite and courteous; be yourself, but be the best version of yourself. If you’re not naturally bubbly, don’t pretend to be.
4. Dropping the ball.
If you agreed to take minutes, do so. If you signed up to gather donations for an upcoming fundraiser for a charity, have this task completed before the next meeting. Don’t drop the ball and leave your coworkers hanging. Networking is simply building relationships. Building relationships is all about building trust. People will trust you if you prove yourself trustworthy, and if you drop the ball, you will prove yourself untrustworthy.
5. Failure to show gratitude.
When you share your experience or knowledge with someone, doesn’t it feel good to receive a verbal “thank you,” a thank you note or email, or a small token of appreciation? The same goes for your attitude in meetings. If someone in your meeting offers advice or helpful feedback, thank them. Don’t reserve thank you notes for post-interview moments. There is never a bad time to say thank you, and your acquaintances, coworkers, and friends (part of your professional network) will feel appreciated when you do.
How are your workplace communication skills? Did you know that in a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2015, communication skills ranked third on a list of “must haves” for new hires by employers? Contact me to schedule a free consultation to discuss communication skills/soft skills career coaching.