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Thursday, August 18, 2016

15 Powerful Techniques To Pay Attention In Meetings

Meetings are an important part of day to day work in corporate organizations. A lot of valuable time is spent in meetings or discussions, so it is extrremely important that the meeting time is utilized carefully. Meetings are all about communication, not only the speaking and listening skills, but all the eight elements of communication model play a vital role in conducting productive meetings. So first let us understand these eight basic components of a communication model:

Source/ Sender
Communication Channel
Interruptions/ Interference

Now, having understood the above, let us look at some of the key points which will make sure that you get most out of the meetings by being focused and attentive:

Don't be preoccupied

There is a possibility that you may be preoccupied with certain thoughts when you move from one meeting to other, especially when you have back to back meetings. Hence, try to avoid back to back meetings, take a break and gather your thoughts before you move from one meeting to another. Before you join the meeting spend some time to understand the meeting agenda in detail and also have a look at the profile of meeting participants. This will ensure that you are well informed in advance and hence productive during the course of the meeting.

Be prepared to listen

  • If you attending the meeting over phone make sure that you are not distracted by other discussions around you. Try to find a room where you can get audio privacy.
  • You may be a good speaker  yourself but in order to take a discussion to a logical conclusion you need to be a good listener too. Be prepared to listen to what others have to say. 
  • DO NOT interrupt when someone is speaking. Make your point but only when the other person has completed speaking. Dont jump the guns and assume based on half baked information.

Be organized

  • Always carry a notepad and a pen to write/ note the key highlights and action items discussed in the meeting. Asking for a notepad or a pen are not very professional habits. 
  • If you have the habit of noting down the points in your tablet or laptop then ensure that you dont get distracted by emails popping up in your inbox or other important tasks diverting your attention.
  • If you are in a room where there is a large group of people attending the meeting on phone then make sure you are within the audible distance of the phone. You should also ensure that you move near the phone when you speak so that you are audible to the people on the other side of the phone.
  • Speak with a speed that is good enough for the people of understand the meaning of what you are saying. Dont be in a hurry and dont rush through your statements.

Identify and avoid the distractions

  • DO NOT whatsapp while you are in a meeting. You get singled out if you keep browsing on your phone when others are engrossed in a discussion.
  • DO NOT chat over IM(instant messaging service) on your computer while you are attending a meeting. Best way to keep your focus in a meeting is to logout from the IM messaging as soon as you join a meeting.
  • DO NOT daydream, it may so happen that sometime one of the point being discussed in the meeting may divert your thought process and you may start thinking in a tangent. Avoid such daydreaming and stay honest to the agenda and context of the meeting.

How to be awake?

  • If you have a meeting immediately after lunch and you are feeling sleepy then a simple way to avoid sleep is to use something to chew. By continously chewing you keep yourself alert, a chewing gum might come handy.

Don't take ownership of general stuff

  • When there are multiple people attending a meeting there is a possibility that someone may ask a general question which may have an action item associated with it. Be careful. Don't be over enthusisatic to answer and take ownership of something which is out of your scope. 
  • In general, follow the rule of "Count to 5", that is, if you are attending the meeting on phone then before you respond to a general question take a pause by counting till 5. This will give you sometime to think and there is a high possibility that someone else may give the answer in the interim which may help you avoid taking ownership of an unnecessary action item.

Some other basic etiquettes include...
  • Responding to meeting invites promptly(either accept, decline or mark tentative). 
  • Joining and leaving the meeting on time. 
  • Proper delegation of meeting invites to other stakeholders from our own team. 
  • Avoid discussing any items which are not on agenda/ for which you are not prepared.

Going back to the basic elements of the communication model: One needs to be careful about the location/ geography of the sender/ receiver. Once that is figured out then based on the type/ kind/ sensitivity of the message one needs to choose a proper communication channel(in person meeting, phone meeting or tele/ video conference etc.). Environmental and contextual conditions are critical factors which may play an important role in reaching logical decisions. Focus should be to reduce interruptions and encourage healthy conversations with proper feedback loop. Taking all these elements of communication model into consideration will ensure that one meeting doesn't lead to another meeting and help you conduct productive meetings/ drive concrete results.

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