Have you ever left a meeting feeling like everyone in that room hated you? They fell asleep halfway through your presentation, they rolled their eyes at your answers, and the boss cut you off every other time that you spoke. No matter how effectively you work outside of the meeting room, you can’t shake the suspicion that your colleagues would rather you remained in your cubicle at all times.
People already think that meetings are long, boring, or pointless. But half the struggle is in suffering through the rambles of their annoying colleagues.
Read through to get a better idea of the biggest mistakes people make at meetings – and then by all means, change your ways.
1. You’re unprepared
Show the people who are putting aside time for this meeting that you take it as seriously as they do. If you’re the one leading the presentation, prepare PowerPoint slides, handouts, and discussion questions. And if you’re the one attending the meeting, read over the agenda. Take care to review the work you’ve done over the past week because you never know when the boss will call on you about some case or study that’s been put in your care.
2. You show up late
Or worse, you don’t show up at all. Your colleagues already had to accommodate a two-hour appointment into their usual routine, so don’t disrespect their time by making them wait for you. We know it’s hard, but do your best to be the first one at the meeting. Keep in mind that meetings aren’t just about shooting off ideas or getting things done; you’re there to make a good impression.
3. You constantly crack un-funny jokes during the presentation
Sit down, Jim Carrey. Meetings are not a platform for your budding comedy routine. Call us Spartan, but everyone should be limited to just one joke in meetings. And that guy who needs to crack one every time someone speaks should be banned forever. If this is you, put a lid on it. Laughter might be the best medicine, but constantly cracking jokes will make the speaker feel as if he’s being undermined.
4. You keep whispering to the people next to you
Yeah, yeah, a lot of feelings bubble up during meetings and sometimes you just can’t resist whispering them to the colleague sitting beside you. An off-hand comment is one thing, but holding an entire conversation (however quiet) is not only distracting, but it’s rude to the speaker. If you have something to say, either let the whole group hear it, or save it for later.
5. You’re too quiet
Going to a meeting is not like going to class. Don’t be a mouse - presenters get annoyed when they spend all night preparing their slides, only for nobody to respond. The next time your boss or colleague makes a comment, take the initiative to share your opinion. If you don’t have one, then just affirm what they say. At the same time, we get that not everyone’s good at thinking on the spot, so make sure you prepare at least one thing to say beforehand.
6. You dominate the meeting
On the other hand, nobody likes a blabbermouth – especially the domineering kind who monopolises the conversation and then complains about being the only one who bothered talking. Back off a bit and give your colleagues some room to get a word in. If you can’t tell whether you’re talking too much or not, purposely stay quiet for 5-10 minutes and listen. Let your coworkers fully explain themselves before you butt in with your opinions. We can guarantee that at least one of their comments will teach you something new.
7. You always play the devil’s advocate
Nothing makes us want to wither and die more than hearing the words “let me play the devil’s advocate” mid-meeting. Nobody cares about scenarios that either don’t matter or won’t happen. And at any rate, saying those words only suggests that you disagree with what’s happening, but that you’re too meek to be straightforward.
8. You’re boring
Like we said, not everyone can be the life of a party. If public speaking isn’t your greatest strength, do whatever you can to make up for it. Use multimedia in your presentations. Create beautiful slides. You can even bring pastries to curry your colleagues’ favour. Ask a trusted coworker (or even your boss) for honest feedback on how you can be better at speaking – but in the meantime, try keeping your comments in a meeting down to a minute or less.
9. You’re too negative
We respond to people who are happy, enthusiastic, and forward-looking. Nobody likes that one guy who uses the meeting as an opportunity to publically scold his colleagues on everything they’re doing wrong. You’ll come across as an angry parent, not a leader people should respect. So instead of endlessly ragging on your colleague’s shortcomings, frame their mistakes as “things that could be improved.” They’ll be a lot more open to your ideas for how they can do better when they’re not in defense mode.
10. You’re always on your phone
Are you constantly walking in and out of the meeting room to take calls? Are you SMS-ing your colleague on the other side of the room all day? Messaging or browsing Facebook during a meeting might not be as intrusive as picking up calls, but it’s distracting to watch a colleague who’s clearly checked out mentally.
11. You take the conversation in an irrelevant direction
Finally, we’ve arrived at the worst offense. Meetings drag on long enough when you’re on-topic, let alone when the conversation spirals out of control. There’s a place for being informal and letting those creative juices flow, but even brainstorm sessions have a set goal, structure, and time limit. Take the meeting in a different direction, and it ends up being a sharing circle of complaints about a topic irrelevant the original one. And everyone will hate you for dismissing the original agenda to pursue your own. So the next time unrelated (but important) topics pop up in a meeting, acknowledge them, but also mention that those will be saved for a later conversation.