I don’t know about you, but I have observed many ‘talking heads’ – often high-performing extroverts – whose only objective to attend a meeting is to hear his/her own voice. It is all very well when the person is briefing a team, relating an incident, or making a presentation that only he/she can. But other than that, not only does the incessant chatter make them useless (and a little annoying) in meetings, it also wastes everyone else’s precious time that could have been used more productively.
Often, meetings are already pointless because most of the discussion could have been done over an email or call. But add a ‘talking head’ to them, and the repercussions are more than just minor annoyance. They are a waste of man-hours, and an ineffective way of working.
The antidote to it, in my opinion, is for everyone to be prepared to play their part in meetings and leave the room as soon as you are done. But this preparation is more than just preparing talking points and presentations. Sometimes, it also requires behavioural changes.
Preparation is key
A specific agenda, some research, poring over emails that have flown around – all go into preparing for important meetings. Having the presentation or document circulated ahead of the meeting also helps people develop and bring a point of view to the meeting. Not just that – preparation also helps meeting participants figure out what they already know and what they need help with ahead of the meeting. This is crucial for the second part of having productive meetings.
Ask questions, but judiciously
When someone from the team is making a presentation, it is always helpful to let him/her say their piece before asking questions. For all you know, your question might be answered later in the presentation. Not only does it break the flow of the presenter, it also makes part of the presentation or your question redundant. It goes without saying that it also comes across as “trying too hard”.
Resist the urge to pontificate over what you don’t know
One of the biggest challenges in work meetings is how they quickly turn into one-upping sessions where everyone competes to showcase how much they know. While meetings are a good place to gain strategic visibility, the first and foremost purpose they must meet is closer collaboration. Being honest when you don’t know something or don’t have enough information at hand is a far more productive way to contribute. It invites collaboration, encouraging all attendees to chip in, helping everyone reach informed decisions in an efficient manner.
These small behavioural changes might need some effort in the beginning, especially for habitual, relentless ‘meeting contributors’. But they are a great way to collaborate, get fresh ideas to the table, and conduct productive meetings. Often, it is a matter of signalling effective leadership qualities. After all, the ability to take a step back in order to reach shared goals and encourage teamwork is a sign of a secure, capable leader.
Read Also: How to improve the quality of your meetings