With the return to in-office work comes the return to in-person meetings, and a reminder of how tedious many of those can be.
In a Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting when a speaker drones on, it’s easy (though not recommended) to simply nod along and switch to another tab where you can answer emails or be productive in some other way. In person, your surreptitious multitasking is likely going to come off as rude.
But that doesn’t mean you have to continue to endure tedious, regular meetings the way they are, says Rachel Loock, associate director of Executive MBA Career Coaching, Programming and Outreach at Maryland Smith. You can attempt to tactfully extricate yourself from them. And if that fails, she says, try to get more out of them.
Do you really need to be there? If you find you’re being tagged to attend a regular meeting and you don’t think it’s a good use of your time, check in with the meeting coordinator, Loock says. Offer to email updates or other important information to the group before the meeting. After the meeting, make a point of connecting with the organizer to see whether you missed anything. (You probably didn’t.) “Before you decline the meeting, be sure you check in with your supervisor to see if he or she has a reason to want you there,” Loock says.
Be a good participant. When you do click “accept” on a meeting invite, arrive ready to be engaged. Review the agenda in advance and prepare items to update the group.
Don’t contribute if you don’t have to. “Don’t just share business-as-usual updates or reiterate points that have already been made,” Loock says. Bring things to the group that you really need help with or their contributions on, or information that others would find helpful to their jobs.
Don’t check out. Staying present and engaged can be challenging, especially in large meetings that last a long time. “Take notes if it helps you focus on what’s being said,” Loock says.
Put the devices away. Force yourself to put your cellphone and laptop away so you won’t be tempted and distracted. “It can look unprofessional if you’re looking at your phone, texting or typing an email,” Loock says.
Step out if you have to. If you do need to address a situation that pops up and needs to be dealt with immediately, briefly excuse yourself or send a quick email or text, then turn your attention back to the meeting.
–An earlier version of this article appeared on WAMU’s website, under the headline, Survival Guide To Meetings.
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