Illustration: Nick Shepherd

How to shine in meetings

CRASH COURSE: You've just wasted an hour listening to others droning on without saying anything. Surely there must be a better way to perform?

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 22 Sep 2015

Should you be there? Be sparing with your attendance. 'Ask the person whose invited you what is expected from you,' says Ian Gooden, chief executive of HR practice Chiumento. 'As well as telling you whether you're really needed, it means you won't arrive and be outflanked.'

Be prepared. 'Look at the agenda and identify and think about the important issues,' says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational management at Lancaster University Management School. 'Set yourself an objective and gather all the data you'll need so you're ready if challenged.

Hold your fire. 'Don't hog the meeting,' says Cooper. 'Save interventions for when you have something meaningful to say. Quality is more important than quantity.' A late intervention can be effective because it stays in people's minds after the meeting, he points out.

Take notes. Write down anything you consider significant. It shows people you are listening and means you aren't dependent on somebody else's version of what was said.

Have a point of view. Sitting on the fence won't score you any points, says Gooden. To create impact you need a strong viewpoint. 'People can always tell if you believe in what you are saying, so speak with passion,' he says.

Read the room. It's important to understand the agenda of other participants and whether you can speak freely. 'This requires a degree of political awareness,' says Gooden. 'Are you really free to say what you think?'

Be positive. Avoid criticising other participants and come up with solutions, advises Cooper. 'The meeting is an opportunity to get people to back you, but they won't if you alienate them.'

Follow up. When the meeting is over, be the first to tell the chair what you have taken away, and the actions you expect to take. 'It shows that you have taken ownership and are not waiting to be delegated to,' says Gooden.


'Thanks for the opportunity to appear before this committee and I will do my best to help you'


'Give me strength. I've been asked some pretty imbecilic things, but this takes the biscuit'

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