Ah, the business meeting. Sometimes, these professional gatherings prove essential, giving bosses and employees the opportunity to share information and explore options for tackling upcoming projects. Other times, meetings can feel a bit superfluous, especially in this age of email correspondence and office-wide instant messaging.
But regardless of the meeting’s perceived necessity, it’s important to remember the public nature of these get-togethers and to present yourself as professionally as possible. To achieve that goal, you’ll want to avoid these eight (dangerously easy-to-make) mistakes during staff meetings.
1. Arriving/calling in late
Even if your office culture involves a generally-lax attitude about arrival times, if you have a meeting schedule first-thing in the morning, arriving on-time should be a top priority for you. Scheduled meetings require time-related respect from everyone involved; that’s why they’re clearly put on the calendar ahead of time. So set an extra alarm, load up on your A.M. coffee, and get yourself into that conference room at the designated time (or, preferably, a couple of minutes before).
2. Failing to review the agenda prior to the meeting
In many workplaces, admins distribute agendas prior to important meetings, allowing the attendees to gain a sense of what they’ll be discussing. If your office meetings fall into this category, take some time before the meeting begins to look over the agenda and to jot down any questions or comments you may have about the specified points. You’ll be doing yourself a favor, and you’ll be helping your boss and your coworkers by attending the meeting as a fully-informed and engaged participant.
3. Multitasking during the meeting
If your office norms include bringing laptops into meetings, then you probably won’t be the only one tempted to check and answer emails during a session (especially if said meeting starts running long). While an occasional speedy email response won’t be a dealbreaker in most meeting environments, diverting your attention to work on another project during a meeting may present you as unable to focus.
4. Interrupting others to make your points
Meetings can be challenging contexts for sharing your ideas; lots of people may want to chime in on the discussed matters, and it requires particular patience and grace to find the right time to share your thoughts. “Patience” is particularly key here, because interrupting colleagues to weigh in will likely result in alienation.
5. Laughing, rolling your eyes, or otherwise undermining your colleagues
On a similar note, you need to keep some semblance of a “poker face” during work meetings; even if Karen from accounting shares a thought that you consider silly or irrelevant, you can’t roll your eyes or laugh in her face. If you disagree with her evaluation of a situation and want to offer an alternate option, feel free to do that, but keep the discourse civil and courteous.
6. Noticeably eating and drinking throughout the meeting
In most companies, sipping on a bottle of water or a mug of coffee during a meeting isn’t a problem. Also, plenty of companies provide snacks during meetings, and if that’s the case, you can certainly take a donut or a bagel to enjoy. But eating and drinking in a meeting can’t distract from the content of the conversation, and if you’re making a mess with your crumbs or audibly slurping from your mug, that can draw focus from the meeting’s purpose.
7. Dozing off
This one seems so obvious that it doesn’t need mentioning...but it happens more often than you might expect. Especially during an early meeting, exhausted attendees may start to nod off...which isn’t even remotely professional and can do lasting damage to your workplace reputation. Stay alert and attentive, even when it’s difficult.
8. Scheduling meetings with no clear purpose
If you’re in a position to set meetings with your reports and coworkers, try to steer clear of this classic Michael Scott pitfall: scheduling meetings for no real reason. Meetings are time-consuming, and when they’re actually necessary, the investment is worth the trouble. But if a meeting agenda can be easily accomplished with an email exchange, resist the urge to book the conference room.