The workplace has embraced the digital world wholeheartedly. With email, Google chat and video calls all at our fingertips, in-person meetings can seem unnecessary. When your co-workers roll their eyes on their way to the conference room, it’s likely because those team meetings aren’t actually productive. It’s easy for a big group of people to get off track and spend valuable time spinning their wheels, instead of connecting in a meaningful, productive way.
But that doesn’t mean the traditional meeting is a lost cause. Some things that are understood easily during face-to-face interaction can get lost in digital translation. In-person meetings still have significance in the workplace, but how useful that time actually is depends on how you and your team communicate across the conference table.
If you’re in charge, start off with a quick summary of the agenda before diving in to the meat of the meeting. Verbal confirmation of the agenda makes sure everyone is on the same page and decreases the risk of going off track.
Everyone, leaders and participants alike, should remember that every meeting is an opportunity to demonstrate professionalism. Speak clearly and carefully. You can be passionate and persuasive without being aggressive or loud.
Speaking is just half of the verbal communication equation, however. The other half – perhaps even more important – is listening. Truly productive meetings require that participants actively listen and respond to one another. If you stop talking only to continue as if no one else had any input, your meeting will be a waste of everyone’s time.
Much of what is lost during email threads is out in the open in meetings. Tone of voice, eye contact and body language all matter.
When leading or presenting in a meeting, try to be aware of your entire presentation – not just your talking points. Are you speaking to engage your listeners or droning on in a monotone? Are you making eye contact or looking at your feet? Are you using your hands while you speak or crossing your arms? Your team members will notice these nonverbal cues, consciously or not. Speak in a positive voice, make eye contact with everyone and try to convey open interest with your body language.
Not everyone thrives on speaking in a group, but even making small changes to how presenters communicate can improve the productivity of every meeting.
Do you have any advice for making the most out of meetings? Let us know in the comments.