Meaningful meetings

There have been countless articles written on planning and leading good meetings. However, an aspect which is often forgotten is how to be an effective participant.

We often take our own role as participant for granted, without fully appreciating that we have important contributions to make. (After all that's the reason we're being invited!)

So before you head off to your next meeting, read these tips on making yourself a more valuable contributor:

Come prepared. Do some background reading on the subject beforehand and bring any helpful material with you.

Be an active listener. Our minds tend to wander without our permission, so it takes a conscious effort to remain focused and consider every word said.

Keep an open mind. Enter the meeting with the idea that it will be a learning experience and that your current viewpoint might be changed.

Speak up. Sometimes even the most far-fetched questions or idea can lead to a suggestion that's right on target. Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind, as it may lead to fresh, new perspective.

Stay cool. Not everyone will agree with everything you say. Take criticism in your stride, knowing that some level of disagreement is necessary to arrive at the best possible outcome.

Be considerate. Avoid crying on whispered conversations with fellow participants and interrupting the proceedings. When you disagree, make it clear that you are challenging the idea, not the person who offered it.

Instead of complaining that nothing ever gets done at meetings, think instead of all that you could contribute. There's so much more to meetings than showing up, and your active involvement can make a difference.