Dale Ludwig - Aug 22, 2017

What we wish everyone knew about meeting behavior

In previous blogs I’ve written about the need for meeting facilitators to initiate and manage the conversation that takes place during meetings and about how team presentations bring special challenges.

This post is about the other people in the room, the meeting participants who are not responsible for facilitation or the presentation of information. They, too, need to be engaged and appear to be engaged.

The need to be engaged is obvious. After all, your participation in the meeting is (or should be) necessary in some way, either for the business, the team or for yourself. A good meeting facilitator will make the meeting content and process feel efficient and relevant. It’s your job, then, to understand what your contribution is and be open and responsive to the process.

Appearing engaged is also important. If other participants in the meeting feel that you’re not fully present or reluctant to participate, the conversation will suffer. Your behavior will become a distraction, like loud talkers in the airplane seats next to you when you have work to be done.

Like the airplane talkers, most people who don’t seem fully engaged in meetings have no idea what message they’re sending. They’re just unaware of themselves. Here are a few recommendations to make sure you’re not one of those people.

  • Look at people. If the meeting facilitator is attempting to maintain strong eye contact with everyone, be open to it.
  • Consider your posture. Are you slumped in your chair with your legs stretched out in front of you? If so, you look like someone at home watching TV, not a meeting participant.
  • Put down your phone. Yes, there are times when you may need to look at your phone, to check an email that relates to the meeting or to check your calendar. But every time you check your phone simply because it’s there, it’s noticed.
  • Do you have an RBF? (Excuse the language and the apparent sexism of this phrase. Rest assured, both men and women can project an RBF.) Facial expression matters, even when you’re listening. Think about relaxing your facial muscles and smiling (even a little). Maybe nodding your head will break you out of the look of displeasure you may be projecting.

No matter how routine a meeting might be, go into it with the desire to make the process as easy as possible for everyone in the room—even when it’s simply your job to be attentive. Everyone will appreciate it.

Written by Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training possible. Since then he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, he also serves as our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of the book "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined." He’s excited about his latest book, also co-authored with Greg Owen-Boger, "Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning."