Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Meetings — Ten Ways To Demonstrate Effectiveness

Almost all of us attend meetings at work–although we may not call all of them that because meetings do not necessarily involve sitting at a conference table. Think of a meeting as any time you gather with coworkers in a work setting.

  • A quick huddle with coworkers or peers, related to a specific work situation.
  • A short, planned conversation with people in or out of your group, or with your manager or those you supervise. These are the impromptu meetings that can wreck a day if they are not used wisely.
  • A regularly scheduled meeting. These are usually the ones that are viewed most negatively, although they will probably always be necessary. There seems to be a human resistance to the idea of structured meetings–but you can respond at least a bit differently than that, if you choose to do it!
  • A social gathering at work. (Birthday or other recognition party.) These are as important for your influence and reputation as any other meeting, as well as giving you a chance to focus on others.

Here are ten ways to demonstrate effectiveness when you attend a meeting:

1. Plan for it. When you get the notification, even if it is short notice, consider what you might be able to contribute or what you are expected to discuss. If reading material is attached, read the material so you can effectively discuss it from the very beginning–and so you are not skimming through it as others are talking. 

Consider contacting the person planning the meeting to ask if you can help get things together or do other pre-meeting work. 

This is the time to invite a coworker or direct report (subordinate) if the meeting is open to guests. Many of your meetings may only be for those who were specifically invited, but others are open to those who have a logical reason to attend. This subject was mentioned in a post just last week.

2. Maintain a positive attitude. Keep in mind that few people call a meeting unless they think it is justified–whether you think it is or not. Try to see the purpose of the meeting from that person’s perspective. If you have any control at all over it, perhaps you can suggest another format. If you do not have any control over it, simply accept that it is part of your work and do it.

Never, ever, ever, groan to someone, “I have to go to a meeting tomorrow morning (grimace, frown, whine).” It makes you sound like a victim or a beat-down subservient employee, not a strong individual. No matter how you feel, resolve to talk and act as though you have a leadership role in all of your work. If the meeting is a social meeting–birthday, retirement, baby-shower or other celebration–show good cheer about it just as you would want others to do if the event was in your honor.

3. Arrive a few minutes early. Help those who are setting up the room or distributing material, or use the time to review the material to be discussed. The person who called the meeting will likely be there and will appreciate your punctuality. If it is a social function there are always things to do at the last minute and your help may be invaluable for getting started on time.

4. Sit close to the person who called the meeting. Unless seats are assigned or if you will be sitting with an employee or coworker you have brought, be purposeful about your seating. By sitting near the person who will be central to the meeting, you are more likely to be involved. You also will be less likely to become lethargic as time goes on! You demonstrate your interest and leadership by not being one of those who slink to the back of the room or get as far away from the center of the discussion as possible.

5. Be an active participant throughout the meeting. From the moment the meeting starts until it ends, purposely work to stay active by talking and listening appropriately. Pretend each person there has a rating sheet on which they will evaluate your demeanor and effectiveness.  You never know when their mental evaluation will be important to your career or to future support you receive from them.

Be aware of your waning energy as the meeting continues. Purposely reenergize your attention for each person who contributes, even if you have run out of patience and interest. They are probably nervous and will appreciate your support–and may have something to say you need to hear.

If it is a social function, mingle and chat. Do not stand off to the side or with a small clique of people, refusing to participate. Make sure you talk to the honoree(s). Those actions are noticed and appreciated by many others, especially if you are a supervisor or manager.

During the event consider contacting the person who is responsible for the function and ask again if you can help. You can often identify the person responsible, even if you do not know for sure, because she (or occasionally, he) is busy from start to finish!

6. Talk, if you have something worthwhile to say. It is crucial that meeting participants talk effectively about topics under discussion. Meetings that are considered failures are often actually failures of inviduals to contribute. In addition, having everyone sit silently is discourteous to the person who is asking for input.

Among the things that are worthwhile for you to talk about:
Information that is needed by the others.
A new perspective that might make a difference. 
Support for someone else if it appears they need it. 
Disagreement, when it is important  to present another view.

If you have something on the topic that you want to talk to someone about after the meeting, maybe you should say it in the meeting. There is nothing more frustrating to a meeting leader than hearing everyone who did not discuss the topic when their ideas could have helped, animatedly talking about it to others as they leave the room!

What is usually not worthwhile: Off-topic comments;  redundant comments that do not move the meeting along; comments made primarily to sound impressive or to deflate others; insincere support of others to win their favor, inappropriate humor that stops the momentum.

When you talk, look at everyone now and then not just at the person who called the meeting or at your manager. Make a sincere effort to share inclusively.

7. Listen actively. Look at people when they talk. Do not show your dislike or lack of support or interest by doodling or reading while others are talking. Pay attention to each person as if they were the highest ranking person in your organization. Ask questions if you sincerely have them. Keep your body turned toward the person talking until they are done.

This same advice applies in social meetings. You have probably chatted with someone who acted as though he or she was looking for someone more important to talk to. You know how that feels. Show interest in everyone, then disengage and move to someone else if that is necessary.

8. Limit your note-taking. This may surprise you, but it is a key issue. Most meeting attendees take notes to stay busy–and often to avoid participating–but they never refer to the notes again. Only write key information you know you will not remember, or not have access to otherwise. Put your pen down between notes, so you can show through your body language that you are listening and involved.

9. Help the leader during the meeting. Sometimes the person who calls a meeting is not adept at leading one. Help by working to keep things on topic; ask questions to move things along; mention the time, if it appears there is a lot to cover and little time left. This must be handled appropriately and sensitively, of course, but can be very helpful to everyone, including the leader.

If the leader obviously does not want or need your assistance, no matter how badly things are going, at least you can be the one who does not contribute to the worst of the issues. More than anything, avoid the not-so-subtle eye rolls or glances at friends who share your opinions about a person or issue.

10. Write a follow-up note to the leader (and to others when appropriate.) A short email after a meeting is always appreciated, no matter what the purpose of the meeting. You might write to indicate your plans for further action, or simply to thank the person for setting up the meeting or hosting it in his or her office. Or, you may have an additional question or have found new material on one of the topics discussed.

For a social meeting, it is always appropriate to send a short note to to the honoree and to those who helped put the party together. Such functions involve tremendous work and often no one says thank you–you can be the one!

For either business or social functions, find out who paid for the refreshments, if you know they were not provided by the organization, and give some money to that person–at least a few dollars if you can afford it. The gesture will be appreciated much, much more than you realize!

You may have other ways you demonstrate effectiveness, or things you have observed that have impressed you at meetings. Let me know about those, if you have the time!

June 17th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 5 comments


  1. This is a great list! May I reproduce it for a business meeting? I won’t use it in any other way. Thanks.

    Comment by C. Ritter | June 17, 2008

  2. I replied by email, but will respond here as well. You are welcome to use the article, and I hope it will be helpful. Thank you for contacting me! Tina

    Comment by Tina | June 17, 2008

  3. What impressed me at a meeting so much that I do it myself: A VP who was not in charge of the meeting, stood outside the door, but near enough he could hear if they were going to start earlier than the announced time. He greeted everyone as they arrived, then about one minute before the meeting started he calmly walked in and took the seat he had reserved earlier, next to the Prez, as you mentioned.

    He wasn’t an official greeter, he just made himself one, and also was the only one who wasn’t sitting there waiting for the meeting. It was almost like the meeting didn’t start until he walked in, which wasn’t the way the Prez intended it. Very cool! I don’t have that high a level position, but I feel in charge when I stand outside and greet people. In between people I just stand there and relax. I’m not as cool as the VP was, but the overall effect is good.

    What didn’t impress me: A person at a meeting who never stopped doodling on his legal pad. That’s all he did and it made him look rude and obnoxious.

    Thanks for the post and the ideas.

    Comment by Stormin' | June 18, 2008

  4. I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but I’ll mention it. I’m the one who calls most of our meetings, and since we have a small group I send out the regular announcement, then send a personal note to each person asking for their participation. I make a note of everyone who participates or at least is courteous, which is usually everyone, and I write another note afterwards, thanking them. It may be overkill, but I do seem to get good reactions and no problems with meetings. P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | June 18, 2008

  5. Hi Tina! I like this site and I lurk around it, but haven’t commented until now. This post is only about being an attendee at a meeting. Are you going to write about the role of a meeting leader?

    I’ve read a lot of articles about being a better leader, but they all start with planning an agenda. I can do that and set it up. I’m more interested in how to manage things as it goes along.

    Another request I have is for something on how to deal with the overall look of a work area. I don’t know exactly what I’m after with that, but I know when I come in and turn on the lights our office is dismal looking. We have junk all over and I haven’t wanted to make rules about how to keep the work areas looking better. This may be too much to take on in my limited time here, but it bugs me every day. Thanks again.

    Comment by C.H. | June 22, 2008

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