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Nine ways to succeed in meetings

Most of us see meetings as something to be endured. If you're lucky you'll get your points across. If unlucky you’ll either emerge with reams of action points or worse, a headache from being trapped in an over-heated, under-ventilated room listening to people drone on.

Tanya Beckett looks at the art of the meeting for In Business on Radio 4, but here’s our take on how to succeed in meetings.

Position yourself well in a meeting, opposite or at least within eye contact range of, the person with the highest status in the room.

1. Get your agenda straight

What do you want from this meeting? Mark your own agenda points against those on the official agenda, so you can ensure you got your points across and you can keep yourself focused.

2. Know who everyone is

Get to the meeting early...good advice anyway, but this also gives you the added advantage of being to introduce yourself to anyone you don’t already know and find out a little about them. There’s nothing less empowering in a meeting than not being entirely sure what everyone’s role and responsibilities are.

3. Position yourself well

The ideal position is where you are opposite, or at least within eye contact range of, the person with the highest status in the room. Don’t take the chair that’s been squodged in the corner of the table or you'll find yourself being pushed back and on the fringes of the group.

4. Speak up

In terms of voice, make sure you breathe slowly. If the people around you are stressed or excitable, or the meeting is a contentious one, you can find your own voice rising in pitch and your breathing becoming lighter and less beneficial. Don’t get drawn into the tension, drop your shoulders and breathe deeply, and you can become the voice of authority rather than part of the clamour.

5. Don’t be overly polite

Obviously we’re not suggesting you bellow over other people’s contributions, but if you feel (partiuclarly if you are chair) that someone has been holding forth for too long, don’t be afraid to say “thanks so much X; that’s very helpful but we have limited time today so could we hear from other people?”

Don't get your phone out in meetings, it's distracting.

6. Do not have your phone out

It’s rude, you’ll be distratcted and you’ll find checking it irresistible, and it will also distract other peoile. Even the flashing indicator of a silent message can be irritating to others.

7. Decisions, decisions

Be very specific. Don’t review, discuss or consider, at a meeting; state your aim. “The reason were here is to decide whether we proceed with xx, and I’d like to have made that decision by 11am, when this meeting ends.” If everyone’s done a pre-read, there’s no need to go through everything in the issues in the meeting.

8. Don’t be ‘that person’

Yes Ok you have a personal hobby-horse. You want to know why the printer never works, or why someone keeps taking your parking space, or why the canteen always runs out of the chicken before you get there. But this meeting is not the place to air it. If everyone’s leaning forward and casting around to pick up their stuff and leave don’t be the one that then clambers on their hobby horse and starts ranting.

9. Thank you letters

If someone championed you in a meeting, or chaired it well, or went to some effort to arrange refreshment or transport, thank them via email. Don’t gush, but they will be glad you noticed.

Biscuits can make a meeting more tolerable.

We have a love hate relationship with meetings. They’re a necessary evil, but they can be a lot more productive and even enjoyable if we handle them better. And there’s always the hope that there might be biscuits.