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How To Make Meetings Work For You

Ramon Greenwood -- You might as well stop complaining about meetings. Like it or not, they are here to stay. So it makes sense to make meetings work for you.

Here eight things you can do to reach that goal.

1. Do your homework.

Most people don't. Just by being prepared you will enjoy an advantage. Know what the meeting is all about -- the stated purpose as well as the hidden agenda. If you don't know, ask. Study the background materials. Set your own goal for the session. Make a list of the points you want to make and compile the facts to support them.

2. Never be late for a meeting.

If the others have started without you, you begin with a disadvantage. The positioning ritual has already begun, and some information has been exchanged.

3. Understand that meetings go through stages:

1) participants feel out each other; 2) a pecking order is established; 3) ground rules and purposes emerge; and 4) the subject is addressed.

Obviously, you clog up the process if you are operating in one stage while others are in another.

4. Understand the dynamics of the meeting, especially the seating arrangement.

For example, you will see that if you are to be seated at a rectangular table, the leader will gravitate to the head of the table, whether the seat is assigned or not; the number two person will sit at the other end. Even if someone other than the top honcho is seated at the head of the table that person will act more forcefully than usual.

You can also get a feel for how confident various people are feeling about their roles by observing how they sit in their chairs. Those who are confident in their power are likely to be sitting more relaxed, sort of laid back in their chairs. Those who are supplicants, anxious to win a point or make an impression, are apt to be sitting forward in a somewhat rigid position.

5. Participate.

You weren't invited to the meeting because of your good looks.

Speak up. If you have questions about the purpose of the meeting or the order of the agenda, say so. Help keep things on track by sticking to the point and challenging (in a friendly way) those who stray off the path.

6. If you have what you think is the best idea since sliced bread, offer it with confidence and enthusiasm, but not as if it were the only solution.

If someone tries to skew your idea in a direction you never intended, try saying, "I am sorry I didn't make myself clear. What I was suggesting was..."

Expect that others may attempt to amend your idea. If they are successful, always be the one who restates the revised version. This way you are assured your core idea survives and you retain authorship.

7. Don't be afraid to disagree with other participants when it is necessary.

Although, disagreements are never pleasant, the meeting is foreordained to failure if honest differences of opinion aren't tolerated. Try to disagree pleasantly, of course.

8. Do your part to make meetings effective.

Remember, some wise man said, "The only thing wrong with meetings is the people who attend them."

Ramon Greenwood, Senior Career Counselor at Common Sense At Work, is a former Senior Vice President of American Express. To subscribe to his free semi-monthly newsletter and blog please go to http://www.commonsenseatwork.com/getitnow.

© 2007 Ramon Greenwood

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