How to be Mindful and Present at Business Meetings

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We have busy lives. At any given moment, we have information flying at us from ten different directions. Our family, coworkers and even people we meet in passing need our attention. How much attention do we actually give them?

One setting where your divided attention can be detrimental to your success and that of others is a business meeting. Meetings can be boring and nonsensical but they can also be a place where ideas are exchanged and problems are solved. That only happens if everyone is engaged and they offer up their best input. That’s difficult to do when you’re distracted.

Here are a few suggestions to get the most out of a meeting and to show-up in your best light.

Use an Agenda
If you’re leading the meeting, please create an agenda and stick to it. Value the time your attendees are giving you and they’ll be more willing to meet with you in the future.

Set Ground Rules
If this is the first time your group is meeting, set-up some ground rules as to how the meeting will be run and how you’ll communicate with each other. At a minimum, the rules need to include something to support the idea that everyone’s opinion is of value.

Turn off the Gadgets
It’s common courtesy but set your phone to vibrate or turn it off. Better yet, have everyone in the meeting pile their phones in the middle of the table and no one touches them until you’re done.

It’s become more acceptable in the past few years to have your laptop or mobile device open during a meeting. Often, attendees have the intent of taking notes or they want to have information “handy.” I’ve lost track of how many 30-minute meetings turned into 2-hours meetings, however, because people had to “just answer this quick email” or “John in accounting just sent me an urgent message. Just give me a second.” Multiply this by the number of people in the meeting and you can see how the technology that was supposed to help has become a disruptor.

Have attendees stick to paper-based notes. In his blog post How to Take Notes Like an Alpha-Geek, Tim Ferriss (of 4-Hour Work Week fame) states “I don’t use digital notetaking tools. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve noticed that some of the most innovative techies in Silicon Valley do the same, whether with day-planner calendars, memo pads, or just simple notecards with a binder clip. It’s a personal choice, and I like paper.” I’m of the same mind. I take notes faster on paper and not having the distraction of the technology allows me to focus on what’s being said without interruption.

Make Eye Contact
Make eye contact with the current speaker. It doesn’t need to be a constant, creepy leer. Instead, let them know you’re listening intently by making that connection when they get started. You’ll likely look away as the conversation moves forward and you take notes or look at presentation material but that initial contact will make them feel valued. You’ll want the same when it’s your turn to talk.

Acknowledge Input
Even if it’s completely off-the-wall, acknowledge any input given. It may have taken great strength for someone to finally put themselves out there during the meeting. Encouraging them will ensure they keep offering their insight and, you never know, their next idea might be the gem your business needs.

Close on a Positive Note
Even if the discussion was tense and traumatic, end the meeting with a positive message. If you’re discussing how to shut down your business after 20 years, it could be something like “I really valued all of the input you gave today. Jane’s suggestion about the outplacement service can really help make this process less difficult for our employees.”

In your next meeting, pay attention to how you’re showing up. Are you writing a long letter to your mom when you’re supposed to be taking notes or are you valuing others and being of value?

Photo credit: shareski / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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