1. Know your agenda.
A business meeting consumes time, and since you have a limited amount of time, you want to attend only those business meetings that move you closer to your goals. Therefore, when confronted with the opportunity to attend a meeting, first review your personal and career goals so you can assess whether it will be time well spent, and how you’ll spend the time if you attend.
2. Know why the meeting was called.
People call business meetings for seven reasons, so plan accordingly:
- To get you to decide something. (Probably useful to you).
- To hone their own ideas. (Maybe useful to you).
- To convey information. (Probably not useful; ask for a document instead).
- To test out a presentation. (Probably not useful unless it’s your boss.)
- To accomplish group writing. (Never useful to anybody.)
- To prove their own importance. (Never useful to anybody.)
- To fulfill a process step. (Never useful to anybody.)
3. Limit your meeting attendance.
If there’s any question as to whether your presence is required, compare your own goals to the meeting’s reason and decide whether the benefit of attending is greater than the benefit of doing something else. To make this decision, ask yourself two questions: “What’s in it for me?” and “What bad thing would happen if I pass on it?”
If the answer is close to “nothing” and “nothing,” find a reason not to attend. Skip the next steps; you’re done.
4. Prepare yourself well.
Since you’ve decided to attend the meeting, your goal is contribute to the meeting in a way that reinforces your own agenda. Research the background of the topics that will be discussed. Ask whoever called the meeting what will be discussed and how you should best prepare.
5. Gather your ideas.
As the meeting progresses, take notes about what’s said. Look for areas of discussion where you might be able to either; add value, burnish your reputation, or get an outcome that you are hoping for. When you do say something, prepare to express it as a complete thought, rather than a half-prepared remark that peters out in the middle.
6. Read the room, then contribute.
The trick to contributing to a meeting (and looking good in the process) is to make your remarks toward the end of that part of the discussion. When you express your own view, speak confidently and in complete sentences. Then, if appropriate, ask a question that you feel will move the discussion in a direction in which you’d like to see the meeting go.
SHORTCUT: ATTENDING MEETINGS
- TREAT meetings as a possible way to advance your agenda.
- SOME types of meetings can be useful; others are usually not.
- DECIDE whether each meeting will be useful or useless.
- EITHER decline to attend or prepare well; no in‑between.
- TAKE notes so you can speak coherently when it’s your turn.
- SPEAK confidently and, when appropriate, otherwise, do not.