Making Effective Contributions in Meetings

Following two years of disruption, much of the UK work force has now returned to the office in some way, whether full-time or on a hybrid basis. After working from home for so long and acclimatising to a virtual environment, how can we get back into the swing of things and make meaningful contributions in face-to-face meetings?

Preparation plays a key role in the success of any meeting. If you have been asked to attend a meeting and you are unsure of where your role lies, you may wish to speak to the organiser and ask why they invited you and what they feel you can provide. Knowing exactly what you can contribute helps to provide focus on where you can participate and allows you to be clear and concise with your input. If you have any specialist information, data, or questions you’d like to discuss, making notes on how these apply to the meeting agenda can ensure your points are relevant and timely.

It is also important to recognise that not every contribution has to be ground-breaking. Many of us frequently dismiss raising discussion points or queries as we believe them to be too obvious. Often, this assumption is made as the subject relates to your area of work. Remember, not everyone in the meeting will have the same knowledge or area of expertise and other participants may welcome additional details or further clarification on a topic.

Summarising the discussion or reiterating the main points may be a useful tool to refocus conversation and promote decision-making. This could include reminding the group of key goals or performance indicators which can promote the finalisation of actions and allow for a conclusion, progressing the meeting to the next item on the agenda and ensuring it stays on track. This will certainly be appreciated as no one wants to be stuck in a meeting that revisits the same points and runs over its scheduled time.

Effective input to a meeting can also be made by helping others to communicate their position. Asking individuals for their opinion can foster an inclusive environment and encourage a wider range of contributions. If a colleague is ignored or interrupted, you may wish to ask them to repeat their point to ensure they are heard. Additionally, if you agree with what someone is saying, crediting their contribution, whilst potentially expanding on their point, can help build their stance and create a compelling argument.

Conversely, whilst it may be easier to simply agree, don’t be afraid to highlight any issues you see. Project meetings are often the first opportunity for problems to be raised and highlighting them allows for discussion and the proposal of solutions, resulting in stronger outcomes. However, when raising issues, ensure you remain open and polite and invite constructive debate, not conflict.

Being aware of non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions or body language, can be hugely advantageous when communicating, particularly if dealing with difficult conversations. Displaying open and engaged body language e.g., leaning forward and uncrossing your arms, can demonstrate you are interested in listening to someone’s opinion, open to discussion, and not overly defensive of your position.

Lastly, when starting out, it may be difficult to feel confident in speaking up at all. This doesn’t mean you are unable to contribute in any meaningful way. Although organisations will sometimes have certain official meeting roles already assigned, you could offer to assist by taking notes. Adopting this role will show you are a confident, active listener who can effectively connect topics of discussion. It will also place you in the position of shaping the record and result in you being the go-to contact following the meeting.

For more guidance on participating in meetings, such as how to prepare or taking minutes, there are modules available on the Aviva Development Zone. Visit mydevelopment.zone to find out more or contact the Development Zone team at: devzone@rwagroup.co.uk.

About the author

Chloe joined us in 2020, having graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication at the University of South Wales. Chloe assists in the design and content creation of new e-learning modules as well as the re-branding of existing courses.

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