Meetings are the cornerstone (=foundation) of successful teamwork. Poor meetings result in poor products, frustration, and conflicts while effective meetings lead to better ideas, more efficient workflows, and increased team engagement.
That’s why it’s essential (=very important) for you as a team member to develop skills and competencies that will help you add value to (=be useful to) every meeting you attend.
In this article, we will highlight 4 core skills for productive meetings worth mastering first and foremost.
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Before we describe what active listening is, let’s first determine what active listening isn’t.
Active listening is NOT:
- Multitasking when you’re in a meeting (for example, writing an email when your colleague is speaking)
- Coming up with a “good answer” in your head when someone else is speaking (this way, you will only hear half of what that person had to say and will miss potentially important information)
- Spacing out (for example, saying “yes”, “sure”, “uh-huh”, etc. to show that you’re listening when in reality you’re thinking about something else).
Active listening means really listening. It involves three things:
- Understanding what the person is saying
- Responding and giving feedback
- Retaining (=remembering) that information for later
So next time you’re in a meeting, put your phone away, close out of the tabs you don’t need for that meeting, focus on the topic at hand (=the topic which is currently being discussed), and most importantly, listen to the other meeting participants.
Empathy is the ability to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings. Having empathy also means being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes (=imagine yourself in the other person’s place) and predict how people will react to certain situations.
Empathy can have a huge impact on team dynamics. It all goes back to the basic principle: treat others how you would like to be treated.
One of the basic ways to show empathy is treating people’s opinions and ideas with importance.
- Avoid talking over (=interrupting) others
If you absolutely have to interrupt someone, use phrases like:
“Sorry to interrupt you, but…”
“Sorry to cut you off, but…”
“If I may jump in for a second…”
“Sorry, just a quick question”.
“Go ahead, I didn’t mean to cut you off”.
2. Don’t be dismissive (=don’t show disregard)
Even if people say something irrelevant or inappropriate, you need to deal with that in a polite and professional manner. Feel free to use phrases like:
“We might circle back to that later. Let’s focus on the topics on our agenda for now”.
“I’m not sure about that / I don’t know about that” (a polite way to disagree with someone).
“This issue is outside the scope of this meeting”.
“Let’s get back to the topic of …(integrating a third-party solution)”.
In the context of work meetings, you will need excellent communication skills in order to make sure there is no room for misunderstanding (there is no opportunity for you to be misunderstood).
Don’t be shy to ask clarifying questions as much as you need. To help you understand things more clearly, paraphrase and summarize all the key points.
Client: “We want to ensure that our infrastructure is secure and that we have proper monitoring and logging in place. It would be fantastic if you could guarantee that within the next sprint”.
You: “So our priority right now is to set up logging and monitoring mechanisms to prevent security issues and you’d like this done by the end of April. Is that right?”
04-Planning and time management
These are essential soft skills for everyday work that will also be extremely useful if you participate in any sort of meetings.
Before the meeting
- Review the meeting agenda (if you’re the one leading the meeting, you’ll be in charge of creating the meeting agenda).
- Prepare a list of topics to discuss that will be relevant for this meeting (you can simply jot down (=note down) a list of bullet points).
- Prepare a list of appropriate questions to ask and issues to clarify.
During the meeting
- Take notes (you might even assign a designated note taker who will share the meeting notes with everyone else)
- Manage time (be aware that time is limited. Don’t start irrelevant discussions and avoid rambling (=talking too much without a clear purpose)).
- Wrap up (=finish) the meeting with a list of clear action items, complete with the deadlines and the people responsible for each item.
After the meeting
Recap next steps and action items. Make sure everyone is on the same page (=in agreement) as to what needs to be done (you can do so in the common chat room or via email).