Thompson Rivers University

How to survive and thrive in meetings

  Posted on: September 8, 2022

picture of a team meeting

Learn different ways to contribute effectively in online and in-person meetings.

Meetings are for information sharing, brainstorming, planning or problem-solving, so knowing what to expect and what is expected of you will make for a productive collaborative process. When starting a Co-op, WorkStudy, or peer leadership position, or when it’s time to join the workforce post-graduation, you will likely have to contribute in a group setting.

Learning Strategist Sydney LaMarsh worked on this list alongside Laiba Qureshi, Learning Strategist (Co-op); LaMarsh says, “When done right, meetings provide opportunities to connect and collaborate with others.  Exchanging ideas and input, so everyone feels valued and understood is part of the process.”

  1. Review the agenda

Most of the time, the organizer will send out an agenda a few days ahead. Review it so you can be better equipped to contribute, ask questions or provide updates.

  1. Prepare

Consider how the agenda may relate to you and your role. For example, if you’re a student storyteller, you might be asked to pitch an idea about a potential blog post. Instead of being stuck on the spot, prepare ahead of time.

  1. Be on time

We’ve all been there, waiting (sometimes impatiently) for the final person to arrive at a meeting. We all managed to be here on time; why can’t they?

By being punctual, you are respecting other people’s time and helping to ensure there is time for everything on the agenda to be covered. However, sometimes uncontrollable or unforeseen circumstances mess up a neatly organized schedule. If you’re running behind, reach out to your teammates as soon as possible through email, text, phone or Microsoft Teams.

Recommendation: If being late becomes an ongoing issue, set reminders in your calendar, and give yourself a 15-minute buffer, so you have time to use the washroom and walk to the location. Arriving a few minutes early should be the goal.

  1. Take notes

Unless you have an echoic memory, you won’t remember everything you heard or the specifics of the discussion. Just as you would in a lecture, taking brief notes ensures you’ll have a reference point to work with when it’s time to tackle any related tasks.

Recommendation: Using a note-taking app is acceptable, but be mindful of your phone use. For example, scrolling on Instagram or texting isn’t a good look.

  1. Participate (and allow space for everyone to engage).

Meetings shouldn’t be a dialogue between two people when five people are present, nor should they be a monologue. Items should not be discussed that do not pertain to every person present. Save sidebar conversations until after the meeting, or schedule a separate appointment to discuss new issues or topics that arise. Ideally, meetings are a time for collaboration so everyone at the table (or on the screen) can contribute. However, sometimes it can feel very nerve-wracking to speak up. In cases where you’re feeling overwhelmed, offer suggestions in the chat, or send an email afterwards to highlight any ideas.

Reminder:  Be sure to mute your mic if you’re meeting online. Background noise is very distracting and can disturb the sound feed for other participants.

  1. Leave meetings with action items and next steps

At the end of the meeting, make time to summarize the tasks or next steps. What are you responsible for completing? A clear understanding of expectations increases accountability and outlines responsibility for tasks and deadlines. If there are any lingering questions, ask for clarification.

Recommendation: To eliminate confusion and ensure clear communication, Learning Strategist (Co-op) student Liaba Qureshi suggests paraphrasing significant discussion points to show you understand the material.

  1. Set a time to reconvene

Ensure a deadline is provided for task completion, and book another meeting to discuss. If your team has just met for a brainstorming session, ensure it ends with clear action items. The next meeting can serve as a check-in around task completion, where you can identify barriers and solve problems as a team.