The power of being present at meetings

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Have you ever had a meeting where you feel like you’re both playing Battleship? Dueling laptops facing off just inches apart; mobiles and coffee cups perched precariously on the way too small table. Even though you’re meant to be getting together for a meeting, there’s barely any eye contact or non verbal interaction. You’re both intent on capturing notes, discreetly responding to chats, and trying not to look at those notifications. Sometimes I feel that niggle of guilt at not being more in the moment or get that flash of annoyance that the other person is not just not engaged.

There is a challenge to being present that we all face even though we know it’s the right thing to do. Somehow being present seems contrary to the heroics of being a consummate Multitasker. The first step for me was deciding that I wanted to be present. I wanted to be more than a bystander in my interactions with the people around me and actively participate in the conversations. I figured if I didn’t want that then why was I there in the first place?

3 Benefits of Being Present

  • Be more respectful to whom you’re working with and build true connections.
  • Better productivity when you’re able to focus on the topic at hand
  • Interestingly, I found I had more patience when I didn’t allow distractions to interrupt me.

Practice being Present

Committing to being present takes effort and it’ll feel awkward initially going Cold Turkey leaving the laptop closed. Some practices I’ve found helpful include;

  • Manage your Technology
    • Set devices to silent to reduce the risk of distraction during the meeting and not be facing any screens where possible.
    • Be mindful that the Always Available status of technology offers the promise of never being alone and always being heard. At a face to face meeting, realize you’ll have all this and the opportunity to build this relationship without any devices.
  • Manage your Mindset
    • As a mentor to a variety of startups; I find it amazingly productive to take the time to focus on your breathing and intention prior to a meeting. It frees my mind to Task Switch to the upcoming conversation and enter the meeting calm, engaged and unburdened.
    • Commit to Active Listening techniques such as rephrasing what you have heard and incorporating your observations and insights. Be open to learn and share.
  • Capture your Thoughts and Intentions
    • Good conversations generate thoughts and actions that should be recorded. I try to stay present at the meeting and note down highlights to act on or flesh out afterwards. I’ve tried writing in a notebook or texting on a device but there is a disruption to the flow of the conversation with both ways.
    • At Verbz, we’re exploring how to dictate our thoughts into highlights and delegated actions in a low effort manner that minimizes interruption to conversation. Using my voice, I can capture the highlights of the meeting and assign tasks spun out of the conversation whilst I make my way to the next engagement.
  • Be True to your Word
    • Being able to act on the meeting’s outcomes quickly and effortlessly reduces my cognitive load for the rest of the day and the amount of follow up work later.
    • Prompt and transparent action demonstrates to the other parties you are engaged with the deliverables and strengthens your reputation as an effective leader and member of the team.

Conclusion

Meetings are an integral part of our day and I’m learning to see them as golden opportunities to connect with those I work with and be a productive use of time. By practicing being present and using the right tools; I hope you will Get More Done whilst building rapport.

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