Five things to never do in business meetings

How much time do you spend in business meetings? According to research from Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics, executives spend upwards of 18 hours per week – that’s a third of their working week – in meetings. That’s an awful lot of time spent drinking coffee, shooting the breeze and talking about KPIs.

So given we spend so much of our working life in meetings, how can we make sure we’re not just wasting our time?

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Here are five things you should never do in business meetings.

1.    Go in unprepared

Turning up unprepared to a meeting is the worst thing you can do. Failing to read important documents, neglecting to read-up on the client or simply coming in tired can turn a potentially successful meeting into a spectacular failure.

Instead, make sure to dedicate time to some meeting prep. Read any necessary documents. If you’re meeting an external company, get a good idea of what they do and how they work. Jot down a list of focus points so you’ve got a meeting structure you can work from.

2.    Forget people’s names

‘Sorry, what’s your name again?’ – not something you want to utter in a business meeting. It makes you appear unprofessional and disengaged.

When meeting a set of new people it can be difficult to remember everyone’s names, but that’s no excuse. There are loads of easy memory techniques you can learn to make sure you remember peoples’ names. A really simple way is just to list meeting participants’ names on a Post-it and keep it in front of you, hidden by your notepad of course.

3.    Check your mobile excessively

The smartphone is an integral part of business life, but excessively checking your mobile for texts and emails or messing about with apps in a meeting is a massive turn-off. And it doesn’t matter if you’re checking your phone for work reasons – because that’s just as bad. It makes you look uninterested in what’s going on and won’t inspire confidence from other attendees.

Instead, put your phone on silent and choose a good time – like a mid-meeting coffee break – to pop out of the room and check your phone and catch up on any important mail or missed calls.

4.  Make promises you can’t keep

It’s much harder to say no to someone in person than it is over email or telephone conversation, but it’s important that you don’t make promises you can’t keep just because the person asking you is sat across the table.

Whether it’s a client asking you to provide a service which isn’t within your remit, or your boss asking if you are willing to take on some extra work, if you can’t do it, it’s important to be honest and explain why. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to backtrack at a later date, which will cause more problems and probably mean that much of the meeting was pointless.

5. Don’t let it end shakily

All too often business meetings fritter away into nothingness, with no firm agreements made or follow-up points scheduled. You might come up with some great ideas but they can easily fall away into the ether. Ensure you lay out action points in the meeting, then follow-up later via email.

Posted by Julie Tucker

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