14 things highly successful people never do in meetings

“That meeting could have been an email” has become a common catchphrase in the corporate world.

Even so, meetings remain a necessary part of working life.  

Love them or loathe them, they give you a chance to touch base on important projects, set priorities, and get much-needed face-time with colleagues and supervisors.

They can also be a stepping stone to advancing your career – as long as you conduct yourself properly.  

On that note, let’s go through 14 things highly successful people never do in meetings.

Avoid them like the plague.

1) Fail to prepare

Regardless of how unimportant you deem the meeting, never show up flustered and unprepared.

It’s not only unprofessional but it can also be interpreted as disrespectful to your colleagues’ time.

If you’re the one calling the meeting, set an agenda and formulate some talking points in advance.

Otherwise, peruse the required materials, have any information you may need to present at the ready, and make sure you’re clear on how your tasks are going.

There’s nothing more annoying than waiting for someone to string together a couple of coherent sentences about an ongoing project.

Highly successful people are never caught off-guard.  

2) Forget to double-check the equipment

With more meetings taking place online, remember to test-run any equipment you may need ahead of time.

Technical glitches happen, but it’s crucial to do everything you can to prevent them.

If the meeting is online, make sure your software, camera, and microphone work before joining in.

When you have to hold a presentation, confirm that your laptop has enough battery, your slides are flawless, and the projector is fully functional.

Ideally, you should rehearse your presentation a couple of times with the equipment in place to avoid unpleasant surprises.

As an added bonus, doing so will boost your confidence.

3) Dress inappropriately

If you’re heading to an in-person meeting at the office, I bet the chances of you showing up in your PJs are slim to none.

While the rules are more relaxed when it comes to online meetings, looking rumpled and messy won’t do you any good.  

Highly successful people are always put-together.  

For a formal meeting, a suit is a must. If the meeting is more casual, you can get away with wearing a shirt and jeans, depending on your workplace’s dress code.

Again, it’s a matter of respect. 

A professional outfit shows that you value the time of the other participants and that you’re willing to make an effort (even if you’re not physically in the room).

4) Show up late

Speaking of respect, being late to a meeting is a big no-no.

Stay on top of your schedule, and always show up a couple of minutes early.

Otherwise, you risk coming across as someone with poor time management and crappy manners.

Additionally, you’ll interrupt the flow of the proceedings and may miss out on important points.

Pro tip: whenever you add a meeting to your calendar, set a reminder for 15 or 20 minutes before.

That should give you enough time to wrap up or pause other tasks and arrive on time.

5) Waste time

Remember the agenda I mentioned earlier? Stick to it.

Meetings aren’t an excuse to gossip with your co-workers, ask everyone how their pets are doing, or dissect the latest blockbuster movie taking the country by storm.

While a couple of minutes of banter as the meeting kicks off can relax the atmosphere, once you get into the thick of things, all conversations should be strictly on topic.

If you want to discuss something unrelated with your manager or a colleague, ask for a couple of minutes of their time after the meeting wraps up.

There’s no need to hold everyone hostage.

Related: 10 ways to improve your conversation skills (and why it matters)

6) Zone out

Speaking of wasting time, make sure you don’t waste yours, either.

Zoning out during a meeting can make you miss out on critical information being shared with the group. 

Also, it’s kind of rude.

This tip applies to online meetings in particular, given that it’s considerably easier to get distracted when you attend from home.

You can avoid drifting off by asking questions often.

And if the meeting really proves to be unnecessary?

Use this time to work on your active listening skills

You never know when they might come in handy.

7) Scroll on their phone

It’s tempting, especially if you always reach for your phone when your mind wanders.

However, mindlessly scrolling during a meeting is a clear sign that you’re disengaged.

The emails and social media updates will still be there when the meeting is over.

Instead, give your colleagues and managers your full, undivided attention, even when the topic at hand isn’t all that interesting.

They’ll return the favor, which will only benefit you in the long run.

8) Don’t take notes

If you work for a big company, there’s a good chance someone is already in charge of taking notes and sharing them with the group.

That said, taking your own notes during a meeting still comes with benefits:

  • It helps you recall the topics shared with more ease
  • You can jot down information others might have missed
  • It keeps your hands occupied and your mind focused
  • You have a clear list of key points and action items you need to address
  • It makes others feel heard
  • You can share them with co-workers who couldn’t be there

While you can use your smartphone or laptop, I strongly advise using pen and paper.

This way, the other attendees won’t have reason to suspect that you’re online shopping while they’re talking about an essential company update.

9) Say nothing

When it comes to meetings, highly successful people know that being an active participant is a must.

I’m in no way suggesting you veer off-topic (remember the advice about not wasting time?) or interrupt others.  

Asking pertinent questions and speaking up when the topic concerns you, however, should definitely be on your to-do list.

That said, don’t take things too far. This brings us to…

10) Monopolize the conversation

Group meetings aren’t your time to shine.

Even if you’re holding the meeting yourself or sharing a presentation, it’s important to let others chime in as well.

This shows that you’re a team player and that you value others’ input.

These two traits will only help you become more successful in the long run.

11) Get confrontational

On the same note, a professional meeting isn’t a good time to get into a colleague’s face or put them on the spot.

If you have constructive feedback for someone or concerns about their performance, the more respectful thing to do is to share them in private after the meeting concludes.

Getting confrontational in the middle of a meeting will disrupt the proceedings and may even cause the session to run long.

While workplace conflict is often unavoidable, there’s a time and place for everything.

12) Slouch

If your goal is to emulate a highly successful person, it’s time to play the part.

As superficial as it may sound, appearances matter.

Slouching in your chair makes you look weak and disinterested. 

Good posture, in contrast, enables you to make a powerful impression.  

Similarly, avoid doing any of these:

  • Yawning
  • Biting your nails
  • Chewing gum
  • Keeping your arms crossed in a defensive stance
  • Playing with your hair
  • Rolling your eyes 

Think of the way you present yourself as your most important business card.

The more polished you look and act, the more respect you’ll command from those around you.   

13) Skip the recap

As the meeting wraps up, take a moment to quickly go through everything that has been discussed.

This way, you keep others accountable, and you have a better chance of committing the talking points to memory.

Furthermore, it gives attendees the impression that the meeting was productive, even if that might not have 100% been the case.

It’s a win-win.

14) Neglect to follow up

With the meeting in the rearview mirror, now what?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: highly successful people follow up.

If you were in charge of the meeting, send the attendees an email thanking them for their time and reinforcing key decisions.

If your manager assigned you a task, email to confirm that you’re on top of things.

If your team took on a new project, email to ensure that everyone knows what they have to do.

You get the idea.

Final thoughts

Meetings may be a necessary evil, but they’re also an opportunity to showcase your drive and professionalism.

As long as you avoid the mistakes above, you’ll be able to dazzle your co-workers and supervisors with how well-prepared you are.

They’ll surely remember that when it’s time for your next performance review.  

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