People don’t like being in meetings, and that makes it really difficult to host a good one. But, at least for now, they are still a necessary evil for a lot of companies. The first step toward making meetings better might be knowing when you’re running a bad one. Here are a few ways to tell.
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1. Eye contact — with everyone but you.
If your colleagues are spending a lot of time looking at each other but not at you, your meeting might be in trouble. These looks are probably knowing glances, and it’s probably not knowledge of your awesomeness that they’re silently exchanging. If everyone is looking down, away, off into the distance, or at each other, it’s a pretty safe bet things aren’t going so great.
It’s true that everyone is responsible for their own behavior, good or bad, during meetings. When folks are disengaged, not paying attention, maybe even texting on their cellphones, that reflects poorly on them. However, when the majority of people seem to be losing focus, it makes sense to pay attention to what you can do, as the person running the meeting, to bring them back.
3. Empty chairs near you.
This is something you have to pay attention to at the beginning of a meeting, and it reflects more on the past, and other’s opinions of you overall, than on what’s happening today. Pay attention to where people sit when they come into the meeting. (Assuming you’re there early enough — which you should be). If the empty chairs end up in the back of the room, that’s great. But, if those seats are by you, not such a great sign.
4. Don’t forget the classics.
It can be difficult to focus on, or even notice, what’s happening around you when you’re running a meeting. It’s hard enough to keep the agenda moving along and attend to all priorities thoroughly and diligently. But, it’s important to pay attention to what your meeting attendees are doing while you’re talking. The classic signs of boredom and/or discomfort are likely to rise to the surface and be pretty obvious; you just need to remember to look for them. Checking the clock, or watches/phones, yawning, hand on chin…. If people look bored and unhappy, assume they’re bored and unhappy.
5. No questions or comments.
In this context, silence is not golden. If getting participation starts to feel like pulling teeth, people are probably not enjoying your meeting very much. Ever heard of, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? Yup. So have they.
6. Post meeting chatter.
If the same folks who threw deadly silence your way seem to have plenty to talk about, with each other, just following your meeting — it’s not a good sign. This seems pretty obvious, but it should be mentioned anyway just in case you’ve somehow convinced yourself that these chats are benign. Maybe they’re planning a surprise celebration of your recent promotion? They might be planning something — but probably not that.
Tell Us What You Think
How can someone tell when they’re running a bad meeting? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.