Go to Meetings Prepared: 4 Survival Tips

Go to Meetings Prepared: 4 Survival Tips

The best way to go to meetings is to be prepared. No, I’m not talking about reading the agenda, doing “homework” or writing reports. I’m talking about some simple steps that will keep you in the game and save your sanity if the meeting goes bad.

I call these practices for effective meetings Carl’s Rules of Order:

Bring your own coffee

Or juice. Or water. Or whatever it is that you need to survive being trapped in enclosed spaces with people you really don’t want to be with.

I don’t care what the agenda says about coffee and treats. What if they forget the coffee? Or they have plenty of blue-packet sweetener but no yellow?

Don’t rely on someone else to provide basic sustenance for you. Be prepared

Bring a notebook

It doesn’t matter if you’re a good notetaker or not. On the off chance someone says something that you’re going to need to remember, you want to be able to write it down.

If this is so not worth your time, at least you can work on some other pressing issues. Like your grocery shopping list. Or prioritize tasks for the project you can’t work on because you’re in this meeting.

Yes, I’m writing this blog post while in a marketing prioritization meeting.

Think before you speak

This is tricky territory. Keeping quiet in hopes no one will notice you or because you’re afraid you will sound stupid is a bad strategy. It could draw attention to you because you’re not contributing or someone will think you’re stupid.

Then again, speaking could be interpreted as volunteering for a project you can’t fit into your schdule. The best way to fix that is to follow up with the task assigner after the meeting and see what you can rearrange to make things work.

Practice your phoney skills

I call this the nuclear option. Only to be used when all else fails. This is tricky because I don’t know what the culture is in your company regarding cell phones in meetings. Generally, no one wants to be interrupted by a ringtone based upon music from your formative years. But can you use a “phone call” to get out of the meeting?

Thanks to vibrate mode, you don’t need to schedule an incoming fake call. Act surprised at something only you can feel and fish your phone out of your pocket. This is where rehearsal comes in handy.

  • Keep your one way conversation simple and terse.
  • Silently say “Sorry” to the rest of the room.
  • Purposefully exit while asking “the caller” to hold on for a couple of seconds.
  • Come up with a good excuse.

These are my rules of order — let me know yours in the comments.

(Image courtesy of Office Now under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)

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Carl Natale is a freelance blogger who writes about tips and advice for small businesses. He runs the site Expensiccino.com - a site about how top brands set their prices.


  1. Steve Holland on the 27th October

    As a boss, this article annoys me. I schedule meetings for a reason.

  2. Gabriele Maidecchi on the 28th October

    Nice suggestions, apart the last one which I personally consider a bit too drastic, but I can imagine meetings can get quite annoying at times, especially if you lack an agenda of some sort.
    Being usually on the organizational side of meetings, I do my best to make them fast and straight to the point, as I firmly believe they should be used to agree/disagree on important decisions rather than being used for “projectual chit-chat”, spending hours circling around the same topics over and over without any sense of accomplishment.
    If you can finish one of my meetings thinking “yes, this was useful and important decisions were made”, it means I did a good job leading it.

  3. Gargi on the 29th October

    Bringing a notebook is simply the most important thing! I dont understand how people just walk into a meeting room with nothing but their cell phone in hand. How will they remember all the important points discussed in the meeting?

  4. Luce on the 3rd November

    Haha! That’s funny ! But man I think you have issues at work ;D

  5. Jakob on the 26th November

    I wonder – Are you posting under your real name?
    Typing your name in google should get your boss, supervisor or who ever is the nearest pain in the… for you is, right here, where he than will read about your fake call performance… Good luck, though.
    By the way, you should foreword the ted link to the person who is responsible for scheduling your meetings… Might change his/her mind and you will have to “survive” one or two less of them…

    Coz best meetings are no meetings 😉


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