Being a young woman in a meeting can feel intimidating, no matter how well prepared for it you are. All the people with suits and portfolios can make the meeting room feel stuffy, and it’s easy for imposter syndrome to kick in and make you feel like you don’t even belong in the room. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, lost, or even bored during meetings, here are some ways you can practice active listening and get the most out of your meetings.
Write down notes | If you’re having trouble staying engaged in the meeting, then taking physical notes will help you keep your head in the game and actively engaged in what the speakers and other contributors are talking about. Taking notes on the computer is okay, but recent studies have demonstrated that you remember things better when you write them down with a pen or a pencil because it’s more involved and allows you to express exactly what you want to remember.
Ask questions | One of the main reasons that big meetings can be intimidating is because there are terms and references that go right over your head. Some of the attendees may be working from a set of knowledge or assumptions of which you’re completely unaware. The old saying goes, “If you have a question, you’re probably not the only one,” so don’t be embarrassed to ask a speaker to repeat him or herself or to walk back through a slide that didn’t quite make sense. The most important thing is that you understand what’s going on.
Sit Up | As silly as it may sound, literally changing your body language can change your attentiveness and your willingness to participate in the meeting at hand. Our bodies and minds work together and send each other messages about how to behave, so if you’re slumped over or leaned back with your arms crossed, you’re not in a physical or mental position to contribute to the discussion. If you sit upright and maybe even “lean in,” you’ll be physically prepared to offer your feedback or questions.
Don’t touch your Phone | Nothing will distract you faster than the black hole that is your social media and unanswered emails. Before you head into the meeting, set an automatic email response so that people know you’ll be unavailable for a certain period of time. You can leave your phone either at your desk so that it’s not even in your presence during the meeting, or set it to “do not disturb” mode so that it won’t light up or alert you for updates. It may be advisable to keep your phone handy if you think you’ll need to look up reports or definitions quickly, but as much as you can, leave it alone to stay engaged in your meeting.