I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about how to attend a conference. Given that I’m traveling to a company meeting, I thought it would be worthwhile to think about how to attend a company meeting.
The company meeting is that ambiguous get together for any number of reasons. Quarterly sales meeting, new product announcement, annual meeting. As far as the advice below, it’s for meetings where you’re attending and listening in person. Virtual meetings don’t apply here.
Know Why You Are Meeting
Seems simple. But in the age of remote employees and virtual work, often the meeting is really an excuse to see everyone in person. This is really about setting expectations. If the goal of the meeting is to see your co-workers, the content is less important. Your expectations of learning something new are different.
Know Your Role
I’m not talking about whether you are presenting or attending. Are you the intended audience or are you there because of your role in the organization. As a manager, you may be on all of the status meetings and conference calls and know the information being presented already. You’re there to support your team, not to learn something new. Likewise if you’ve been building out the product ahead of the product launch.
Focus on the Meeting
It’s the obligatory be engaged recommendation. Company meetings are especially hard. The trouble with company meetings — especially as company locations — is that it’s too easy to pull up the laptop and work while you’re sitting in the meeting. Worse is when everyone is working on their laptop except the person talking. Is anyone paying attention?
I know many people who step out of the sales meetings to take a sales call. I look at this as the return on your company’s investment. These meetings are typically not cheap to hold. Whether it’s conference rooms and travel expenses or just lost time, they’re making an investment in you being there. While corporate culture definitely plays a role here, you should be engaged in the meeting and not your every day job.
Again, if your company is investing the time to meet in person, it’s a great opportunity to expand your knowledge. Whether it’s comparing activities in different regions or groups, if you’re not helping yourself, you’re likely able to help others. There are a number of meetings I look back at and I got more from talking with my peers than I did from the formal meeting content.
One company meeting I attended had a bowling night. A bunch of people didn’t show up and the company had to change it from optional fun to mandatory activity. It may not be bowling but drinks at the bar, dinner, breakfast, or a side trip to a tourist destination near the meeting. It’s easy to grab dinner with old friends while you’re in town, but — as with networking — the extracurriculars are just as important as the meeting itself.
These may seem simple, but they are not always easy to follow. Spending 8 hours in a meeting puts you way behind on e-mail. It’s easier to work during the meeting or skip out on the group dinner to finish up your work. I’ve been know to skip out early for a good nights sleep.
It’s your job to attend.