7 tips for the ‘new’ in-person office meetings!!
You are all back in the physical meetings after the lockdowns and the work from home palaver. It has been a while. It was the correct choice to save lives, but now it is a journey back to some normal for you all.
Things have changed, and people have lost some of the office manners that they once had. Office politics and previously established allegiances have all been tossed around in the mix. There is never a better forum to understand this dynamic shift than the good old fashioned meeting thing. Post pandemic, people have changed, and lockdown helped or hindered some understanding of what is right versus what is just newly found dumbass behaviour.
This has not been the case in China – we never had that much of a lockdown. But because the rest of the world had restrictions, we had to communicate outwards with the Webex meeting format and maintain the local physical meetings. This allowed me to keenly observe the difference between both types of arrangements. For everyone who is back or heading back to the full-on, physically present assemblage, I present to you seven tips to lean into as you re-establish your physical presence.
Leave the silent gap.
We have all been using the online meeting rooms to talk, and the awkward silence was all part of the process. The politeness when over talking each other because the timing was challenging to gauge is gone when you all meet up again in person. It could well be game on with new rules. You need to learn to use the silence gaps in your favour.
Leave the silence hanging when you get back into a physical meeting space, ask a question, and don’t feel you are getting the answer you want. Maintain eye contact and wait. Wait. You will get more of your desired response as people keep talking and explaining because they think their answer is insufficient.
Bring your eyeball game.
When you are glad-handing and waiting for the meeting to start. Do the rounds and use firm eye contact. Try and look at the finer detail in everyone’s eyes. Look beyond the colour and into the speckles of their eyes. Look for the lines that draw out from the pupil and memorise them. The increased contact will have people connecting with you more, so you will be listened to with more attention when you speak as the meeting starts. You will have grabbed your audience.
Who is digging who?
There was a whole lot of ‘other connections’ happening with the online communication approach. Stuff was going on that you did not know about. You would have seen the walk and talks in the office, and you do not see that online. Now that everyone is back in physical contact and you want to note who is digging who?… then get everyone laughing. When in a group and everyone is laughing, take a look at who’s looking at who. When you laugh, you instinctively look at the people you feel or want to feel, closest to.
Things could get a little heated as people start to adjust to the hassle of real meetings again. Keep calm and carry on when someone is trying to argue with you. They might get angrier, but you’re training them to not lose their future temper towards you by not reacting to them. It is like training boisterous puppies. The added bonus is you will look cool doing this behaviour control experiment.
Reduce the chance of a pending attack
If you are heading into a meeting and you suspect that you’re going to be attacked by someone, sit your ass down right next to them. People feel less comfortable attacking someone they are sitting in close proximity with and will be less aggressive. Arrive in time to adjust your seating and settle into a relaxed body position. You are in control of this one, so play nice yourself.
Your act will drive your feelings.
Our emotions cause physical effects, and these physical effects, expressions, are triggered by the feelings we are holding at that moment. The good thing is this can be reversed. So if you want to start to be received as a happy, positive influence in the meeting, then start smiling a lot. It will make you feel happy, and your contribution to the conversation will be more positive. You will achieve team-player status.
Be the person you want others to be.
If someone is pissing you off because of how they are behaving in the meeting. This is an opportunity to start to behave the way you want them to act. The chances are you are pissed off because they are triggering something about how you perceive yourself. Change that thought by changing your behaviour. They will start to role model your behaviour, and you will have taken back some of your lost energy from your new calmness.
There will be so much more going on in the early meetings but do not overcomplicate things. Stick to the tips above and do yourself a favour…
Go all-in on the ‘new normal’ until it becomes just the normal. The gap between both stages will be short, so make the most of the time and don’t stay silent unless you are trying to out gap someone in a Mexican stand-off. When this happens, talk first, make eye contact and keep your sentence short.
Put the ball back in their court by serving a fast verbal ace and just hope they haven’t been watching the brilliant Emma Raducanu during the lockdown.