If you are going to take the time to attend a meeting, make it worth your while and show respect to your chairperson by taking an active part. Here are some ways to make your participation meaningful:
BEFORE THE MEETING
Read the agenda. If the purpose of the meeting is not obvious, try to get the goals clarified before it takes place. If there is no agenda, suggest that one be established, either before or at the beginning of the meeting.
If you are short of time, find out from the chairperson whether you are needed for the whole meeting. If not, arrange to be present during the relevant portion only.
Find out how long the meeting is supposed to last, and tell the chairperson how much time you have available.
AT THE MEETING
Sit where you can make eye contact with the chairperson. This will give you an opportunity to participate fully and play an influential role in any decision-making process.
Be enthusiastic. Offer to take minutes, be the flip-chart recorder, or play some other useful role. Your commitment will be appreciated and emulated.
Do your part to keep the meeting brief. To achieve this
glance obviously at your watch during overlong discussions;
offer to be timekeeper for each agenda item;
signal the chairperson if the meeting is falling behind schedule;
bring items to a conclusion by summarizing them;
ask if there are other items still to be covered;
ask if you need to stay for the remaining agenda items;
press for a decision on the item being discussed.
If the meeting becomes bogged down in endless discussion, request that someone make a summary or ask whether the points have not already been discussed.
Help others stay focused. If people go off on tangents, tactfully note that they are off topic or ask that that matter be dealt with at another time. Avoid participating in distracting side discussions.
Be considerate of other points of view. Your colleagues will appreciate your respectful attention to their ideas.
Avoid confusion by asking for clarification. Ask someone to summarize the discussion or conclusions so that everyone will have a good understanding of what's going on.
Ask again for a summary, preferably by the chairperson, at the end of the meeting. Such a summary should make clear what the meeting achieved in relation to its objectives.