Are you present?

Getting your whole team in the same room for a meeting these days is rare.

Conference calls have become a way of life.

So we all dial in dutifully, mute our phones, and do our email.

When people are in a meeting I expect
them to be “present” – listening, participating,
contributing, and NOT doing email.
If people are not going to be
present why have a meeting?

It’s harder to create the motivation and responsibility to be “present”
if no one is, well, present, but it’s not impossible.

Here’s how I do it.

1) Insist on starting On Time – everyone is to call in 5 minutes prior and be ready to go on time.  If need be, start the meeting start at 5 minutes after the hour – sharp! No excuses. Being late degrades accountability for presence, and is a huge time waster.  Don’t tolerate it.

2) Start with a weather report (or another personal topic) from each person on the call.  This gives every person’s presence a chance to be felt even though you can’t see them around the table.  And it gives you an opportunity to treat people like humans, which always helps.

3) Insist that no one mutes their phone. I don’t care if I hear children or dogs.  This also makes it harder to type, or watch TV without getting found out.  Mute degrades presence.  And it’s another big time waster.  After a discussion has gone down the road a bit, someone will chime in and say, “sorry, I didn’t realize my phone was on mute and I need to go back to …”

4) Be there. Make it clear that if this is an important meeting you are supposed to have it on your schedule, be on a landline, and not be driving somewhere between more important things.  You need to set the example for this yourself too – or don’t have the meeting.

5) Have a clear desired outcome and the promise of a shorter meeting.  “We will finish this meeting at 9:45 so that you can hang up and do 15 minutes of something else before your next meeting.”

6) Re-inforce the fact that you value each other’s time. “The reason we have a shorter meeting, keep our phones un-muted, and don’t do email is because we respect each other’s time and therefore commit to being present, even though we are not in the same room.”

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

Building Capacity