Oblivious or Attentive

I was once demoing the specific functionality of an application. I was looking forward to my favorite part of the meeting: Q&A, but to my surprise, no one uttered a word.  My mind was racing with questions: Was my delivery crystal clear that there were no questions?  Was no one paying attention? Why the silence? Should I have approached the demo differently? I earned great accolades relating to the demo. Yet, the silence was bothering me. When an attendee is quiet, does this translate as unplugged from the conversation? Or are they employing active listening? Let us analyze why the disconnect happens in the first place. Here are a few reasons:

  • Lack of a meeting agenda
  • The facilitator is over-communicating
  • Right people not in the meeting
  • The facilitator is deviating from the scope of the meeting
  • Attendees double-booked at the same time
  • Attendees distracted by things unrelated to the meeting
  • An email could have sufficed instead of a meeting
  • Topic covered in a previous meeting

 What would I do when I am not engaged in a meeting? I may:

  1. Multitask
  2. Stay quiet during the entirety of the meeting
  3. Browse on my smartphone
  4. Turn off my camera

 What would I do if I am engaged in a meeting? I may:

  1. Ask contextual questions based on the topic
  2. Volunteer to work on the action items
  3. Share one-off use cases or exceptions
  4. Assist in decision making
  5. Turn on my camera

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What next?

The cues listed above are not a perfect indicator of engagement during a meeting but watch out for them. What strategy can you adopt during the next demo/meeting? As business analysts, we are Change Agents, experiment with the ideas mentioned below to lead the change:

  • Use virtual whiteboards and invite attendees to collaborate by sharing their ideas
  • Co-present instead of having one team member presenting through the meeting
  • Ask an open-ended question and ask every attendee to articulate their responses
  • Ask for votes from every attendee or create a survey with many options so that everyone can pick one

Conclusion:

Next time watch for those subtle or clear clues during a meeting. Lead meetings that best fit the target audience and are within the scope of the meeting agenda. It is motivating when attendees are not forced but are looking forward to the rendezvous.

“One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention” – Jim Rohn.