Advance your career by being an effective meeting participant

Article published by American City Business Journals on October 3, 2022. Revised 8 am.

Attending meetings to exchange information and reach decisions is a necessary part of organizational life. All of us want to be effective meeting participants. 

In an April 2019 Harvard Business Review article headlined, “How to speak up in a meeting and when to hold back,” author Allison Shapira wrote, “In many organizations, our leadership readiness is measured in part by our willingness to speak up in meetings. How we speak off the cuff can have a bigger impact on our career trajectory than our presentations or speeches.”

Tim Denning advises meeting participants to “watch the quiet people… They say nothing.” In a September 2020 Ladders News article headlined, “Why quiet people in meetings are incredible,” Denning wrote, “There is so much hot air and noise in meetings that achieve nothing. Your ego makes you talk too much. The idea is to speak with as few words as possible and make your point. Then, once you’ve said what you need to say in the shortest amount of time possible, know when to shut up.”

I agree with Denning that there are too many people who love to hear themselves talk. I disagree with his advice that you shouldn’t speak beyond just making your point.

Having attended more meetings than I can count during my career in positions from individual contributor to CEO and to board member, I offer the following meeting advice.

If you are the meeting organizer, ensure your agenda includes clear objectives

What do you want to accomplish during the meeting? You are asking people to give up their valuable time to attend. They need to feel it was worthwhile attending. If you have little of substance to talk about, don’t schedule the meeting.

Ensure you prepare in advance for the meeting

Read all advance materials prior to the meeting. There is nothing more embarrassing than asking a question and having the answer addressed in the meeting materials.

Ask questions for understanding

Other meeting attendees may not understand the point being discussed, but don’t want to look bad by showing what they don’t know. By asking questions for understanding, you are helping the presenter get their point across more effectively and you will be quietly thanked by other meeting participants.

Speak up if you feel a decision is heading in the wrong direction

Not speaking up with a contrary view may cause the meeting participants to decide to “go to Abilene.” No one wants to go there, but to avoid conflict, no one speaks up. Disagree in a way that respects the views of others.

Be the lone wolf, if necessary. Having a contrary view when everyone else is leaning in another direction on an issue is difficult, but necessary to arrive at the best decision.

Don’t dominate the discussion

As Denning wrote, “Your ego makes you talk too much.” Put yourself in the position of other meeting participants and think about how they will receive your comments beyond what is necessary to make your point. Don’t pontificate.

As a senior leader, share your point of view after others have done so

Wait until others have expressed their opinions before expressing yours. Not doing so might influence attendees less senior than you. You also want to hear what others have to say rather than prematurely chilling further discussion.

Participating effectively in meetings is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to collaborate with people above and below you in an organization which will help you advance in your career. Take this opportunity.


Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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