- You're sitting in a meeting next to your manager/boss with clients, consultants, or contractors, or;
- You have to attend a client/contractor/consultant meeting alone in place of your manager boss
What do you do?
Depending on the type of meeting, there's a lot you can do. The first and best option no matter what is to pay attention, take notes, and listen. Look at people when they talk, write down a note about what they say (even if you don't understand the concept, write down the words), and nod appropriately. Early in my career, I found myself in these meetings, confused as hell and bored as anything. To combat the urge to fall asleep (which is what I feel like doing when I'm bored and overwhelmed), I began taking almost word-for-word notes in meetings. Fast-forward 11 or so years later, and even now my colleagues and design team members want copies of my notes, and they trust my notes more than anyone else's because I write like a court reporter. My notes have saved my firm a few times because I had every detail of a conversation written in my notes, not just the resulting decision.
If the meeting is just you (and maybe your boss) and a few consultants, you have more room to reveal some ignorance: "Okay, so your concern is VAV box locations. Give me an example of/show me on this ceiling plan where having a VAV box located would be problematic." This allows the other person to really be listened to, and it allows you to learn. If you are pressed to make a decision thatyou feel you don't have the knowledge or authority to make, however, don't let anyone push you into a corner. Your best response is, "I'd like to get back to the office and check the code/walk my boss through this/see if I can make this work in the floor plan, and I'll get back with you by end of day today/noon tomorrow/next week."
Being bored or confused in a meeting feels pretty sucky and it's inevitable, but showing that you're bored, lost, or disinterested is a big mistake. Resist the urge to do any of the following:
- Look/stare at the floor
- Doze off
- Constantly check your phone/text
- Fiddle with and pay attention to something else (a string on your coat, your pen, a piece of hair)
- Just sit there, not taking notes or acting like you're listening/paying attention