The term boring meeting might be redundant to many people. The same goes for virtual meetings, which are the new necessity in our everyday grind. If you are working from home and are struggling to get through your virtual meetings, don’t just tune out. Instead, try one or more strategies to stay focused and connected.
1. Don’t Multitask
A virtual meeting is not a good time to proofread that report due at 5:00 and simultaneously catch up on email. When we do other things with the virtual conference going on in the background, we might think we’re being productive. Unfortunately, this is just multitasking, and the human brain is lousy at it. Doing one thing and then switching to another thing can cost us time and energy.
Our minds need extra seconds to refocus when we go through the start/stop/start process, and we’re more likely to make mistakes. Instead, focus on doing one thing, such as tuning into the meeting, and you’re more likely to do it well.
2. Pay Attention to the Speaker
It’s easy to nod off when the person who’s speaking drones on and on. As difficult as it might be, try to focus on the speaker. If you’re on a video call, see what you notice about their hair, clothes, or facial expressions. How does their voice sound? How do you think they feel based on their vocal tone, volume, or pitch? These cues might give you a little more insight into what they’re saying.
3. Stand Up
Try standing during the meeting if it’s not too distracting to others. Extended periods of sitting have been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions. Because there are health benefits to mixing standing with sitting, some professionals make it a habit to stand every time they’re on a conference call.
Also, a boring virtual meeting can be a good time to do exercises at your desk, like calf raises or seated shoulder presses. As you get the blood flowing through your body, you’d improve your focus and attention to your meeting.
If you’re on video, try below-the-desk exercises, such as butt clenches or seated leg raises.
A meeting might seem less tedious if you’re busy thinking of ways to contribute to the conversation. Look at the agenda for an upcoming meeting and brainstorm thoughts or ideas you might share. Even if you’re new to the company or think you’re inexperienced, you can still participate meaningfully in ways that senior colleagues will notice. Be sure to stay relevant to the conversation and the general purpose of the meeting.
Scribbling on notepaper might look rude if you do it during a face-to-face meeting. However, during a virtual meeting, feel free to doodle away. Researchers have linked drawing and doodling to heightened brain activity. Doodling helps some people focus, solve problems, or remember boring information.
A moment of doodling might lead to an idea you can bring up during the meeting. There are other ways to make doodling work for you, such as drawing sketches that relate to the discussion topic or creating symbols to help you recall information.
6. Plan to Get Ahead
If you find the conversation topic boring, try thinking of things about the meeting or your organization that needs improvement. Do the meeting agendas need more focus? Can you think of ways to streamline a process?
7. Be the Scribe
If you have trouble tuning in to most meetings, offer to take notes. Taking meeting notes has several benefits. These include remembering more of what happened and allowing those who couldn’t attend to feel more included. As the scribe, your job is to summarize and elaborate on key points. You should also document which members will be responsible for which actions steps that emerge.
8. Take Action Notes
Even if you’re not taking meeting notes for the whole group, it can’t hurt to make your notes more action-oriented. Written statements like, “Julia leaves on Monday for a conference” or “Raul will update the schedule,” will make your notes too dull.
Where it’s appropriate, turn these statements into actions that you’ll carry out, such as “Follow up with Julia after her conference” or “Email Raul with suggestions for the schedule.” Action notes will encourage you to invest more in the meeting and your follow-up activities.
9. Practice Gratitude
If paying attention is too difficult, take time during the meeting to count your blessings. Research suggests that practicing gratitude conditions you to be more optimistic and upbeat. The next time you’re forced to listen to a boring speaker during a virtual meeting, identify that speaker’s good qualities.
You also can take inventory of the colleagues you enjoy working with or remind yourself of the things you like about your job. You never know when counting your blessings will lead to a thank-you note or an open expression of appreciation.
Most meetings—virtual or face-to-face—happen for a reason, and they usually need your full attention. If the meeting starts to get boring, it’s normal to want to multitask or open that game of solitaire. Instead, try one or more of these techniques, and you’re sure to survive your next virtual meeting.