Danielle Dory

“I’m Sorry What Was Your Name?” : Simple guidelines if you’re feeling like the outcast in meetings

In Blog, Business on June 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm

It’s always strange being the new kid on the block- or the only kid for that matter.  I’m not referring back to shyness problems. I’m talking about walking into a project meeting weeks, months or years after its start, and not knowing what anyone is talking about.  Or that dazed and confused feeling when people throw around so many acronyms, terms and software names that you can’t even tell the difference between the three.  The temptation to lose yourself in daydreams about anywhere else might be overwhelming but…DON’T TO THAT. Do this…

Here are some quick tips that I’ve learned from my experience…

  1. Sign Out and Plug In
    1. Sign out of email, Facebook and Twitter.  Plug into the conversation around you.
  2. Take notes
    1. Write down everything especially things that don’t make sense to you.  For the first meeting, that will probably be everything.
  3.  Be a Jigsaw Master
    1. Try to put all the pieces together.  Start trying to understand the process and the history of the project.  Write down how you think things might work.  You’ll need this for # 5.
  4. Make a Buddy
    1. Establishing a rapport with everyone in the room on the first day might be tricky, picking one person is a piece of cake.  Use the personal conversation initiative approach or find someone who seemed sympathetic to your newbie status,  Make them your friend.  If that person doesn’t warm up to you, find someone else!
  5. Buddy Meeting
    1. Ask your new buddy if they have time to run over some questions you had about the project.  When you meet, or have a phone conversation, with your buddy have your notes handy.  Showing that you attempted to contextualize all the new information being thrown at you well help narrow down information gaps, show your attentiveness, and display that you’re eager to get caught up.
  6. Try Not Being Too Self-Conscious
    1. You might be afraid that people are looking at you- sizing you up if you will.  They are.  Sit up straight, smile and tune into the conversation.  People will get used to your presence.  They’re just a bit curious.
  7. Shhhh
    1. Have you ever heard the difference between a wise (wo)man and a fool?  Speaking just to get your voice heard and yourself noticed is going to do a lot more harm than help.  Hold your tongue until you understand the situation more.
  8. Speak up
    1. I am fully aware that 7 & 8 are contradictions- they’re not.  Once you have embedded yourself in the context of the project, speak up if you have a question or comment.  My first manager gave me really great advice for feeling self-conscious, preface it.  Say, “I know I’m new to this but I was wondering, have we tried this approach?…”  Starting your comment with something like that will add to your contextual knowledge and let people know that you’re thinking critically and are ready to become a player in discussions.

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be part of the club in no time!

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