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5 Ways to Engage in Meetings + Tips for Top Performance

True or false? The only "participant" role you can play in meetings is one where you're free of distractions, on camera, actively engaged, and furiously writing down everything that is said.

From our perspective, the answer is false. Perhaps it was true when the pandemic thrust all of us into remote work and meetings transitioned online (I summarize my experience here), but meeting culture has become much more sophisticated and nuanced now. We've largely adapted to a new way of working and a variety of ways to participate in meetings.

5 ways to engage in meetings sticky app

Several principal roles have replaced the one dimensional participant. Identifying with them allows you to be intentional about how you show up, or not, and how to get the most from your level of engagement. To make it a little more interesting, I've cast meeting participation into five distinct roles you can choose from (and suggest when and why you'd assume each one).

Prepare for the meeting, like any professional would

Regardless of how you participate in meetings, the most important thing you can do for your mental state and productivity is to prepare for your meetings.

If you navigate multiple or back-to-back meetings, carving out time in advance of your day to prepare for meetings is standard procedure for experienced pros. It's nearly impossible to make time once your day gets rolling, so don't skip it. When it comes to preventing stress and not tanking your performance, there's no substitute for preparation.

Get ready for action

Think of meeting preparation as an integral part of your work routine. When you look ahead at your upcoming meetings either at the start of the week or the night before, there are a few things you can do to reduce the mental toll of context switching and help your day run smoothly.

Use this routine to prep for each meeting:

  1. Know why you’re meeting - Review the purpose, agenda, and attendees.

  2. Do your homework - Complete assigned tasks like "pre-read" materials, "pre-work," or action items you previously committed to doing in a recurring meeting.

  3. Gather your thoughts - Create a meeting note to capture:

    1. Key takeaways from the "pre-read" or "pre-work"

    2. Questions you want to ask or points you want to clarify

    3. Items you intend to share in the meeting

Routinely completing these three steps will prepare you for success. Now, let's match you with a role.

Cast yourself in the right role

Once you’ve prepped for a meeting, decide how engaged you need to be based on the meeting's purpose, expectations, and any competing priorities you might have.

Choosing a participant role allows you to take personal responsibility for your engagement, get what you want from the meeting, and provide value for other stakeholders — both those attending and not. As you consider each role, notice why it's useful and how you might adjust your note-taking.

5 ways to participate in meetings

disengaged observer meeting participant
The Disengaged Observer

The Disengaged Observer

You’re present, but not. As The Disengaged Observer, you attend for face time, moral support, or air cover. Perhaps being seen is enough or your presence is useful in influencing the tone of the meeting. Just be mindful of “performative work.” (If you're in the habit of attending meetings but never contributing or adding substantive value, you're probably not deriving meaning from your work, which leads to bigger challenges.) In other words, choose this role sparingly.


​The trick to this role is making it a conscious choice. Don't be The Disengaged Observer simply because you haven't prepared or you're not sure why you need to be there. If this is the case, decline the meeting and ask the organizer or another attendee for meeting notes afterward.

passive listener meeting participant
The Passive Listener

The Passive Listener

You’re there to learn! Armed with information from prep materials, you’re excited to absorb more. You pay close attention to presentations, discussions, and decisions. You take notes to distill discussion items into key points, questions, and decisions, as well as next steps.


​Focus on capturing highlights and key details from the presentation, discussion, decisions, and any items relegated to the "parking lot." Your goal should be brevity and clarity so your notes are valuable to your future self and other teammates you intend to share them with.


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discussion participant meeting participant
The Discussion Participant

The Discussion Participant

You contribute meaningfully to the discussion. You actively listen and add to the conversation by reflecting on what you've heard, asking clarifying questions, and summarizing for importance. You establish a point of view and share it with others.


​Use your meeting prep to hit the ground running when the meeting starts. Focus on moving the discussion forward. Use your notes as a “scratch pad” to distill information and formulate your perspective to share during or after the meeting.

decision maker meeting participant
The Decision Maker

The Decision Maker

You're there to make a decision and get a commitment to act on that decision. You gather input, consider the broader context, and decide. Though you may have joined the meeting with a point of view, the topics presented and discussed may shift that.


​Use your notes to tally pros and cons and be ready to share your decision with a clear rationale when asked. While your notes may be a valuable record after the meeting, use them as a tool to collect your thoughts and reach a decision during the meeting.

absent meeting participant
The Absentee

The Absentee

You decline the meeting. During the preparation phase, you realize that you can provide input to meeting stakeholders by sharing your thoughts in advance. You have enough information up front, so you spare yourself and possibly others from having the actual meeting. You know not everything needs to be discussed in real time and this meeting is one of them.


​Even though you've declined the meeting, the organizer had a reason to include you, which means you still need to prepare and share your feedback. Review the agenda, complete the pre-work, offer your perspective, and request meeting notes.

Use Sticky to enhance your performance

No matter which role you choose, Sticky is designed to help you navigate all your meetings, stay focused on what matters, and get stuff done.

Sticky integrates with your calendar and streamlines your workflow between meetings, notes, and tasks. It ensures you have the information you need at your fingertips so you can stop wasting time toggling between apps and tabs, searching for your notes, and losing track of what needs to get done. You could say, with Sticky, busy work has a new enemy.

Preparing is a breeze

In Sticky, you can review your calendar and prepare for a meeting with one click.

overview of sticky app

You can access meeting details, review the meeting agenda, see who's attending, and review any pre-read materials provided by the organizer. Plus, jot down what you plan to share or ask.

If it's a recurring meeting, your notes and tasks from past meetings are also displayed, so you can review what was previously discussed (or what you didn’t get to) and check to see if you have any open action items.

prepare for meeting sticky app

Capturing meeting notes and action items is seamless

As the meeting progresses, you can listen, ask clarifying questions, and capture what's important. Use your notes as a “scratch pad” to synthesize your thoughts or as a record of what you want to remember or share afterward. No matter which note-taking method you use, the information you capture is linked to the meeting in your calendar which makes it easy to find your notes and tasks later.

take notes capture tasks sticky app

The action items from all of your meeting notes are captured in one task list so you can prioritize them and schedule what needs to get done. They’re linked back to your meeting notes making it easy to understand the context when you’re working to complete them.

manage tasks sticky app

Get Sticky

Sticky helps you prepare for your day, participate in meetings, and get the most important work done. No matter which meeting participation role you play, use Sticky to enhance your performance.

Sign up for a free beta account. Google users get access today!

(Not a Google user? Join our waitlist)


Sign up for a free beta account. Google users get access today!

Not a Google user? Join our waitlist!

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