Meetings provide an opportunity to flex your communication skills. But when you actively engage in the meeting process, you also open yourself up to develop your soft skills. There are a host of soft skills that can be leveraged in the workplace—like adaptability, creativity, positivity, and teamwork. Here are four ways that I’ve developed my soft skills through everyone’s favorite workplace activity— meetings!
1. Facilitate Meetings
For every meeting, there’s someone who has organized it, created an agenda, and executed on that plan. At some point, this job may fall in your lap. Before this happens unexpectedly, be prepared to take on the challenge.
Observe how teammates facilitate meetings. Everyone has their own preferred meeting style, so it’s a good idea to compare and contrast approaches. Some people will come in with a game plan that they want to follow exactly. Others will go in with a general plan, but let the meeting take its own course. Ask questions about your coworkers’ planning processes and how they like to lead meetings. Volunteer to help with meeting prep, and get more involved in the meetings you attend.
2. Give Software Demos
At one point or another, the opportunity will arise to give a demonstration of your current project. Running a software demo allows you to practice both presentation skills and technical communication.
First, think about how you’ll structure your demo. Most presentations follow a logical order of topics. To help organize your talk like this, consider creating an outline of points to cover during your demo, such as features or changes to an application. You can also let the audience know if and when there will be an opportunity for questions.
Then you can work on clarity. As a software developer, it’s important to be able to communicate technical information to a wide audience. When you need to break down something technical, think about who you’re presenting it to. You might not explain a technical problem to a teammate in the same way you would to a non-technical client. Practice thinking through how you’d communicate technical information to people from different technical backgrounds before you’re on the spot. Although this may take time to perfect, being able to explain technical problems and solutions is key to keeping everyone on a team in alignment over the course of a project.
3. Be the Note-Taker
Meetings with clients are also a great chance to work on note-taking skills. Being present in meetings is very important, but sometimes this means taking on the role of “note-taker.”
Find your favorite method of note-taking. If you choose to type notes, make sure not to get distracted by your computer. It’s easy to fall into the habit of checking emails and Slack or finishing up some code. Avoid this temptation by actively engaging in the conversation and asking questions to add clarity to your notes. If you like to write notes by hand, make sure you can keep up with the conversation. Write notes in shorthand and only include important, relevant information.
4. Find More Opportunities
Being a good software developer involves more than just being able to crush technical problems and write great code. Use every opportunity you can to practice skills outside of the technical realm. Find ways to get more involved in the meetings you attend. Ask teammates and coworkers how they work on their soft skills. Use any resources available to become a well-rounded software developer.