​You will invariably find yourself captive in a room full of colleagues ever so often— and while on most occasions brainstorming sessions can throw up great ideas and solve crucial problems, all of us also know that they can sometimes spell sheer torture. "There is no escaping a dull conference. But if you go in slightly prepared, you are likely to feel more involved. Take notes to keep your attention from straying," says Kanika Marwaha, career counselor and India representative, University of Warwick, UK. "Also, if it's a 9 A.M. meet, try not to party too hard the night before. When you are feeling all groggy and unfocussed, a supremely-charged session can also seem mind-numbing." We've always given you pointers to shine at presentations, so this time we decided to create a primer to help you to survive the most mundane meetings too.

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Wake-up strategies

Sometimes, the drone of your co-workers' voice is so monotonous that you could doze off at the conference table. But, sleeping is not an option, so you need a sure shot plan to keep your peepers open. Try sipping some water or jolt your system awake with a shot of espresso. A loo-break can do the trick too. Sneak out to wash your face, spritz on perfume—whatever works. "It's tempting to nap, so I daydream about my boyfriend to keep myself from nodding off," says Shruti, 26, lawyer.

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Pick up pointers

Instead of moping that you are stuck with a bunch of nitwits—oops! colleagues— keep an open mind. "During a pow-wow, I discovered that my difficult client was a feng shui buff. I brought him a good-luck bamboo the next time around. Boy, was he pleased!" says Aarti, 25, account executive. You can also score great info like getting the dirt on Ms Popular's resignation or being the first to hear about a vacancy. "If you pay attention to how others run meetings, you'll also accrue a wide range of ideas, and pick up relevant details," say Jack H. Grossman and J. Robert Parkinson in Becoming A Successful Manager.

Boring situation back-up

When everything's flying over your head at a brainstorming session you have no real role in, utilise the time to jot down your to-do list for the day. Composing your 'Ten Things To Do Before I'm 35' wish list ranks a close second. "If the meeting is pointless, I keep doodling. But I smile and nod my head every once in a while to look attentive. And I also try to avoid eye contact," says Apoorva, 24, project manager. Other ways to kill time: work out the sequence of your yoga, dance, or Spanish verb exercises. You could also wiggle your toes, flex your calf muscles or do some discreet pelvic-floor exercises.

Body language cues

Fine-tune your radar to pick up the nonverbal cues people give out. Posture, ringtones, colour preferences—all these give you insights into character. "When a person wants to feel confident, they keep their heads level. It emits authority and conveys that the person wants to be taken seriously," says body language guru Robert Phipps, in www.bodylanguagetraining.com. "Being aware of signals people send is crucial to understanding them," he adds.

Get back the focus

Conferences tend to go off-track. But when your boss starts yakking about his five-year-old brat, you know it's time to steer the conversation back to the agenda. "Skilfully bring up a pertinent point, without being too aggressive," suggests Marwaha. If the discussion gets really heated or personal, lighten the situation with an anecdote or a joke. If you succeed, you will have honed your negotiating skills, and the meeting will have concluded as quickly as intended. 

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