Creatives are not known for being comfortable in a formal business setting. Suits and ties and long strategy sessions are not their normal M.O.

But freelancers do end up going to business meetings or formal pitches and it is important to stay involved in the material and remember what was discussed, since they will probably be sent home to work on the project at hand.

Some meetings, sad to say, are not as interesting and exciting as they could be and creatives may very well have trouble staying engaged. Here are some tips to keep you looking and feeling like you are fully present at your next formal business meeting:

1. Active listening—When someone is talking, we all receive much more information non-verbally than verbally. Put your attention on the body language, facial expression, and tone of the speaker.  Concentrate on how that information adds to (or detracts from) what is being said.

2. Look at the speaker—Making eye contact will make a good impression on your meeting leaders and keep you on track. Your mind is bound to wander if you stare at the table or out the window.

3. Don’t chat with your neighbor—Although it is a good idea to sit near someone of like mind at a business meeting, don’t start side conversations while the main speaker is presenting. Not only is it bad manners, but you will miss the main points of the presentation.

4. Take notes – During any meeting there are bound to be hundreds of topics (big and small) discussed.  No one could remember them all.  By continuing your active listening, noting key facts or action items on paper, you can stay more focused on the topics being discussed.  Because you’ve written them, you will also be more likely to remember them later as well.

5. Ask questions—If you have trouble keeping your mind on the topic at hand, while listening, think of a question to ask.  When there is an opportunity, ask them.  A good question can help a presenter further engage with his or her audience and enable all to remember the material better if a discussion occurs as a result.

We’ve all been to meetings that seem like a waste of time, led by unskilled presenters, or the coverage of information we already know. They can be very frustrating.  Best advice for dealing with these types of meetings: find a way to get something out of the meeting, whether it be a lesson in reading body language, making a positive impression on a manager or adding value to a presentation by asking questions or offering your own expertise as a resource. Any meeting can be useful, even if you have to set your own agenda.

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative