Sometimes I'm invited to meetings with other deparments. Even though these meetings are very informative, most of the time I don't have anything relevant to say because those meetings are relevant to the other people more than to my own work. How do I behave so that I don't seem disrespectful to my peers at the meeting?
Listen. Stay off Facebook. If someone asks you a question, answer it. Take notes if you're hearing informative things. When you get back to your desk, tell your department-mates what they need to know.
Avoid the following disrespectful behaviours at all meetings, whether there is content related to your work or not:
- playing a game, reading facebook, being on stack*, etc
- whispered side conversations with people sitting next to you
- handling your email - deleting spam, sending short replies, dealing things into folders
- doing work such as debugging or working on a presentation
In some workplaces, there are hours-long meetings with well written agendas that force people to be in the room even though what's happening doesn't matter to them. In those places, doing other work while you wait for your turn is not considered disrespectful. Such places are the exception rather than the rule; if you see many other people working in the meeting you will know it might be ok for you to do so. However if you've been invited so that you can listen and learn, doing anything other than listening is disrespectful, so don't.
Talk to the person who invited you. Not to find out how to look like you are participating, but to find out your purpose at the meeting.
Sometimes a person is invited to represent their department, and they need to bring back information to their team, or to represent their teams point of view. If you don't know what is expected of you you won't know how active you need to be. It could mean that you only need to be active for one topic, and can fill the rest of the time with other tasks, while still remaining in the meeting. In other cases you need to be taking notes throughout the meeting to capture the required info.
For the non-active parts you need to find something that will allow you to maintain partial focus on the meeting, and not distract others. It also needs to be something work related. I have used times like this to read and markup a document for editing. Others I know have used the opportunity to brainstorm a couple of idea they have been thinking about.
It depends on company culture. Where I've worked, you bring your laptop and do whatever work you need until you're needed in a meeting. Unless you are a core participant who is actually being talked to and queried upon most of the time. And of course if you choose not to pay attention nobody ought to be expecting you to know exactly what was just discussed.
Of course if you're never needed you just shouldn't have accepted the invite in the first place.
And if you called the meeting or are very needed in it, you should be active always.