How to be a significant member of a successful business meeting

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“How can I become well-spoken, knowledgeable and succinct in meetings? Everyone else seems to be capable but why aren't I?” Are you having difficulty in being heard at meetings? Do you want to know how to make your voice heard-better yet, how to make your mind heard?

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Preparation is key! If you have prior knowledge of the meeting, have some notes written down of your own objectives of the meeting and other issues you would like to be addressed. Prioritize your queries to a subject matter. You honestly don’t have to say everything. This allows you to pay attention to where you can introduce your points as the meeting goes on. This tool should serve as a ‘mental map' and not a distraction to the conversation you are expected to be a part of so pay attention!

Practice! In the privacy of your own home-practice your assertive voice. This is the voice Gene Davis uses as president; the one Olivia Pope uses as the Fixer; the one you use when your stern mommy voice or your logical wife voice (the why-a–new-kitchen–is-important-to-the wellbeing-of-the-nation voice). Got it, then you are ready for boardroom discussions.

Have no fear! Remember, a meeting is only a meeting of minds and it is nothing to be intimidated by or afraid of. So relax.

Ok, the meeting has begun. How do I start? Well, you can either be building up on another person's viewpoint or introducing your own.

If you are building upon someone else’s point- allude to that person. Recognize the importance of that statement by highlighting a specific detail they mentioned that you want to build upon. Maintain their eye contact and speak directly to them.  Then shift your attention to the group by quickly eyeing over them and then holding each person’s gaze unless you have to shift their attention to another focal point.

“I really appreciate the point that Tom has made especially when he mentioned….. In addition to that etc, I would like to draw our attention to…”

What if someone never mentions the point you want to build upon. Don’t panic! If you panic-you will interject at an inappropriate time in the discussion and your point will be lost. Nod your head as other points are presented and listen. Listen for two reasons i) to avoid repetition  ii) to learn from what is being said. Once, the discussion is almost complete, assertively enter the discussion with your point by firstly acknowledging the other speakers and the points they have made.

“These are all valid points which give us a lot to think about. In addition to that, I wonder if we can also consider……

What if I speak up at the same time as someone else? Do I continue to talking about the subject matter? Whatever you do-do not leave the room without making your point. Categorize the people in the room-who is above you in the organogram or who is below you? This is not a recipe to disrespect anyone but to accord respect where respect is due. If it is a senior person to you, say

“Go ahead [place name here]. I will speak after you.”

If it is a junior person- say the same thing. They are more likely to give the floor back to you- even if they don’t, don’t take it personally. Wait another turn.

If someone else gives you the floor-go for it. Politely thank the person and make your point. If it warrants discussion, ask the floor to contribute their positions on the point.

You have the chance to speak now. Speak deliberately. Don’t feel rushed. Use short sentences. Start with an introduction to the point you want to get across. Expand on your topic with an explanation of why you think its important or relevant to the discussion. Anticipate the difficulties the audience may have with grasping it. Provide a solution and a way forward. In the conclusion-invite the team’s thoughts. You can even select a name of a person who you would like to hear from and what they think.

Do not take any responses personally. If there are compliments-that’s great for the team, politely say ‘Thank you’ and move along. Don’t spend time downplaying yourself. If it’s a negative comment-acknowledge and appreciate the comment and probe on how it can be handled differently, if necessary.  Bring other team members into the discussion to avoid the discussion seeming personal. Otherwise, know where to let it go. You are letting a point go, nothing else.

Quick Tips

    • If you have a complaint or you are saying it on behalf of supervisees or others-do not air out frustrations only! Pair your frustrations with proposed solutions.
    • Should someone go for the jugular-Do not lose your cool! Know that your facial expression will deceive you instinctively but your mouth shouldn't! Firstly, acknowledge your ‘dismay' at the point. Take your mind to a calming place as you take a deep breath and order your rebuttal. You decide whether to express it all in the meeting, suggest toward the end of meeting when you have calmed down or suggest a separate meeting. You decide!
    • Remember, you are the boss of your mind. The boss doesn’t lose her cool. Yes, the boss can be passionate but the boss is not led by her emotions. She is led by her purpose. Be passionate about the purpose.
    • Say no to gossip! Do not wait until you have left the room to make a point on someone else’s point. That is tantamount to gossip. If anything-bring them aside and discuss the matter and way forward with them.
    • Respect your own opinion! If you don't respect yourself, don't expect anyone else to.

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