Over 41% of people feel nervous about speaking in meetings.
I completely get it. You need to follow the conversation, protect your credibility, and make sure you don’t offend anyone (and, at the same time, find something intelligent to say).
It takes discipline to make the most of your meetings. But if you manage to be impactful during meetings, you’re seen as a helpful individual who deserves a spot in the next conversation! Sharing ideas with others is intimidating, but it helps you to build positive relations and expands your authority.
You can build a career in meetings! So here are 5 rules to make the most of your meetings.
1. PREPARE — get familiar with people and topics
You probably know a few leaders who can jump on ideas and elaborate a swift and insightful response on-the-fly. If you don’t have the experience or confidence to do so, don’t feel defeated. You can still be part of the conversation; you just need a little extra preparation, that’s all!
Read meeting materials (if they are shared in advance), and prepare your questions. You will make the most of your meetings remaining focused on the conversation, instead of flipping through the deck.
Look at the attendees. What could they possibly want as an outcome of the meeting? Will they support the main ideas? What themes could be contentious?
2. DO — ask questions
The best way to engage safely in a meeting is to ask open questions.
It’s easy (you don’t need much expertise to do so) and it helps with reputation; you certainly don’t want to be seen as a mute, passive, newbie hiding at the back of the room.
If you want to make the most of your meetings, asking questions brings many benefits:
- it shows you are interested and engaged
- it shows you can scratch below the surface and get into the heart of the matter
- it makes your voice heard, which is important for self-confidence
But the challenging bit when you ask questions is to add value!
3. ACT — add value (for others to make the most of their meetings)
Some meetings are painfully unproductive. Ever seen someone asking a question that is already answered in the pack? Or challenging beliefs solely relying on their opinion (OK, some arguments have good entertainment value… but technically, they’re a waste of time)?
The world doesn’t need more of this.
You can also help others to make the most of their meetings. By asking a pertinent question, can you clarify something? Can you bring a challenge to light? Can you help to connect people?
For instance, I always start with the same sentence:
“[Insert name of the person you’re talking to], I would like to understand more about your idea. Can I ask something?”
I position my message as respectful (ask for permission to speak) and insightful (going deeper).
Results so far? 100% positive response rate.
4. BEHAVE — master the hidden rules of communication
Meetings have their own etiquette, with unspoken rules of conversation you need to follow. If you don’t know them, here’s a reminder:
- if you can’t add value, remain silent
- make your message simple and to the point
- don’t brag or engage in a monologue about your achievements (no one cares, or if someone does, that part of the conversation will continue off line).
- respect the opinions of others
- if you disagree with something, pushing your opinion forward or arguing about details is no way to make the most of your meetings. Instead, show how a different view could take the conversation further.
- if the conversation goes off-track, take action; offer to take the point offline and report to the group afterwards
5. ENGAGE — be collaborative
Meetings are helpful to build the relationships that help you stand out at work.
But do you know what happens to those who are barely manageable in meetings? They’re blacklisted. So, to close, here are 2 easy ways for you to earn invitations in the future.
Don’t over-do it. You don’t need to jump at every opportunity. People who hijack conversations waste precious time for brainstorming, challenge or decision.
Remember these 2 quality gates: am I bringing value? Is it my role to challenge that specific point? (If you’re in your early days, the answer is probably no). It’s absolutely OK to speak only once or twice. But you need to go for quality and impact.
Greet and introduce. If you attend in person, introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Tell them who you are and what you’re doing here. You don’t really know? It’s absolutely OK to come to listen and learn!
Few people introduce themselves. By doing so, you stand out immediately.
Meetings are a rare opportunity to get everyone, junior and senior, to sit at the same table to discuss solutions and make decisions. Even as a less experienced attendee, you can add value with small actions, asking insightful questions and showing you’re willing to learn from your seniors (this helps to suggest an idea to your boss).
Learning to make the most of your meetings is part of your development journey, as much as it is a productive way to work. Want to be an awesome attendee? Give at least twice more value than what you get by attending.
Nearly 40% of people doze off in meetings. What about you? What’s your trick to remain focused?
This article was originally published at www.coraliesawruk.com.