We’ve all sat through countless meetings. Here’s how you can make them more effective.
1. Turn off your phone and electronic devices so that you are fully present to the group. There is much to be learned through attentive listening and observation. You can arrange for hourly ‘recesses’ to attend to other pressing business.
2. Pause before you begin to speak. Collect your thoughts and discipline your tongue. Blurting and babble are way beneath your ability and status. Treat your own words as if they were valuable; gold coins, not theater pop-corn.
3. Anticipate probable objections and questions. To be caught by surprise or to be put on the defensive is uncomfortable and makes you lose your cool.
4. Start with the bottom line –the core message of your report – whenever you can. The more senior the audience, the more important it is to be mindful of their time and attention span. Don’t ever make them wait for you to get to the point. They may not.
5. Prepare a preliminary statement or story that demonstrates the background of your material so people understand the relevance of your information. Group members come from differing backgrounds and diverse interest and may need some help in getting properly oriented to understand your contribution.
6. Make an effort “to be” heard by the whole group. Speak out so that the person farther away can hear you. Since your voice goes where your eyes go, this means you should be making eye contact with these people.
7. Say “I don’t know” when necessary and say what you will do to find out. Make no pretense to be a ‘know-it-all’. None of us do.
8. Be sensitive about any “Surprise Bombs” –unexpected news, good or bad – and give your superiors a heads-up. Their support will be valuable to you, and they really don’t want to be caught off guard?
9. Sit quietly and pay attention. Do not take assiduous notes or otherwise act like the secretary of the group. Be a fully invested participant. Don’t fiddle with your pencil, play with your pearls or look otherwise disengaged. Try to make some kind of contribution to the discussion.
10. Be respectful at all times. But watch out for ‘Nice” (too much smiling, nodding and deference). Your Leadership role is to assume authority and move the agenda. You will grow in finesse and diplomacy if you watch skilled group communicators deal with difficult situations and people (see #1 above).
Our guest blogger is Carol Fleming, Ph.D., who is the author of “It’s the Way You Say It”! Becoming Articulate, Well-spoken and Clear. Her book is a comprehensive guide to vocal development and improvement of communication skills, for people who want to learn how to speak better.
If you want to learn more about how Dr. Fleming can help you improve your communication skills, please send her an email at email@example.com.