When we participate in meetings, we tend to focus on the parts of our contributions that relate to the content of the discussion. Certainly content is important, but how those contributions fit into the discussion can be important, too. To determine fit, we must examine both the content of the contribution in relation to the rest of the conversation, and the flow of the exchange itself.
Here's a set of techniques for enhancing your influence in meetings.
- Leave the obvious remarks to others
- A contribution that's relatively obvious to most participants can create an impression that the contributor is less worth listening to than other contributors might be. That impression lasts beyond the present moment, leading others to attach lesser value to that contributor's offerings, even when he or she has something more valuable to say. To enhance your influence, leave the obvious remarks to others.
- Speak slowly
- When people want to contribute, some feel pressure to make their contributions quickly, minimizing the time taken. In a rush, they backtrack, misspeak, or forget important points. Avoid this trap. Speak carefully and slowly enough to get it right.
- Make notes if necessary
- Sometimes it's difficult to get a chance to speak. Perhaps many people are trying to enter the discussion, or the meeting is virtual, or the facilitator unskilled. When your turn comes, make it count. Use notes to help you remember the points you want to make. Nothing erodes influence like forgetting important points.
- Ask brilliant questions
- Contributions need not be definitive. Questions are contributions, too, especially when they stop the meeting in its tracks. See "Asking Brilliant Questions," Point Lookout for November 22, 2006, for more.
- Learn how not to be interrupted
- Being interrupted erodes the contributor's ability to influence the meeting. Usually we regard the interrupter as the cause of the interruption, but the person being interrupted can do much to prevent interruptions. See "Let Me Finish, Please," Point Lookout for January 22, 2003, for more.
- Deal with interruptions
- When interruptions do occur, To enhance your influence,
leave the obvious
remarks to otherstalking louder than the person interrupting is ineffective. Because interrupting others repeatedly is a performance issue, deal with it privately. Talk to the meeting lead if you aren't the lead, or talk to the interrupter if you are the lead. If things don't improve, escalate.
- Get to the point
- Some begin their contributions by describing them, or by explaining how the idea came about. For instance, "I was thinking about this very issue as I was coming up the stairs from the lobby this morning, and this amazing insight came to me." Skip that stuff. Get to the point. Making the contribution eliminates the need to describe it. If people want to know how it originated, let them ask you.
Do you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Films Not About Project Teams: I
- Here's part one of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to
be about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
- Management Debt: I
- Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths
— that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on
management debt? How can we pay it down?
- Unnecessary Boring Work: I
- Work can be boring. Some of us must endure the occasional boring task, but for many, everything about
work is boring. It doesn't have to be this way.
- Workplace Anti-Patterns
- We find patterns of counter-effective behavior — anti-patterns — in every part of life,
including the workplace. Why? What are their features?
- Issues-Only Team Meetings
- Time spent in regular meetings is productive to the extent that it moves the team closer to its objectives.
Because uncovering and clarifying issues is more productive than distributing information or listening
to status reports, issues-only team meetings focus energy where it will help most.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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