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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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
- And on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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