Speaking up in meetings is easy for some people, and for others it can be completely intimidating. If you’re in the latter group, here are some way to participate more:
To be heard, speak up.
To be seen, stand up.
To be appreciated, shut up.
“Powers” (Hierarchical) – Senior management: President, Country
Manager, General Manager, etc.
“Powers” (Social) – The workmate that everyone follows (the joker, the
“rebel” , etc).
“Influences” – Those who influence the powers directly or indirectly
(friends, family, colleagues, etc)
“Hot Bodies” – People who have little or no influence over the decisions taken. Us
1. Use Plurals (we, us our) instead of singular ( I ):
Personalizing your comments / questions using “I”, can often make you
a target for the person you are talking to who may question your
knowledge, background, skills, etc. in an attempt to devalue your
contribution or as a way to avoid answering. When you use plurals you
are perceived as being the voice of the group and therefore far less likely
to be attacked.
Some examples are:
– Have we considered + your suggestion..?
– How could we improve…?
– What benefits would we obtain by…?
– We have discovered…
– Our team have….
– We would like to propose…
2. Stand up whenever possible:
When standing you sound more authoritative, look more powerful and
the audience have to literally “Look up to you”. When you are seated
your body produces less adrenalin and you sound less persuasive. In
addition, you are literally at the same level as the other attendees and
will therefore have greater difficulty in convincing the group.
3. Use Positive Language:
Tell the participants what you think would be best and why rather than
telling them what is wrong with their ideas.
4. Be Brief and Specific:
Stay on the topic and the point. Give your thoughts and reasons in short
sentences, then stop and let others respond.
5. Avoid “But” and use “and”, “however”, “nevertheless”, etc.:
Subconsciously, the word BUT invalidates everything that goes before it.
E.g., “I love your idea but there are some problems (so I really don’t
love you idea!) Vs
“I love your idea and there are some problems.”
“I love your idea however there are some problems.”
“I love your idea nevertheless there are some problems.”
6. Stop talking when you’ve made your point.
Say what you want to say and the shut up.
7. Control your in-meeting body language:
– Sit straight up and lean slightly forward
– Keep your hands in view on the table (We trust people when we can
see their hands)
– Make eye contact with the “Powers” (social or hierarchical ) &
“Influences” when talking.
– Study the gestures of the “Powers” and use the same gestures when
speaking during the meeting.
8. When you are confused:
There is nothing worse than sitting in on a meeting and having no idea
what’s going on. If you do not understand, there are sure to be other
people in the same situation, so ASK for clarification.:
Example patterns that you can use are:
• Forgive me, I’m a little confused about…
• I’m not entirely sure I’m following you, could you please recap what
you just mentioned regarding…
• I’m sure I’m supposed to know this already, however…
• Today I am a little bit slow so could you please go over X again.
• This may be a silly question, however I’m still not up to speed on
9. Reflect the spoken language of the “Powers” & “Influences”.
One of the most powerful techniques to influence other is to use their
own language when talking to them. Literally, Speak their language. If
the power says “We need to take a new look at this plan.” the effective
communicator would reply “Take a new look at this plan? We could
look at the plan now and see how we could clarify everything.”
10. Use visual & verbal markers.
If you think that someone will interrupt you before you finish, preface
your ideas with something like:
– “I have four observations (& hold up 4 fingers) to make about the
situation. First …,”
– “There are three things that we need to consider. Firstly…”
– “Let’s look at the three possibilities we have. Number 1 is…”
and then keep enumerating verbally and visually as you go along so that
people know you are not finished when you take a breath.
Use these simple tips in your next meetings, video or teleconferences and see, hear and feel the difference.
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© Brownlee & Associates, Madrid, Spain, 2005. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied, translated or reproduced in any form without the prior written consent of Brownlee & Associates.