How to do yourself justice in meetings


By Emma Serlin
October 12, 2019

If you’re an introvert, meetings can feel like warzones in which your main goal is to duck extroverted bullets while the loudest personalities exchange fire. So how do you do yourself justice in such a meeting? Here is the LSW guide for how to claim your space, make an impact and have a productive meeting without resorting to aggression.

Prepare

We’ve said it before and we’ll likely keep saying it to our clients: preparation is crucial. It can make the difference between a disorientating meeting and one in which you feel clear.

Get precise as to what you want the outcome of the meeting to be. Then make a list of what you want to add to the formal schedule. Order your points on paper, outlining a problem, your solution and an action plan. All of this makes you come across as prepared and polished. Even if the rest of the meeting is chaotic, you will be able to inject this clarity into the fray. Prepare for any challenges that people might raise and plan your responses. Finish by asking for input or questions to prompt buy-in and productive discussion.

Harness your vocal and physical delivery

Your delivery is the packaging your ideas are wrapped in. If you are handing someone precious jewellery, you are unlikely to wrap it in old newspaper and parcel tape. But when someone receives a beautiful box with a ribbon they anticipate something valuable inside. Working on your vocal and physical delivery helps others to handle your ideas with the interest they deserve.

Pause. Don’t rush what you have to say. If you speak steadily you’ll find you’re able to think as you go and your ideas will come out more clearly and succinctly. If others seem impatient to speak, don’t stop or hurry to finish – what they have to say is no more important than your ideas.

Body language is key. A powerful position can help you get into the right headspace. We have a connection tool that helps you become aware of how you are sitting and adjust accordingly. If you have a habit of keeping your body close, shift to a more relaxed posture, or go bigger. Imagine you’re wearing a power suit with shoulder pads. Project your energy outwards rather than inwards so that you own the space you have been given.

Smiling and making eye contact can go a long way to creating connection with those listening. That doesn’t mean you have to force a smile – in fact, that can cause the opposite effect. But even letting your eyes be warm and receptive can create the connection you need.

Listen actively

Active listening makes people notice you long before you say a word – not because you’re attention-seeking, but purely because you are participating as a listener.

This can be as simple as nodding when you agree, making notes when you have ideas and – never underestimate it – making eye contact. Participating like this builds your presence in the room, it’s a subtle energetic layer that makes people more likely to stop and listen when you do open your mouth.

It’s a basic exchange of kindness. When you listen to people actively they will be inclined to listen to you. They likely won’t notice this consciously; they’ll only know they want to pay attention to you.

Beyond that, you’ll find active listening (with an open heart and mind) sparks your own ideas. When you come to a meeting unclear on what you want to say, your engagement with others will give space for your own thoughts to formulate.

Claim your space and deal with objections and interruptions

Dominant personalities can derail even the best ideas, just by interrupting. Even if you retort, the temptation can be to snap or react in a way that distracts people from the idea you were originally delivering – or worse, triggers a full-blown conflict. The good news is that you don’t have to fight fire with fire – there is another option.

Let’s imagine someone has just interrupted you. A bunch of distracting voices have just crowded your head – possibly accusing you of not being good enough, possibly a string of expletives aimed at your newly formed opponent. This is not the time to brood on those voices.

Steps for dealing with interruptions:

  1. Let them talk for a bit - interrupting involves an adrenalin hit and you need to let that release before jumping to take the baton back. Otherwise you can have all out war on your hands. Or they will still be so full with the enthusiasm that led to the interruption, they won’t even notice you speaking.
  2. After a few seconds, you want to stop them, this could be by saying ‘excuse me’ but actually the most powerful device is saying their name. After all you can’t be more personalised than your own name, right? It’s guaranteed to make for the most effective disrupter that their ears could pick up.
  3. Then hold the silence for a moment. Don’t rush back into what you were saying. The moments pause takes back ownership of the space. Everyone’s attention and energy will settle back on you. And you’ll have a moment to cool off.
  4. Now you have their attention - you get to make your request. I haven’t quite finished - would you mind? By making a request you stop this from being a public shaming or a telling off, and into an adult exchange - a clear request which they will find it difficult to say no to. They’ll also be less likely to interrupt you in future.

Really great meetings are about generosity, support and warmth. So any opportunity you have to create those qualities – even in the tough moments of an interruption – can help make the meeting a success.

Interrupt with care and grace

What about when you need to interrupt someone else? Firstly, it’s worth asking if you need to. After all, the way you listen to others will affect how they listen to you. But sometimes when dominant personalities are being – well – dominant, it’s difficult to get a word in edgeways. And sometimes you need to.

If you acknowledge what’s already been said, you can create connection and rapport even when interrupting.

An interruption that begins with, “That’s an interesting point…” or, “That’s a good angle…” shows you’ve been listening and paying attention. A listener will be much more receptive to hearing your point of view if you accept theirs first. Even the loudest person in the room might quieten down because you’ve complimented their idea.

A key here - a really, really important key - is don’t add the word ‘but’. That ruins the compliment and turns the positive connection sour. Just let the loud person have the compliment. It won’t hurt.

Use clever tools for more productive meetings

Meetings can be fertile grounds for growing ideas or they can be a thicket of thorns to extricate yourself from. The best meetings are worth fighting for – and they only happen when everyone’s voices are encouraged.

“One of my clients,” says Cat, “worked in finance in a very male-dominated environment. She would leave meetings without having said a word. Her manager told her they wanted to hear her ideas so she began receiving coaching from me at LSW.”

Our tools helped her to interrupt her male colleagues graciously and to overcome upspeak, which was making her sound uncertain (for tips on upspeak check out our 7 things you are doing that are sabotaging you at work) . Her increased visibility helped her be placed on a project that she says might not have happened otherwise. Beforehand the perception of her was shy and quiet but now her potential is becoming clearer to those she works with.  

There are several practical tools for facilitating productive meetings in Emma Serlin’s guide, The Connection Book. These help better decisions to be made, projects to begin and for a feeling of wellbeing and achievement to permeate the team. This sweet spot can be reached! You might need some practical tools, and your team might need some coaching. Check out our custom courses for businesses or if you are an introvert whose voice is waiting to be heard, book a taster session for our effective communication courses.

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