Most of us reading this blog have experienced the kind of meeting agony that gives meetings a bad name. when a group of people get together, and instead of building something, they complicate, confuse and ultimately dismantle. If it were a tapestry, then even if you’ve gone in with something half way sensible, you’d come out with a tangled mess of half threads, ideas picked up and dropped, dead ends and holes. And while we all say we hate these meetings, somehow, we all contribute in some way to the disaster, even if it is by doing nothing. Hopefully your experience is not as extreme, but even if it is towards this end of the spectrum, take hope in the knowledge, that there is something you can do, to shift it from a black hole to a Balzantine masterpiece. Or at the very least a pretty picture. Here are five tips to arm yourself with at the next meeting you dread…
Enter the room with positive body language. Get those non-verbals making a statement before you even open your mouth. By having good posture, clear eye contact and open body language you can make the statement that you are happy to be there, relaxed, confident and interested in what is going on. Just by having your unspoken language make that kind of statement can influence the room for the better.
Cultivate an attitude of respect for everyone in the room. The best ideas could come from every direction, so being open and respectful of each person encourages people to feel like they have a supporter and therefore feel more confident in sharing their ideas.
When someone opens their mouth, try and listen from your entire body. Show them you are listening by making eye contact, nodding, and using smiles if appropriate. Also be aware of having open body language (i.e. don’t cross your arms in their direction).
Be organized. Know what you personally would like to get out of the meeting. Have some idea of an agenda either for your objectives or for the meeting as a whole. even if its just scribbled out numbered bullets on a piece of paper, that will help shape things. Same goes for if you are sharing an idea, know your objectives and keep it short and concise. Before you speak it can help to write down five or so words to represent each point and number them in the order you want to say it. This will help you stay focused.
Finally its important to manage interruptions with grace and clarity. If you are interrupted, and it annoys you, then after taking a break, request that they wait until you have finished speaking. If you do this in a calm way and with a smile, then it should seem fine. You could say something like “ I’d love to hear your point, but would you mind if I finish my point first’. Similarly if you are the one interrupting, do this with grace. The best trick is interrupting with something positive. That soften s the blow of interruption and makes people more receptive to hearing from you.
Good luck for your next meeting and doing your part to turn the meeting from a battle ground to a fertile ground.
Emma Serlin is the author Of The Connection Book and founder of London Speech Workshop, a communication coaching company that provides one to one coaching to professionals in all areas of effective communication.