The question is not "to meet or not to meet."
The question is how to make the most of the meetings you do
Meetings need not be the boring, repetitive and work-generating
events that professionals have learned to tolerate. They can
be an excellent vehicle for airing grievances, debating policies
and proposing new ideas while key staffers and decision-makers
are assembled and attentive. To the attendee who has something
to say and can communicate it effectively, there's no more
opportune time to make a point – and an impression.
Take the Stage; Don't Just Drift
you intend to present an idea, take the stage just as a performer
does. None of this "Just a minute, before we continue. I've
been thinking about something for a while." Or "I'm not saying
I disagree with what's already been said, but here's just
another thought about how we could approach the issue.…"
Shakespeare was right: all the world is a stage. Those actors
who wait for the opportune time or fearfully cower in the wings never get noticed.
Those who confidently and competently play out their roles get the attention
their ideas deserve.
Be Conversational; Don't Move into
Regardless of the importance of the issue or the formality of the setting, use
your conversational voice, not your lecture tone.
Replace: "It is imperative that I inform you..." with: "You
all need to know that .…" Similarly, instead of "The research and development
group of which I've been appointed chair, effective May 1, has asked that you
be notified that the team is receptive to any and all proposals concerning...",
try "On May 1, R&D asked me to chair a team to come up with a solution.
So, I'll need your input on..."
Consider yourself part a multiple-person conversation rather
than a single person addressing a group. In most situations, that means you'll
pause to let others speak or ask questions if necessary for clarification as
you move through your ideas. You'll use the "we" and "us" approach rather than
"you" and "I." You'll use terms everyone understands instead of lapsing into
jargon. You'll make eye contact with everyone around the table and not read
from notes or stare at the floor.
Present Your Proposal Only One Way
and Be Specific
It's natural to think that the more general you can make your idea, the more
"hooks" you're creating for people to latch onto. However, a broad, generally
expressed idea usually has the opposite effect: everybody hears something they
disagree with or can think of reasons why your suggestion won't work.
Instead, propose your idea succinctly, and let it stand there
in all its glory until people ask you to add details by their comments and questions.
Your proposals are far too important to leave to the guesswork of others. And
others are too busy to wade through generalities.
Give your ideas the best shot at being considered by being
clear and concise. Vague, undeveloped ideas will be quickly buried and unappreciated.
Listen to the Counters toYour Proposal
Don't get so carried away in preparing to defend your ideas when a person raises
an objection that you miss what he or she says. If you do, you may find yourself
focusing on an issue that the other person has just conceded, or failing to
respond at all to the new issues raised.
Active listening is not only polite, it's the most effective
way of discovering the strengths and weaknesses of your ideas. Listening provides
key insights about the receptivity of others so you can provide appropriate
End with Impact
When you present an idea, don't limp away with a sputter, drop your eyes, tune
out with body language, or let others grab the floor and run away with your
insights. Instead, summarize your idea, mentioning the pros and cons discussed
and any decisions made, and suggest the next follow-up step.
The climactic car chase at the end of the movie, the compelling
cross-examination by the prosecuting attorney, and the last-second touchdown
catch to secure victory are what's most remembered. Avoid a routine, anti-climatic
ramble – end with a wallop.
Your next meeting can be an opportunity to assert your views, display your expertise
and communicate your passion in front of the right people at the right time.
When it's your turn to take the stage, make it count.
About Dianna Booher
Dianna Booher is CEO of Booher Consultants, a Dallas-based communications firm.
Her programs include communication (writing, oral presentations, interpersonal,
customer service communications, gender, listening, meetings, conflict) and
life balance/productivity. She has published 39 books, including E-Writing:
21st-Century Tools for Effective Communication (Pocket Books, February 2001),
Communicate with Confidence! (McGraw-Hill), and The Worth of a Woman's Words
(Nelson-Word). Several have been major Book Club selections. Call 817.868.1200;