Do you struggle in meetings to be heard? Do people pass over your comments, ignore your input or take your suggestions on as their own?
Being heard in meetings is of critical importance as you advance through the company to the boardroom. It takes confidence, purpose, research, and practice.
In a recent Entrepreneur magazine article, the author offers 15 ways to communicate effectively as a leader and a few of them are worth pointing out:
- Use pauses effectively. If you have struggled to be heard in the past, once you have the floor you might feel inclined to rush through your comments, just praying you get through all you have to say before someone interrupts you. However, pauses can help your audience understand, digest and appreciate your opinion.
Some people think pausing is awkward or makes them seem less confident. In reality, Hanke says, it separates the points you’re making, so that they are easier for your listener to digest.
Pausing is especially important when you are explaining something complicated or technical, to give your audience a chance to keep up.
On that note, taking time to pause now and then gives you a chance to keep up with yourself. You can be more deliberate with your words if you take a second or two to think about what you’re saying. You can also scan the body language of those you’re speaking with, see whether they’re engaged, confused or distracted and change the content or tone of your remarks accordingly — or ask your audience if they need clarification.
2. Choose your words so that you are direct. How many times have you said this in a meeting: “This might be a dumb idea but…” How effective will your idea be if you are helping the audience dismiss it before you even offer it up? Speak strongly and use words that indicate your level of confidence in your opinion and ideas.
Culturally, women are more likely than men to qualify their remarks, ask for permission to speak, defer to more dominant voices and apologize for contributing their thoughts. But anyone can act in this manner, and it’s not the most effective way to get a point across.
If you’re tempted to couch or equivocate, recognize that aggressiveness and assertiveness are two different things, and that being direct is an affront far less often than you might think. In many cases, your listener will respect you more for it.
On a similar note, avoid telling someone, “I don’t care” or “It’s up to you.” Show that you’re engaged with the conversation and that you acknowledge the person you’re speaking with values your opinion by saying something such as, “I don’t feel strongly about either course of action, but here are some factors to take into account.”
3. Tap into the strengths of others around the table. There will be times when the subject is outside your scope of immediate knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit quietly by while the discussion moves forward. Help the conversation along, with you as part of it, but singling out someone at the table who does have experience. Ask for their best practice stories. Encourage them to be in the spotlight – it might be your boss – but it could also be someone in the room who isn’t as comfortable offering ideas. Your encouragement could be just what is needed to help others see them in a more positive light. And you will be recognized and appreciated for the effort.
Instead of feeling inferior and underestimating yourself, tap into that person’s experience and expertise while you have their ear. Ask them how they achieved their accomplishments. Even tell them you admire them. Chances are, they’ll respect your honesty, and flattery may get their attention.
You can add value, too. Tell them what you’ve been thinking, learning and doing lately. They’ll likely have something to learn from you, which will help level the playing field and make the dialogue more productive.
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