Speaking up in business meetings is essential if you want to your grow business, but for many people this doesn’t come easily. Others find it difficult to tread the balance between contributing and taking over.
So, here are ten tips to help you develop your skills and raise your business profile in meetings:
- Be selective – Learn when best to contribute as well as how best to contribute. Develop a sense of timing that ensures they contribute without being disruptive.
- Keep it short – Develop the ability to ‘get in’ to the conversation, say what you need to say and then ‘get out’.
- Vary your contributions – The default inputs in meetings is generally Giving Information, for example, making statements of fact and giving an opinion or reasons. Research revealed a number of more effective alternatives:
- Use labels – A behaviour label announces the behaviour that you’re going to use next. For example: ‘Can I just ask a question?’, followed by a question, or ‘I’d like to add some information here’, followed by information. Labelling helps to command the attention of the other people and it then creates the space for you to say your piece and be heard.
- Summarise – you can help the entire meeting by summarising key points at regular intervals. To summarise accurately you have to be a good listener and be attending to the contributions of others rather than focussing on your own agenda.
- Shutting Out – a helpful formula for interrupting and claiming the airtime is A + B + C = SO. A is A non-verbal indication that you want to get into the discussion. You can lean forward, indicate with your hand, nod with your head and/or make eye contact with the speaker or the chairperson in a way that communicates ‘I have something to say’. B is a Behaviour label. Use a label to prepare the audience that you want their attention. C is the Category of behaviour you use next, e.g. asking a question, suggesting an idea.
- Develop influencing styles – To influence without authority requires a skilful use of the ‘Pull’ style of persuasion: Seeking Proposals; Building and Seeking Information. However, when time is short, you will need to master a ‘Push’ style of persuasion. Here the dominant behaviours are Proposing ideas and Giving Information. Being heard in business is helped by choosing the style that best fits the situation and exercising it skillfully.
- Building – this is ‘adding to or modifying a proposal or suggestion made by another person’.
Proposal: I’d like to spend some time looking at those figures
Build: Maybe we could get Sam to talk you through themDone authentically, Building demonstrates that your interest lies with the people generating the ideas, rather than competing with your own ideas.
- Give less, Ask more, Ask better – the intent is to help you build your interactions around inquiry. Be curious rather than. Ask people for their ideas, their thoughts and their reactions: ‘How do you think we should do this’, ‘What’s your basis for saying that?’, ‘How do you feel about what’s been discussed so far?’. Questions also help to provide clarity in the meeting, ensuring people leave with the same level of understanding.
- Reacting – these behaviours are the way we let other people know how we respond to what they have said. For example, Supporting and Disagreeing. If you are a ‘Low Reactor’, you can often have a negative or destabilising effect on a group because others find it hard to judge where they’re coming from. So, when you like an idea or agree with something someone has said, say so. When you aren’t convinced, let people know.
Take time to build awareness of your behaviours and these tactics, and use opportunities to practice them – and very soon you will have built a new behavioural muscle. And remember the same approaches can also be used in one to one interactions and negotiations.