How to Manage Yourself in MeetingsOctober 22, 2010
Meetings are about people first, business second
People will bend over backwards to work with people they like. Use your rapport building skills to connect – make eye contact with everyone, initiate saying “hello” and a neither too bone-crushing or flaccid handshake.
The first secret to making a good impression is not to make a bad one
You are effectively on show as soon as you approach the meeting room. You may be a top act in the boardroom but if you’ve parked inconsiderately or have been rude to the receptionist, the word will have gone around the building as soon as you’ve hear “matters arising”.
Use the introductions to draw attention to yourself
This can be prepared in advance – your name, role and why you are present in the meeting. Keeping it brief, addressing the whole meeting, starting and ending with the chair. Ensure that the minute taker has understood your name and spell out anything that could be misunderstood
Gather key information from the off
Starting with the names and roles of those attending. In any meeting, start by drawing a “map” of the table, where people are sitting and what they do. Being able to use someone’s name when addressing them is key to gaining their confidence and spreading your influence around the whole room.
Make a contribution within the first five minutes
Those experienced in meetings know this painful truth. As meetings progress, some will be left behind. Keep your comments relevant and brief but get in early
Help make other people look good
A gentle acknowledgement of colleagues achievements will be remembered, although avoid the snivveling “I agree with Nick” moments.
Where to sit
Know who the main movers and shakers are, and sit in their eye line. Don’t sit next to the chairperson or anyone you really want to connect with. If everyone is seated when you arrive, don’t be afraid to politely move your chair to get a good seat. Sit up and set your shoulders towards the meeting and place your hands in a relaxed manner on the table – you’ll look confident and ready.
How to get your ideas across during brainstorms
Keep it succinct, a four or five words sentence which is easy to write on the flipchart or smartboard. Look around the room as you speak and see how your ideas are being received. Make links with your ideas with what has gone before, don’t be afraid to praise other’s contributions. If possible, offer to “flip” and get yourself in the centre of the action.
Giving better presentations
Keep it short and snappy – three or four points max. Even you have lots of complicated data, summarise your main points at the beginning and at the end. Don’t under any circumstances try to cram things in – it never works. If you are stuck for time, jump straight to the end and repeat your main points. Smile. No-one will know.
Handling difficult negotiations
Have your objectives set out in advance – your best possible option and your “must have” position. If faced with aggressive tactics or demands which are outside your authority, don’t be pressurised, stay relaxed and take some time out to consider your position, even if this means a break in the meeting. No-one ever got sacked for keeping things pleasant and checking things out before making a costly mistake.
How to disagree with someone and survive when you’re outnumbered
Use I think/feel statements to indicate that your position is one that you believe in. Seek to demonstrate how your ideas are allied to others. At all costs keep your head, even if the tide is turning against you. Be magnanimous in victory and philosophical in defeat. For heaven’s sake don’t sulk.
Body language tips
Remember Albert Merhabian’s research about how attitudes and beliefs are communicated – 7% the words used, 38% the way they are spoken and 55% the accompanying body language. Make sure that your body language and voice tone are in line with what you want to say.
How to wrap up and leave a good impression
Finish as you started. Shaking hands, using people’s names, saying something that you appreciated about what they said or did during the meetings. Remember to wish them a good holiday/a good journey home or whatever they said they would be doing in the near future. Oh and be polite to the receptionist on the way out.
(Quotes from this article previously appeared in Shortlist magazine)