People often judge you by how you prepare for a meeting—what you say and how you respond to others’ observations, comments, and questions. So, if you plan to contribute to a discussion, plan ahead. Too many managers take their communication capabilities for granted. But if you want to distinguish yourself, here are a few things you can do to make an impression at a meeting.
Be Well Read
You can’t have a carefully thought out point of view to share if you don’t stay abreast of issues in your company or industry. Read news sites and trade magazines. Contemplate such questions as “How might an economic crisis in Europe affect your business?”
Rehearse Your Talking Points
Write down your thoughts and read them aloud—over and over. Listen for places where you stumble, pause, or use too many words. Don’t walk into a meeting and think through what you want to say as you speak. People often can’t follow you easily, and they don’t have the advantage of going back a page and starting over.
Rehearse your thoughts even for a one-on-one meeting with a staff member. A person can quickly tell whether you came to the meeting prepared, and you want the person to feel that you are invested.
A benefit of writing down talking points is that you get a visual display of what’s in your head. That allows you to arrange thoughts in the order you want to discuss them, remove what’s unnecessary, and ensure there is a thematic thread that is easy for people to follow as they listen to you.
Preparation will help you speak efficiently. Listen to yourself, and be alert for wordiness or extra details that don’t need to be included. Avoid starting sentences with long introductory clauses, and omit wordy phrases. Don’t say “We are in the process of creating…” if you can say “We are creating.” Why say “It has come to my attention that many employees apparently are unclear about” when you only need to say “Many employees seem unclear…”
Communicate With Confidence
Avoid utterances and mannerisms that create the impression you are indecisive and powerless. Social psychologists who did experiments found that audiences judged people to be less persuasive when they used these:
- Hesitations: um, ah, well
- Hedges: Perhaps we should possibly consider…
- Disclaimers: I know I’m no expert but…
- Tag questions: That’s a good idea, don’t you think?
Write and Speak With Action Verbs
Here are some guidelines to follow:
No: The committee might not find the idea acceptable.
Yes: The committee might reject the idea.
No: We need to explain the importance of collaboration.
Yes: We need to emphasize the importance of collaboration.
No: She has been working on putting together an outline.
Yes: She created an outline (assuming that she finished).
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Self-deprecating humor makes you human. Use conversational language rather than corporate buzzwords, which are boring and often vague. It’s precisely why so many employees are cynical about management.
If you cannot articulate your thoughts clearly and confidently, you will have difficulty persuading anyone to embrace your point of view.