‘How do I raise my profile in meetings and ensure I am heard?’ This is a question I am often asked. Unsurprisingly, the answer isn’t simply ‘say more’.
Too much valuable meeting time is consumed by those who like to blather on, or seem to endlessly repeat themselves.
Giving an opinion or sharing information and experiences are just two of the ways in which you can make a contribution to a meeting. These are also two of the least effective ways to behave.
Here are my top ten strategies for raising your profile in meetings and making your voice heard:
1. Be selective – Skilled performers know when best to contribute as well as how best to contribute. They have a sense of timing that ensures they contribute without being disruptive.
2. Be concise – Teams and groups that work well tend to share the distribution of airtime with no one person dominating more than another. A big contributor to this efficiency is the ability to ‘get in’ to the conversation, say what you need to say and then ‘get out’. Being mindful of your personal style and the levels of participation across the group are fundamental to improving your performance and the success of the meeting.
3. Vary your contributions – The default inputs in meetings fall into a category of behaviour known as Giving Information. This includes making statements of fact and giving an opinion or reasons. Research into effective meetings behaviours has revealed a number of more effective alternatives, some of which are outlined below:
4. Summarising – If you don’t have anything to add to the subject under discussion, you can help the entire meeting by summarising key points at regular intervals. Summarising regularly is a helpful, yet still relatively uncommon, behaviour.
5. Labelling – A behaviour label is a device which 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 giving information, or ‘Here’s another idea for the pot’, followed by a proposal. Labelling helps to command the attention of the other people in the meeting and it then creates the space for you to say your piece and be heard.
6. Shutting Out – Sometimes, to get into a conversation you have to steal the airtime from another person. This is a behaviour known as 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 in to 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.
7. Building – This is used by the most skilful individuals. Building behaviour is defined as ‘adding to or modifying a proposal or suggestion made by another person’. In a meeting this might sound like:
Proposal: I’d like to spend some time looking at those figures
Build: Maybe we could get Sam to talk you through them
Like Summarising, Building relies on your ability to listen. Done authentically, Building also demonstrates that your interest lies with the people generating the ideas, rather than competing with your own ideas. A further use of Building is as an alternative to disagreeing with someone’s idea. Rather than reject the suggestion outright, take an element of the idea that you like and work with that. It’s a powerful way to build relationships, improve climate and gain momentum.
8. React – Reacting behaviours are the way we let other people know how we respond to what they have said. The two most common reacting behaviours are Supporting and Disagreeing. ‘Low Reactors’ can often have a negative or destabilising effect on a group because others find it hard to judge where you’re coming from. So rather than set the group on edge, use Supporting and Disagreeing as a way of being heard. When you like an idea or agree with something someone has said, say so. When you aren’t convinced, let people know. Skilled performers support and disagree in equal measure. With Disagreeing, be sure to state your reasons first and then your disagreement. That way you can be sure people have heard the basis of your dispute.
9. Ask questions – Give less, Ask more, Ask better. Being curious rather than judgmental is one of the most powerful ways to ensure you are heard and to build the relationships that will help you towards success. 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.
10. Develop influencing styles – To influence without authority requires a skillful use of the ‘Pull’ style of persuasion. Behaviourally this is characterised by three behaviours: Seeking Proposals; Building and Seeking Information. However, when time is short, or where you’re the expert, or where you’re happy to go with compliance rather than commitment then 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 skilfully.
Building your awareness of these tactics and taking opportunities to practice will help you build new behavioural muscle. This will raise your profile and ensure that your voice and ideas are heard.
About the author: Ally Yates is author of ‘Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business’ and an expert on Behaviour Analysis and the interactions that define us. She combines a deep understanding of people and how to achieve results, based on her many years’ experience working with large corporate clients around the world.
Since 2000 Ally has been working as an independent consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach. She has collaborated with international business schools and has received national and international training awards.
Ally’s approach is grounded in a sound understanding of theory, trends and practice in learning and development, business development and leadership development. Clients value her insights, pragmatism and influence.
She is passionate about family, rugby union, travel and learning.
For further information please visit: www.allyyates.com