Often people get unstuck because they’re so desperately thinking of the best way to put their information across that, by the time they have finally figured it out, the conversation has moved on. Or they might desperately scramble a few words together, jump in at the wrong time and generally sound flustered. In doing so, they might raise their voice or speak too fast and the message just doesn’t land in the way they wanted it to.
My answer is simply this, preparation is key and winging it is best left to birds!
- Prepare in advance: write down a few bullet points to ensure clarity and eliminate waffling
2. Get your voice heard early in the meeting: leave it too late and people may assume you’ve got nothing to say⠀
3. Avoid rushing: the secret to this is pacing, which you’ll achieve by breathing deeply and slowing down⠀
4. Use the numbering technique: this will draw attention to your key points and head interruptions off at the pass
5. Avoid devaluing yourself by saying “does that make sense?” If you’ve taken the time to prepare in advance, you’ll be confident that what you’re saying does make sense, so you won’t need to check!
6. Be generous: Build on others’ points and ask questions that show you’re interested and draw out other people’s perspectives.
It’s like driving a car!
I was talking to someone the other day, about the steps she can take to get her message across in a meeting, and I suddenly realised, it’s like driving a car. When you’re driving along and you want to turn left or right, you don’t immediately just turn left or drastically turn right without doing the classic mirror, signal, manoeuvre.
Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre
It’s the same way when you’re in a meeting. If you’ve got something to say, the best way to ensure people are listening to you and paying attention is to do some form of signalling – I’m not talking about flapping your hands around (again no bird gestures!). Instead, in the same way as you check your mirror before pulling away, ask yourself, ‘what is going on in the room?’ and look at how receptive people are.
The next step is to signal that you want to speak. The best way to signal verbally is by introducing what you are about to say. Something like:
- “The key point we need to discuss here is…”
- Or, “There are two issues we need to explore in relation to that point”
- Or, “That’s a fantastic point James, and I’d like to build on that by saying…”
Using signalling makes people much more receptive and ready to listen to what you have to say. Try it next time you’re in a meeting, I guarantee it will get your voice heard.