We often are bored and annoyed in meetings because people repeat what others said or ask unnecessary questions. But it can happen to any of us if we don’t come prepared. Bringing good ideas, making insightful comments, and offering good suggestions are ways you can set yourself apart and build your credibility, particularly as a manager.
Here are a few suggestions for doing the necessary advance work:
- Be well read, even if you are not presenting in front of the group. Aim to be knowledgeable enough to have a point of view to share. Read newspapers, magazines, journal articles, and white papers. Know how the financial crisis in Europe could affect your business. Being well informed and speaking efficiently demonstrates that you can generate ideas and articulate them. If you can’t do that, you won’t persuade people to embrace your ideas.
- Know what you want people to take away about your subject matter and what impression you want to leave.
- Speak clearly. Use the language of everyday conversation and weave in examples and use metaphors to help people link abstract concepts to things more familiar. Buzzwords not only are boring, but they are vague; they don’t communicate what you think they do. In addition, when you speak, be sure your thoughts are easy to follow. Don’t wander off on tangents.
- Demonstrate your expertise. Being well versed in the issues of the day enables you to ask thought-provoking questions that other people are not asking. You also are better able to connect your knowledge to the company’s goals and overall strategy. Your insight will raise eyebrows; people will notice. In addition to reading, you can deepen your knowledge by talking with other experts and by asking to be assigned to teams or projects that will broaden your experience.
- Don’t be a seat warmer. Listen carefully to what you are hearing people around the table say, process that information and consider the ramifications. But don’t over-analyze, because then you are not participating. And don’t be so timid that you say nothing during the meeting and then try to talk to people individually later.
- Write down your key points and rehearse them so that you know them cold, even if you are preparing for a one-on-one meeting with a subordinate. Never go into a meeting and try to communicate “on the fly.” You want to be relaxed and conversational enough to sound as if you are speaking spontaneously. When business professionals “wing it,” you can look around the room and see people’s eyes glaze over.
Ken O’Quinn teaches communication workshops in corporations. A former Associated Press writer, he teaches professional business writing, managerial communication, and journalistic writing for corporate communications teams. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business (McGraw-Hill) and is a co-author of Focus on Them (ATD Press), about leadership.