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meetings

2 quick tips for productive meetings

Only too often, we sit in meetings, bored to tears by the tangential conversation, the conversation hoggers and the lack of relevance to the agreed agenda.

I’ve put together two magic tips you can use in your next meetings to save your time, increase engagement and maximise productivity.

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How where you sit affects your influence…

I’d been speaking to some accountants who had a disastrous client meeting.

It turned out that it was all in the seating so I’ve made this quick video so you can see how to avoid conflict and steer actions through the simple mastery of the Four Positions for Influence in Meetings.

No choreography, Kama Sutra or Yoga. These positions are much quicker to learn and won’t break your back!

Happy watching!

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‘Why Aren’t They Listening To Me?’

notlisteningPicture this: you’re in a meeting and make, what you think, is a great suggestion. Everyone carries on talking. So, you repeat yourself. No response.

Twenty minutes later someone echoes your own suggestion and everyone stops as if they’ve heard the Divine Word and praises the speaker, leaving you totally flummoxed.

‘Why aren’t they listening to ME!’ cries your inner voice.

Here are a few tips to grab and maintain the attention of others: use in meetings, when managing up, down or sideways…

Use gesture

Vocal emphasis is key to speaking with enthusiasm and conviction.
Once you learn to use emphasis, your speaking will:


*look more engaging
*sound more interesting
*feel more comfortable


In order to emphasise effectively….

  1. use gesture in tandem with vocal emphasis
  2. vary vocal pitch and pause to underline important words/phrases
  3. maintain eye contact to the end of the sentence

Levels of information

Sometimes people go right for the detail when the listener wants the big picture or headlines. When there’s a mismatch in the level and quantity of information required, it can be a cause of communication frustration and is enough to flick the ‘off’ switch.

If you get too much detail, try phrases such as:

  1. ‘So, what you’re saying is…’
  2. ‘From what you’re saying, the main points are that…’
  3. ‘Right. Essentially, what I need to do is…’


If you need more information than you’re getting, use any of the following phrases:

  1. ‘Could you give me an example?’
  2. ‘Could you tell me more about……?’
  3. ‘What exactly would that be like…?’

 

‘BUT HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?’

 

 

I think the easiest way to answer this is to think about why we wouldn’t want to listen to someone before they even open their mouths.  Here’s a list of considerations:

  1. You don’t trust or like that person: you’re basing your opinion/feelings on previous contact.
  2. They physically cower, dominate, seem aggressive or passive aggressive or don’t look ‘genuine’:  how are they sitting/standing?  is there a false smile, slightly tightened jaw line or narrowed eyes?  Is there a ‘hard’ facial expression – that look in the eyes?  Does the person inappropriately mismatch the tone of the gathering, either physically or vocally?  Note, mismatching can be appropriate.  For example, if you want to energise a slumping group, you wouldn’t get very far if you slumped along with them!
  3. And…while I’m on mismatching…the pace of movement or speech seems to bother the listener.  Is it too fast and making you feel nervous?  Too slow and you feel frustrated?
  4. Vocally, they’re difficult to listen to: from the moment they open their mouths, you can’t understand the accent, hear the speech or the vocal tone is gruff or grating in some way.
  5. There’s inappropriate dress e.g. the probation officer giving a presentation as her top continued to ride up over her pregnant belly.  This slightly detracted from a serious message… or, and shall I be blunt here…?  Yes, why not…poor hygiene.  If someone has a strong personal smell, listening may be rather challenging since your sinuses are being coated with acidic aromas.
  6. You have external influences:  these could include too much noise from elsewhere distracting you; limited time; other priorities that you need to consider such as a deadlines, debt or darlings.  Or whatever – you get the picture!
  7. Physiological needs:  lack of sleep, needing the toilet or food, being too hot or cold could override anything going on around you, no matter how attention-grabbing the speaker may be.  In that case, deferring a conversation, allowing comfort breaks, breaking in food etc. will help immensely.
  8. From the speaker’s point of view belief and conviction in your message go a long way.  No matter about your posture, eye contact or voice, it’s the belief and conviction that you’ll project before you open your mouth and that can go a long way to drawing people in.

 

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Another Bloody Meeting?

Another Bloody Meeting!

‘The convergence of alternative methodologies through blue-sky thinking should leverage business action-items for robust solutions.’

or, in other words…

Take a look at these ideas to make your meetings more productive…..

 

1)         Changing Places

If you have regular meetings with the same group of people, have you noticed where they sit?  Do they have the same seat every meeting, which they hold on to for dear life: I call this ‘The Three Bears Syndrome’ (Who’s sitting in MY seat!)

The problem with this, is that it also means that the mindset of individuals will be unlikely to alter. So, if you’ve quieter people in the group, swapping seating can help to balance out contributions.

Think back to meetings, where there’s little movement in the room: as soon as you change your posture or position around the table, you’ll also be thinking more freely.  If there’s a possibility to agree to do this as a group, even better.

2)         Anchor it

Many meetings would have agendas handed out beforehand but copy the contents on to a larger flip chart.  Now, when someone interrupts with an unrelated matter do this:

a)    Walk over to the flip chart, point to the matter you’re discussing and say ‘How is this issue related to the one here?’

b)    The speaker will then rephrase so that they connect the two or will retract.  You can always ‘Park’ it (see below).

c)    The next time, someone intervenes with an issue that might not be pertinent, walk over to the flip chart again, and ask the same question.

d)    After about 3 repeats, you’ll find that as soon as you lift the pen and look at the chart, they’ll automatically be prompted to reconsider statements to fit in with the agenda.

3)         Use Parking Places

This is immensely useful for when you think the meeting is being side-railed.  It’s simply a flip chart with issues, questions or comments that you need to come back to.  You’ll less likely to have A Monopoliser taking over the discussion, if they think you’ll get back to them.  These might be the basis of ‘Any Other Business’ or meetings that are best on a one-to-one.

4)        Decide on your feet

Meetings where people stand up, are shorter than those when all parties are sitting.   On average, standing meetings last for 10 minutes.  Sitting ones last – well gawd knows – the mug with the stop watch fell asleep before it finished.

One Accountancy practice for which I worked had a table that was waist-height and no chairs in their meeting room.  Meetings were short and succinct.  The fact that people can move easier around the table means that status games around the table are dissolved and decisions made more cohesively.  You may still want chairs, but round tables also help in more participative discussions and having people refer to decisions or process pinned onto flip charts hanging off the wall, means that participants will be more animated and the meeting will have greater energy.

The result:  everyone’s on the same page, and can, therefore, make a decision – other than when the next meeting should be…

We’re gonna be out there bumpin’ and thumpin’
(Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer on launch plans for Windows Vista)

and lastly…There might still be misunderstandings but they’ll be less likely to happen if you speak plain English!!!