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Running Effective Meetings Is About You And Your Self-awareness

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Time mastery of your day is in part trying to figure out what is necessary and what is not, including meetings. Some of the biggest time-wasters are ineffective meetings. We have all been in these meetings and for every one of us, we have been the reason for ineffective meetings. Just face it, it happens. If you have never facilitated a meeting where things went wrong from technology, you lost your train of thought, or someone’s reaction wasn’t what you were expecting, brace yourself, it can be unpleasant. 

Meetings are a crucial aspect of professional life, serving as a platform for collaboration, decision-making, and idea-sharing. In these gatherings, what you say can have a significant effect on your reputation and the outcomes of the meeting. Learning how to control what you say in meetings is a valuable skill that can help you navigate these scenarios effectively.

Preparation is Key

The first step in controlling what you say in meetings begins long before the actual meeting takes place. Adequate preparation is essential. Here are some pre-meeting preparation tips:

  • Define Your Objectives: Clearly understand what you aim to achieve in the meeting. Are you there to share information, make a decision, or seek consensus? Knowing your objectives will guide your contributions.
  • Gather Relevant Information: Ensure that you have all the necessary information, data, and facts related to the meeting’s agenda. Being well-informed will boost your confidence and make your contributions more valuable.
  • Increased Engagement: Preparation encourages active participation. Attendees are more likely to engage in meaningful discussions and provide valuable insights when they have prior knowledge of the topics.
  • Anticipate Questions and Concerns: Think about potential questions, objections, or concerns that may arise during the meeting. Prepare answers and solutions to address these effectively.
  • Professionalism and Credibility: Being prepared demonstrates professionalism and credibility. It shows that you respect others’ time and are committed to the success of the meeting, enhancing your reputation among colleagues and superiors.

Active Listening

In meetings, it’s not just about what you say but also about what you hear. Active listening is a critical component of controlling your contributions effectively. Here are some suggestions:

  • Give Full Attention: Pay close attention to what others are saying, even if you disagree. Avoid thinking about your response while someone else is speaking.
  • Use Non-Verbal Cues: Nodding, maintaining eye contact, and using appropriate facial expressions can show that you’re engaged in the discussion.
  • Ask Clarifying Questions: If something isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. This not only helps you understand better but also demonstrates your engagement.

Mindful Speaking

Controlling what you say involves being mindful of your words and how they affect the discussion. Consider the following approaches:

  • Be Succinct: Avoid unnecessary verbosity. Make your point concisely and clearly. Rambling can dilute the importance of your message.
  • Choose Your Words Wisely: Use precise and respectful language. Avoid jargon or overly technical terms that might confuse others.
  • Avoid Interruptions: Wait for your turn to speak. Interrupting others can disrupt the meeting flow and poorly reflect on your communication skills.
  • Stay on Topic: Stick to the agenda and avoid veering off into unrelated tangents. If you have a relevant point, save it for an appropriate moment.

Manage Emotions

Emotions can sometimes get the best of us in meetings, leading to uncontrolled outbursts or unhelpful comments. Here are some practices to help manage your emotions effectively:

  • Stay Calm: Practice emotional self-regulation. If you feel yourself becoming emotional, take a deep breath and compose yourself before speaking.
  • Use “I” Statements: When expressing disagreement or frustration, frame your statements as personal observations or feelings rather than attacking others.
  • Seek Feedback: After the meeting, ask for feedback from colleagues or supervisors on how you handled your emotions during the discussion.
  • Self-Awareness: Recognize and acknowledge your emotions before the meeting. Understand how you might be feeling and how those emotions could affect your behavior and communication during the meeting. 
  • Pause and Reflect: If you feel your emotions escalating, take a moment to pause and collect your thoughts before responding. This can prevent impulsive reactions that may not be productive.

Constructive Feedback or Observations

Offering constructive feedback in a meeting can be challenging, but it’s an essential skill for professional growth. Here are some approaches to do it effectively:

  • Start with Positives: Begin by acknowledging the strengths or positive aspects of the idea or proposal you’re critiquing. This sets a constructive tone.
  • Be Specific: Provide specific examples or evidence to support your feedback. Vague or general comments are less helpful.
  • Offer Solutions: Don’t just point out problems; suggest solutions or improvements. This shows your commitment to finding a resolution.
  • Use “I” Statements: Frame your feedback as your personal perspective rather than absolute truths. For example, say, “I think it would be more effective if…” instead of “That won’t work.”

Timing and Body Language

The timing of your contributions and your body language can significantly affect how your words are received in a meeting:

  • Wait for Natural Pauses: Avoid interrupting others. Wait for a natural break in the conversation before speaking.
  • Use Open and Inviting Body Language: Maintain an open posture, make eye contact, and use gestures that convey confidence and engagement. If your meeting is virtual, have your camera on and encourage others to do the same. 
  • Show Respect for Others’ Ideas: Even if you disagree, be respectful when responding to others. Avoid dismissive body language or facial expressions.

Reflect and Adapt

After the meeting, take time to reflect on your contributions. Consider what went well and what could have been improved. Adapt your approach for future meetings based on this self-assessment. Seeking feedback from colleagues can also be valuable in refining your verbal control skills.

Mastering the art of verbal control in meetings is a skill that can enhance your professional effectiveness and reputation. By preparing adequately, actively listening, speaking mindfully, managing your emotions, offering constructive feedback, and paying attention to timing and body language, you can ensure that your contributions are purposeful and align with your goals. Remember that effective verbal control not only benefits you but also contributes to a more productive and harmonious work environment.

Exercise | Deliberate practice

Look at each of these seven areas and decide what you want to deliberately practice. There are many different approaches you can take when sharpening these types of skills. I try to present the most common approaches or methods based on years of leadership training. 

  • Preparation is Key
  • Active Listening
  • Mindful Speaking
  • Manage Emotions
  • Constructive Feedback or Observations
  • Timing and Body Language
  • Reflect and Adapt

The best way to approach this is to pick one area at a time. Maybe you have been given feedback on some area(s) to work on or you have self-identified some opportunities. 

If you have an opportunity coming up to show your facilitation skills, write in your journal the area(s) you have a concern in. Try to identify the emotion you may be feeling. This helps to Identify a skill to practice that will help you manage that emotion during the meeting. 

Don’t overload yourself with new behaviors or practices all at once. Leading meetings or presenting your ideas takes a lot of focus so be very specific on what skill(s) you want to work on and deliberately practice.

After the meeting, record how you thought you did. Then ask someone in the meeting what they thought or what they saw. Often times we can be so engaged in the meeting we don’t see in ourselves what others see. 

This is self-awareness and continuous improvement, it’s not about being perfect, it is about making small incremental changes and improvements as we go. Be patient with yourself and deliberately practice. 

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.   

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