In my last blog I talked about how to find your confident voice in meetings. But the next goal is to get heard and listened to in meetings. This is more difficult and can be very dependent on the group of people you are meeting with.
In an ideal world everyone would listen with patience, consideration and respect during meetings. However, its equally likely people are half listening with impatience and a personal agenda.
So how do you break through the invisible barriers to get your voice heard?
Keeping it simple there are three main factors to consider: delivery, content and pre-alignment.
- Quality of voice – the aim is to achieve an authentic gravitas. Men have an advantage over women as they have deeper voices. But everyone can create a voice that demands to be heard.
- Body positioning – sitting or standing tall both allows greater voice control but also much more of an authoritative presence.
- Intonation and emphasis – add colour to your speech by emphasising key phrases or accenting key words. If you sound animated and passionate you will be more interesting to listen to.
- Speed of delivery – be careful of talking too quickly or too slowly! Pauses however, do provide an opportunity to underline the importance of what has just been or about to be said.
- Emotion – just one note of caution, whilst passion is useful, being emotional or using emotive phrases can backfire and get the audience more annoyed than enthralled.
Exercise: Either standing or sitting elevate your head and torso. Breathe deeply into your stomach (rest your hand on your stomach and feel it being pushed out). Now breathe out through your mouth in a long slow continuous movement. Breathe in deeply again, but this time, say out loud what you did to get ready this morning. You should notice that your voice has extra strength and resonance.
- Focus and simplicity of message – be really clear on what you want to communicate. Does what you are saying add or distract to this message?
- Validation – do you have any evidence or insights to support what you are saying? Add a rationale to improve conviction.
- Authenticity – whatever your contribution is to the meeting, express yourself in a way that is completely authentic to you. Do not adopt a style of speech or words that you would not normally use. Otherwise, you come across as unauthentic and this devalues what you have to say.
- Relevance – sometimes you will come to a meeting with a prepared agenda. There is a risk that when you chose to add your contribution it completely misses the flow of the meeting. Wait until a relevant time or make sure you work with the Chair to bring in your points at the end of the meeting.
- Know colleagues opinions – the old saying ‘being forewarned is to be forearmed’ is very relevant if you are trying to introduce and win an argument. Think through all dimensions of your position and think it through from the perspective of those that will disagree. Can you come up with any actions or rationales that can neutralise counter arguments? Who will put forward counter arguments and in what way? Can you have a pre-meeting discussion to get them aligned before hand?
- Getting commitment for support – it’s always a good idea to have a few strong allies in a meeting who will back you up and reinforce your argument. This could be the chair or another influential meeting member.
- Understand personal agendas – even with pre-alignment and commitment there will be some individuals who will still resist your arguments. They may have a vested interest in no change or taking an alternative decision. This is usually because they have a personal position that could be undermined. Or it could require them to put a lot of effort into implementing a course of action that they are not convinced by. This is really difficult to get around so the pre-alignment of the key decision makers becomes vital.
Some of the above points may be obvious and some may be new to you. Working with them all together will make you more powerful and influential during meetings.