If you want your career to evolve and grow, it’s vital to be more visible at work. Meetings are the ideal time to do this.
But it’s certainly not about talking for the sake of it, just to be noticed. Here are some hints on how to make a decent contribution in a group so you can start to get the recognition you deserve.
Getting a point across in a face-to-face situation isn’t just what you say but also how you say it.
Speaking quietly with your eyes trained at your notes won’t get your input taken as seriously as if your body language communicates what you want it to. The right body language gets the point across that you’re interested and involved. Sit up straight, leaning in with your hands on the table, and try to catch the eye of everyone around the table at some point.
It goes without saying that you’ll do your homework before a meeting, making sure you have some thorough input on relevant issues you’ll be called to speak on.
But think past your immediate responsibilities. You can show initiative by airing views on another topic on the agenda that you feel you can add a new perspective on, too. By running through some key points in advance you’ll be well placed to add to the discussion.
No one likes a meeting bore. Your aim is to get messages across clearly and succinctly. So for every point you intend to make, think about how you could package it as a 20-second elevator pitch (although even 20 seconds might seem lengthy in the wrong context, and on the wrong technical subject).
If you need to speak for longer, break down your observations into three or four points then preempt what you’re about to say by telling people the number of observations you’d like to make.
Otherwise you risk colleagues assuming you’re waffling on with no purpose - until someone interrupts you.
During the intensity of an in-person meeting, it’s human nature to defer to others who are more senior or experienced than you. But, when it comes to ways to demonstrate respect, choose again.
If you feel sure about something - whether that’s a technical answer or judgement call on a pressing issue - standing your ground when someone higher up disagrees with you is a chance to show your potential leadership value to the organisation.
Of course, it’s key to have absolute certainty that you’re correct, plus a certain amount of self-belief comes in handy. But by opting not to become intimidated or deferential in the face of opposition you’ll be able to make a bigger impact in that meeting.
Let’s face it, many of us will spend a lot of time in meetings during the average career. Some research suggests that it can be up to two days a week, with up to half that time wasted (at HR GO we’ve written about ways to transform your organisation’s lethargic meetings to lean, mean productivity machines, here). So it’s definitely worth your while to hone some strategies to make all these meetings as productive as possible - and using them to stand out as someone who makes valuable contributions with the potential to go far.
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