How to Communicate Effectively at Meetings
A business meeting is all about the exchange of ideas, whether it’s a sales pitch or a development meeting with your staff, and nothing’s more essential to swapping ideas with colleagues than strong communication skills. Communicating in a meeting isn’t the same as one-on-one communication, so business owners must recognize the differences and adapt their communication style to be more effective in meetings.
People are used to one-on-one communication and often fall back on those habits while in a group setting such as a meeting, particularly when addressing an issue posed by a member of the meeting. Make eye contact with each person in the group and speak to each member of the meeting. Not only will this keep everyone in the room engaged in what you’re saying, it also makes everyone in the meeting feel valued and a part of the group, rather than just a spectator.
To use your meeting time wisely and present your points most directly, be as succinct as possible when you speak. Shorter amounts of information are easier for other members of the meetings to process than long, rambling speeches, and many speakers waste time--and squander their audience’s interest--by prefacing ideas with long introductions or rhetorical questions. Avoid clichés and business-world jargon, as they usually don’t communicate any ideas and merely waste time. Keep an eye on the amount of time you spend while you talk, and try to limit it as much as possible.
Communication is a two-way street, so it’s important to uphold your portion of responsibilities when you’re not speaking. Actively listening to others’ comments in meetings helps you understand their points much more quickly--saving the possibility of additional discussion later--while it helps you hone your own presentation to fit the audience and tone of the meeting.
If you find that you’re in a position in the room where you can’t hear or see a presenter, or that your position in the room cuts you out of most of the meeting’s conversations, don’t be afraid to move to a better spot. Meetings are about communicating, and if your location in the room prevents or hinders that communication, it’s a counter-productive place for you to sit.
It’s easy to be negative or point out flaws in another person’s ideas in a meeting, but doing so may ultimately thwart the meeting’s success. Rather than address the downside of any issue raised, try to locate the positive, valuable side in each comment a person makes. Not only will this keep the meeting from being derailed by petty personal attacks, it also keeps the focus on developing solutions or creating progress.