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How to Communicate More Effectively in Workplace Meetings
Even with increased use of emails, phone calls, and web conferencing, workplace meetings are still one of the best places to get live feedback, exchange information, collaborate, plan projects and make decisions that will impact the organization’s bottom line. Over the past decade, meetings have gotten a bad rap primarily because they are not managed effectively, or they are not used for the right reasons. To ensure that workplace meetings are effective, there are certain protocols to follow. Here are seven tips on how to communicate effectively in workplace meetings.
- Be clear, concise and direct: People often criticize the effectiveness of meetings because they often run too long. Therefore, prepare before the meetings, so that when you are communicating, you can clearly articulate your point in a concise and direct manner.
- Practice active listening: Whenever someone is speaking, he or she should be the most important person in the room at that moment in time. Listen carefully to what is being said, and pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues. Do not interrupt the speaker, allowing her to complete her thoughts. If you are unclear about something that was said, respectfully ask for clarification. And to make sure that you understand what is being communicated, paraphrase what you have heard.
- Use a talking stick: In the aboriginal community, they have what is called a talking stick or speaker’s staff, and the person with the staff is the only person who is allowed to speak. This is a good practice to adopt because it eliminates several conversations from going on at the same time, and it also gives shy people and introverts the opportunity to share their ideas. When the speaker has completed his thoughts, he passes the stick to another person. In lieu of an actual talking stick, other symbols have been used with the same effect.
- Support your arguments: If you are in a meeting with “difficult” people, always make sure that you have statistics, facts and other documents to support your claims and statements. If someone questions what you are presenting, respond with grace and professionalism, showing him or her your supporting documents.
- Respect others’ point of view: Even if you do not agree with what the speaker is saying, always treat him with respect. That contrarian or off-the-wall idea may very well be what is needed to break out of group think. And if based on your experience, you know that an idea will not work, instead of tearing it down, diplomatically say why you think it will not work, then offer an alternative.
- Pay attention to the speaker and not the PowerPoint slides: Oftentimes people are so caught up in reading what’s on the PowerPoint slides that they unknowingly tune out the speaker. And if you are the speaker, your PowerPoint slides should be cues for you, and not your presentation. Expand on the points listed on your slides, and be engaging. When others in the meeting realize that what you are saying is more important than your slides, they will pay attention to YOU and not your slides.
- Have sponsors for tasks: Never close a meeting without securing sponsors for tasks that have to be completed. Reconfirm who is doing what, so that everyone is clear on what is expected of him or her.
If you are the chair or meeting facilitator, always send out an agenda before the meeting, giving participants enough time to prepare. Allot time for each item on the agenda, placing the most important items at the top. At the start of the meeting, establish the ground rules for communicating, and any other expectations. Honor your word by starting and ending the meeting on time. At the scheduled end time, if you have not addressed all the items on the agenda, that either means that the agenda was too full, or you did not manage the meeting effectively. Get permission from participants to extend the meeting, or end the meeting and set another date. If the more important agenda items are dealt with first, and you run out of time, you may be able to deal with the other items using other communication methods. And finally, send meeting minutes to those who participated or who will be affected by what was discussed. By following these strategies, you will be able to communicate more effectively in workplace meetings.
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