7 Ways to Increase Your Meeting Value-Add
Is there a way to survive “bad” meetings … maybe even thrive?
When a meeting is going badly, you are not helpless. Consider stepping up to lead from right where you are with one of these seven strategies.
- Listen and connect. One of the best ways to move the conversation forward in a useful direction is to build on points others have made. Before you make your point or pivot the meeting into a productive conversation, consider how it relates to what others have been saying. Connect your point to theirs. For instance, “One aspect of John’s presentation was about protecting against unforeseen issues. I’d like to address that in more detail.” In this way, you can help others follow your logic and understand why you brought up this issue at this moment. Creating a link to a previous comment gives you a launch point to a valuable conversation.
- Write first. Our initial thoughts, whether they emerge from frustration or brilliant ideas, don’t need to be shared immediately. Consider writing down these thoughts first. Try organizing your notes into different sections as people speak. On the left half of your paper or screen, take notes on the discussion. On the right, take notes about your thoughts. In this way, you can organize your thoughts coherently before speaking. By reviewing the flow of the conversation you can select a time to enter the conversation where your comments can have the most impact.
- Translate what’s wrong into what would make it better. Some people tend to see the flaws of an idea or situation first. When they share the information about what is wrong, their words can feel harsh to others and what was previously an open dialogue becomes defensive. Try writing down the problem you see and then consider two or three options for how to address it. Then raise one or more of your suggestions during the meeting, rather than focus on your original insight about what’s wrong.
- Propose rather than oppose. In their book, The Communication Catalyst, Mickey Connolly and Richard Rianoshek gracefully address the issue of how to build on a point you disagree with. Many people tend to say something like: “Steve, I have to disagree with you on that. I see it this way…” The negating of someone else’s point before you make your own is unnecessary and ineffective. Instead, form your thought as a proposal. Tell others what you are for not what you are against. Marshall Goldsmith, one of the nation’s top leadership coaches, strongly suggests we eliminate the words “no,” “but,” and “however” from our vocabulary when communicating with others. When we use these words, we negate others and their concerns, which makes them much less receptive to hearing what we have to say.
- Segue by summary. Some people are hard to listen to. Your eyes glaze over, and thoughts drift. Try pulling a nugget from what has been shared and move the conversation to a more engaging topic. For instance, “Clara, I appreciate your point about the need to address complaints more proactively. I wonder if we could take time right now to list the top three most frequent complaints we hear and spend our remaining time discussing how we might address them.”
- Redirect. How many of us have been frustrated because we are in a meeting with all the right people, but we aren’t discussing the most important topics? To adjust the discussion’s focus, point out the common themes in the group’s discussion. You might say something like, “It seems that all our comments relate to how frustrated we are about the way this project has unfolded. I suggest we take some time now to plan for how we can turn the corner and have the rest of the project run smoothly.”
- Ask about the ideal. Without a common target, people shoot in different directions and make discussion disjointed. Forward-facing questions clarify the future the group is working towards and create alignment and focus. You can ask, “What would you like to see happen on this project? What is your vision for how this unfolds, ideally?”
With your influence, may the meetings you attend become more productive, insightful and useful.
Take a look at your calendar and consider the upcoming meetings you must attend—do you see one you’re not looking forward to? Could you take matters into your own hands by using some of the strategies above to create a better experience? Let us know in the comments!