Meetings are essential for any business. They give everyone an opportunity to share ideas and be kept up-to-date on important information. However, all too often, poor communication can turn a meeting into a drawn-out, ineffective waste of time. There are several techniques that you can master to transform your communication skills and conduct your meetings like the effective business leader you are. Here are five tips to help you transform your meetings from a waste of time to an effective meeting of the minds:
- Speech skills matter! It doesn’t matter how intelligent or innovative your ideas are if no one can understand you. Many people speak more quickly when they’re excited or nervous, which decreases the clarity of their speech. Keep tabs on your rate of speech and make sure you’re not running your words together. Also, enunciate all of the letters in each word, especially the sounds at the ends of words. Missing the final sound of a word can change the meaning entirely and cause confusion.
- Speak up: One of the biggest issues in a group setting is miscommunication. If you don’t fully understand someone’s point or miss part of what has been said, speak up and ask questions. Even if it doesn’t seem critical at the time, misunderstandings can be a big waste of time and energy in the long run, and odds are if you are confused, so is someone else. Asking questions and requesting clarification can go a long way towards avoiding long-term misunderstandings.
- Remember the two ‘C’s: When speaking in a business meeting, don’t forget to be clear and concise. Remember that the main point of a meeting is communicating information, not trying to impress your colleagues with your oratory skills or large vocabulary. Before you speak, think about what you are going to say and make sure you’re making your point in the shortest, most direct way possible.
- Make sure no one dominates the conversation: Everyone has different communication styles and different levels of comfort about talking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, this can often lead to one or two outspoken individuals dominating the meeting, causing an imbalance in the conversation. While you don’t want to discourage open speech, it’s important to maintain some balance for an effective flow of communication and ideas. If you feel someone has dominated a topic, politely move the conversation along by saying something like, “It sounds like you have some great ideas, and I’d love to chat about them later, but unfortunately we’re a bit short on time right now so we need to move on.”
- Be a good listener: Often people are so focused on how they can contribute to the conversation and sound intelligent, they spend their time internally planning what they want to say instead of listening to the person who is actually speaking. This can result in missing key information and misunderstandings. Not only is it essential to really listen, but also to visually communicate to the speaker that you’re listening. Sit up straight, look directly at the speaker, and maintain eye contact. Never fiddle with your phone or check your e-mail or messages; this is not only rude, but gives the impression you’re mentally checked out of the meeting. Now and then, nod to show that you understand. These are all ways to let the speaker know that you are really listening. Remember, you listen with your whole body, not just your ears!
About the Author
Jayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.