Meetings, meetings and more meetings. Be preparedů..

22nd May 2011

Amongst the subjects I specialise in, leadership, change, diversity,coaching and mentoring etc.. I am  interested in work done to improve women’s impact at meetings and their personal style.

“Can you attend a meeting?”….. How come 5 little words can cause such stress and alarm?!

Well you are not alone if the thought of foot patrol on nights in February seems more appealing than the dreaded meeting.

The mere thought of attending meetings, sometimes as the lone female and often with people of higher grade or rank than them, just makes women run for the hills.  Women are often brilliant at building teams and being inclusive, but often find it more difficult to get themselves heard and create an impact, especially in meetings.

Below I will give you some pointers around the first time you attend a meeting, the initial impact and the actual meeting itself.

Creating impact

When you attend a meeting for the first time, the initial sound/visual ‘bite’ – a combination of your looks, your dress, your bearing and the tenor of your opening remarks -  will be remembered by the other attendees. Be confident and even if your knees are shaking, don’t let it show.   Think for a moment how you want other people to think about you? What sort of impression do you want to make? What is the appropriate image for a successful woman in your business environment? Think about dress, behaviour, attitude, and body language to create an image of what this should be like.

If you look confident, feel confident and act confidently then the chances are you will be confident…… Remember the saying “If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck then…yes it is probably a duck.!”

The meeting itself.

Well now you feel confident and look confident so what about the meeting itself.

Make sure you have done your research on the topic. Whatever the meeting never arrive without doing background work whether that is reading previous minutes, policies or relevant papers.

Think about what outcome you would like to achieve.  Have you gone there representing someone else? Make sure you are clear about what a successful meeting means to you.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – What will they expect from the meeting?

Make sure you sit in a central position where you have the eye of the chair and can be seen by the group. Remember you are a member of the meeting and your view, opinions and questions are as valid as anyone else’s.

Use body language to create space for yourself and remember to lean forward and signal when you want to speak.

Watch out for the “3 second squeak”. Women’s voices are generally softer and higher pitched than men’s so if you’re not careful it can be difficult to get a word in and when you do it may not come out quite as you had planned. To avoid this try to speak early. It will give you confidence and ensure that people know you are there.

Build on others’ ideas and summarise. Speak clearly and to the point.

Remember managing your image and your impact is not about trying to be something that you are not. It’s about becoming aware of your strengths and putting them forward in a credible way.

Take notes to suit you, just because the boss isn’t writing anything down doesn’t mean you can’t. Do what suits you so that you have a record of the meeting and the decisions made.

After the meeting review “how it felt”.  What went well? What could have been done differently? If you get on well with someone else who attended the meeting then ask for some honest feedback, so you can learn.  Before you know it you will be a meeting expert and advising others…….

If you want any more information about  other techniques to prepare for your next meeting, job or even promotion then please feel free to get in touch.

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