Whether you’ve got a meeting with your boss, a brainstorming session or an important appointment with a potential collaborator in the pipeline, being able to put your points across in the most effective way possible can be one of the hardest work skills to master.
Even if you’re not the most confident person outside of work, there are thankfully some handy tips and tricks that you can try to help feign assertiveness when you’re feeling your most apprehensive. We asked careers and life coach and Get The Gloss Expert Anna Percy-Davis for top career advice for making sure you put your best foot forward in whatever type of meeting you have pencilled into your diary.
How to take a brainstorming meeting by storm...
Whether you’re running it or have been asked to come prepared with some great ideas to contribute, a brainstorming meeting can prove to be one of the trickiest and tiresome of all work meetings to master. Not only do you have to come fully prepared, but you also have to be flexible enough to think quickly on your feet to forward both yours and other people’s suggestions.
Its fast-paced nature can prove to be overwhelming, but as you long as you go into it seeing it as a collaborative effort rather than focusing on what you say (or don’t say), it’ll allow you to be more reactive to new concepts, and also reduce some of the pressure that you put on yourself too. Here are Anna’s top tips:
If you’re running it...
- Make sure everyone is very clear what you are trying to achieve in the meeting.
- Get everyone to ‘bottom line,’ no rambling - try to ensure everyone keeps it simple, clear and short!
- Make sure everyone has their say even if it means going round in a circle.
- Be encouraging and give credit where it is due.
- Summarise where you have got to at the end and agree action points.
If you’re an attendee...
The same sorts of rules as above apply, but additionally:
- Don't dominate.
- Don't be too passionate if it is going to make you sound aggressive - stay calm.
- Be clear, simple and short - this makes the best impact.
- Front foot those around you - don't try to compete and be the best at every turn.
More bang for your buck from a business meeting...
A commercial meeting with a potential collaborator can feel a lot like a first date. No matter how many emails have been sent back and forth, meeting in the flesh can still feel like unchartered territory.
So, how best to take your relationship to the next level? (In a purely work-related sense of course). “Get he/she to do the talking first,” advises Anna. “It’s the best way for you to get the sense of the individual so you can not just assess them, but can also communicate with them in their language.”
How about getting them on side and starting to broach the subject of possible collaborative working projects? The key lies in keeping the conversation as positive and as proactive as possible, “Front foot the communication, (i.e. flatter them or tell them why you think they are great!) Make them feel good and relaxed so that they are on your side before you ask them for anything,” suggests Anna. “Keep the communication clear and simple - they need to know exactly what you want.”
No matter how well the meeting went at the time, its true value will lie in how you follow up on the topics discussed in the following weeks. “Agree next actions by the end of the meeting and have a call to action as well, i.e. make sure they know what they need to do next and tell them what you are going to do next too.” Make a note in your diary to follow those points up weekly to ensure nothing falls through the net.
A 1-on-1 with your boss...
Being called in for a meeting with your boss can often send anxiety levels sky high. From ‘Have I done something wrong,’ to ‘what have I done wrong,’ our thoughts can instinctively sprint to the worst case scenario when it doesn’t always warrant doing so.
The same goes for situations where you’re the person calling the meeting instead. Whether you’re hoping to discuss a work grievance or a pay rise, go into it having done your homework and with a calm, clear head. “Be confident (but not cocky),” recommends Anna. “Try to front foot the meeting by being positive and upbeat even if you’re in there to complain about something or your boss has something negative to say to you,” she adds. “Act confident, because if you come across as nervous you will be instantly undermining yourself.”
When it comes to discussing business, keep it professional and keep emotions to a minimum. “Never talk about yourself and your desires unless you have to - talk from the perspective of the business,” explains Anna. “For example, if you need more time to complete a project don't say ‘I need more time to complete the project because I want it to reflect well on me/I don't have enough time in the day.’ Instead say something like ‘I am really excited about the impact this project could have on the business - I want to make sure I really do it justice so we can maximise the benefits for the company so I will need a couple more days.’”
“Even when asking for a pay rise you need to do it in such a way that you demonstrate your commitment and excitement about the business, rather than asking for a pay rise to help you pay your mortgage!”