How would you rate yourself on your effectiveness as a communicator in meetings? Do you consistently add value? Or do you hang out waiting for someone to ask you for your opinion—never really getting the chance to participate? In my work, I hear a lot of struggle when it comes to “how to be” in meetings.
Recently I spoke to friend and seasoned brand professional Regina Connell about meetings and how to navigate them. Our conversation was in the context of women and leadership communication skills, but her sage wisdom is relevant to anyone who wants to improve this skill set. Here are Regina’s top three tips for how to be more effective in meetings.
Ask more questions
It’s tempting to want to fill the empty space in meetings to show that you “know things.” But trying to shoehorn in comments is, at least stressful for you, at most annoying for others.
What’s important to understand, says Connell, is that it’s not about saying things just to say them, it’s about your role in the context of the conversation.
“When you’re younger in your career, you’re not as likely to ask questions because you want to feel like ‘you know things’”, says Connell. But the more willing you are to express curiosity, the more this helps create a vessel so there can be a dialog. It’s about facilitation.
It helps to remember that listening skills are a huge part of the communication skills equation (55%). When we are communicating, we engage in four communication behaviors: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Of these four, listening is by far the most frequently used, but we can easily get caught up in the idea that we have to be talking in order to add value. Asking questions and listening are how you bring people into the conversation. It’s not just great communication skills—it’s effective leadership.
Focus on the outcomes, not on your performance
We’ve all been in meetings where people get hung up on driving their own agenda, whether it’s trying to get recognized for something they did or trying to push an idea they came up with. But Connell says good communication is caring more about outcomes and less about how you show up.
“Communication should be an act of generosity. We get so caught up in how we’re being perceived that we can’t get out of our own way.” She invites us to be more of a servant of the process and less of a slave to our “performance”. There’s a generosity when we can get out of the way enough so that the team and the organization can work toward the goal that’s desired by all. Serve the process, and you’re likely to be recognized as an effective communicator in meetings.
“Communication should be an act of generosity.” —Regina Connell
Be the person who sums up
“What’s often missing in the room is process…,” says Connell, “a sense of what the key actions are. Something that somebody taught me once is to be the person who sums up. So again, it’s kind of imposing yourself as kind of a facilitator. It’s almost like being a therapist. ‘What I’m hearing here is… blah, blah, blah’, right? Or ‘Let me throw this out because based on what I’m hearing…”
Summing up what’s being said is part of being an active listener. If you can synthesize the disparate pieces of what’s coming up in the room, then ask a clarifying question to make sure it’s all being understood, you are aiding in the process of getting things done. Being a great communicator isn’t always about having the “best” thing to say. Connell states, “Being in the white spaces, between all the blather and the words and the ego and all of that can sometimes be a helpful tool.”
“Being in the white spaces, between all the blather and the words and the ego and all of that can sometimes be a helpful tool.” —Regina Connell
Being an effective communicator isn’t about saying more—it’s about saying what’s needed. What’s the goal? How can we get there? What’s missing? If you want to be recognized as a leader with your communication style in meetings, focus on facilitating. Ninety-nine percent of the time we don’t need another “big voice in the room”; what we need is someone who is willing to bring all the voices together.
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If you struggle with communicating for impact, or just want to master this skill set so you can be more visible as a leader, check out my live online workshops.