Successfully influencing others in a meeting isn’t an easy feat. It requires good preparation and a clear focus on the purpose of the meeting. What is the meeting about, what information is required, who will be there, why are they there, who will talk, how can you manage the discussions and what it the goal of the meeting? Leading meetings requires great leadership skills and confidence. Knowing your purpose will help give you both.
In order to influence you must first prove yourself to be organised and reliable. Before you even get to the meeting you must ensure you have gained your attendees confidence with how you have set up your meeting.
- Have a clear agenda – Clearly set out how the meeting will be organised – what will be discussed, in what order and by whom.
- Provide notice – The people you invite need enough time in advance to make sure they can make the meeting and have time to prepare. Ideally a week in advance is the best notice.
- Be consistent – From the outset you need to have a clear agenda and an efficient approach. Create your date, time and agenda and stick to it. If you continually move the time and date and change the agenda you will quickly lose the interest of your attendees.
- Be inclusive – Make sure you have included all the right people and ensure they either have an input or clear interest in the meeting purpose. Inviting people with no obvious links to the purpose of the meeting will create confusion.
Once you have successfully set up your meeting you then need to turn your attention to how you will conduct yourself during the meeting. This will make all the difference to how people respond to you and ultimately how successful your meeting is.
Tips for influencing:
Let’s start at the beginning; you are a project manager, you are a source of authority in the workplace, you’ve worked hard and achieved your senior position. You’ve already proved you have the confidence to lead. But be conscious of how you present this to others around you. If you play into this role and present an image of superiority this risks being interpreted as arrogant. Quickly creating an instant barrier that prevents others relating to you.
By taking time to listen to the views of others we can understand so much more about what is happening around us. The purpose of listening should be to understand the viewpoint of someone else and not just to give your own reply. Being an engaged listener can demonstrate your appreciation of the other person and create an authentic connection. Always make a conscious effort to really listen to what they are saying, maintain eye contact and only respond when they have finished after taking a moment to formulate your thoughts.
Adapting your style to suit the audience
In a meeting you may need to communicate with a wide range of people. This requires an understanding of the language and jargon you use. Will it be understood by everyone? Are you coming across as too simplistic or too complicated? Finding the right middle ground is essential for others to understand what you are talking about.
Likewise, are you speaking at a pace which can be followed? Talking too quickly can often indicate nerves and a lack of knowledge on the subject which can damage your credibility. Be sure to enunciate your words carefully.
This is an often forgotten and underestimated element of communication. No matter the topic or your knowledge or your confidence, your body language can let you down if it isn’t consistent with the message you are sharing. Demonstrate confidence by keeping an open posture stance, leaning towards your audience and keeping arms relaxed. Try not to fiddle or fidget. This will keep everyone focused on you and not your movements.
Always consider how your message is coming across to others. What may seem hugely interesting to you, say going through data, may be very dull and dry for others. Being aware of this will help you tailor your message so it focuses n what you what to get from the people you are telling. If you centre your communication around yourself, your objectives, thoughts and expectations you are excluding everyone else and they will simply tune out. Always focus your message on key points and be clear.
Engage in Learning provide Influencing Pathway courses which will help you clarify your goals, focus efforts on the right people and select the most appropriate influencing tactics. The Influencing in Meetings course will show you how to adapt your communication skills to the situation and the people involved.