Dominate Team Meetings…One Gesture at a Time

Ditch your grammar book, and leave Business English basics behind. Dominating team meetings requires the use of very subtle gestures.

In our last post, we talked about some of the nuanced and strategic business communication tricks that international professionals should apply in a U.S. meeting setting. Going beyond this, we suggested that the pressure is on for those in consulting, since clients are ultimately paying for an intellectual product—and good intellect must be voiced!

If you’re not a consultant, we still think you should read this. Thinking and behaving like a direct contributor to your company’s bottom line is generally a positive way to walk into work and bound to get you places faster.

Before going any further, we suggest you (consultants and non-consultants alike) brush up by quickly revisiting our last post here.

And now that you’ve brushed up, let’s talk about other ways to steal the show:

4. Making well with the time- Are you the first person to get to the meeting? Are you chronically late? Do try to show up early, which has several advantages. Being punctual shows you respect the meeting facilitator and view the topic with seriousness. Would you be late for an interview?

Getting to the space early also means you can get comfortable with the room, warm up by chatting with someone else who may have arrived early, get a head start on the agenda if the facilitator is there, and perhaps most importantly, pick your own seat at the table. This topic deserves its own section; see point five below.

5. Choosing your seat at the table- This one’s a biggee! Table position is a psychologically complex assignment and much has been studied and written about it. We picked one admired blog post here, “Where to Sit in a Business Meeting . . . and Why It Matters.” Whatever is appropriate to your situation, choose carefully.

6. Taking advantage of follow up communications- Did you share an idea, and no one heard? Or worse, someone heard and maybe took credit for it by way of suggestion later on? The fact is, all suggestions in a meeting are the intellectual content and property of the group, regardless of who says it. There are ways, however, that you can promote your ideas and put yourself out there in more forthcoming approaches.

Some companies use formal protocols to document minutes, assign one person to do a follow up summary e-mail, or have one eager soul put summary points on the white board. Whatever the case, take on one of these new roles, or suggest that such a protocol exist to keep everyone on board. (You should only do this if staying on board is a legitimate need for the group.) In this follow up, you could include a section for meeting attendees, topics discussed, and main points made by each attendee (your name and ideas included). Since this would be a public correspondence, your name and ideas would be appropriately recorded for all to see.

Do be consistent! This can be a laborious task, but persistence and consistency is key.

7. Appearing comfortable- In the last post we mentioned two ways—hand gestures and posture–in which body language affects your ability to contribute and engage comfortably. Now we want you to imagine yourself sitting upright, using powerful hand gestures…in front of an open and empty table. How comfortable do you imagine you would be? Now picture yourself holding a pen, with a notebook in front of you, or a cup a coffee in your hand. Doesn’t that feel better?

Psychologically, there are a lot of reasons why that feels better, but we won’t get into it here. We just want you to feel, and APPEAR, comfortable to your colleagues when you’re at these meetings, and we know this works. Now go! Dominate that meeting with prestige.

We’re excited for some of the recent feedback we have received from Springboards’ blog veterans, and we know you’re watching. But we could go far deeper with these topics if you brought some of your thoughts public (hint, hint…share your comments).

Please stay tuned for future topics on dominating teleconferenced meetings. You want your questions answered on this topic? You know what to do

Great Communication à la Steve Jobs

Some great communicators are born, and some work hard at it. Steve Jobs works incredibly hard at it, more than you may know. If you are anywhere near a computer these days, you have either personally seen or heard the buzz around Jobs’ top rate presentations. Perhaps you’ve often wondered what his secret is. You might be shocked to know that he practices and rehearses hours and weeks before every presentation, getting each detail in place for the big day. Check out “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.” (Carmine Gallo).

That’s right, everyone. Even Steve Jobs prepares for his presentations, so why aren’t you?  Let me share with you what some have described as their “approach” to getting ready before a presentation:

  • Reading over the notes and PowerPoint printed handouts a few hours, or an hour, before the engagement.
  • Practicing in “my head” on the way there.
  • Doing a dry run with colleagues (in the case of peer presentations) right before the real thing.
  • Spending an hour to two rehearsing out loud and attempting a good synch of the info to slides.

In view of this and many other methods confessed, the last point is preparation practice at its very best. Not very impressive. Clearly, if Jobs is doing more to wow ‘em, then so should you. So why do we fail to do so? Here are the common excuses, and I bet yours is in there somewhere:

  1. I’m too busy.
  2. As one person in a peer presentation, changes are made last minute, so I may not be able to plan for this.
  3. I am pretty good at winging it.
  4. I do better when I don’t plan ahead. I end up sounding more natural.

Let’s agree that we are all guilty of at least one of these. On the flip side, let’s also agree that it’s painful to observe a less prepared speaker and much more interesting to watch someone who has their game mastered. Let’s face it–preparation is king.

Presentation competency and your ability to persuade the audience of your message is a critical skill separating you from the competitor—other companies, other bidders, colleagues vying for the same position, candidates applying for the same job, etc. You’ve heard it said that we are in, and moving toward, a knowledge-based economy; therefore, your knowledge and intellectual ability is your most prized and sought after asset. Use it!

So, if you are approaching speaking engagements lightly (meaning ANY kind of presentation, formal speaking opportunity, or other) then why should your audience take you seriously? Here are some practical steps to start taking your public speaking skills to the next level:

  1. Create timeframes around assignments and projects that will require a public speaking component. Adhere to them, allowing ample time for practice.
  2. Practice each section of your presentation, from intro and slide one through to the Q&A slide, accounting for each piece you will discuss, refer to, or gloss over. Pace yourself each time.
  3. Video tape yourself and watch for body language. If you’re not sure what to look for, ask a trusted colleague for feedback, an HR person, or someone in business communications who would be able to offer insight.
  4. Repeat practice over and over again until you feel entirely confident. Remember, regardless of the audience or purpose of the presentation, each opportunity is a unique way to get people excited about you and what you represent. Who wouldn’t want that?
  5. Do not wait last minute. This bad for your nerves.
  6. If this is simply not your forté, invest a few bucks in a presentation coach and watch your gains return to you double fold. I can’t think of a better place to invest in yourself.

    Easier said than done? Maybe your issue is accountability? In that case, find an accountability partner or trainer who will hold you to the task. Getting serious about professional development is challenging, and old habits die hard.

    When it comes to presentation skills, far too many of us take second place unnecessarily. It’s time to start taking lessons from Steve Jobs and doing our business communication homework. Please let us know how we can help or if you have a point of inspiration to share from this post.

    Happy presenting!