Business meetings are a key venue where business reputations can be made and lost. It is where people can distinguish themselves, contribute to decision-making, and move their careers forward. But meetings can be a difficult setting for women. Men may see their female counterparts as less confident, challenged when trying to get a point across, or too emotional when presenting an issue they feel strongly about. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Planning and practice can help you stand out
Here are some suggestions to help women participate more equally in meetings:
As with many things in life, preparation is key. Knowing who will be in attendance, what will be discussed, and what is the expected outcome for each meeting will help you start on the right foot. Before an especially important meeting, consider having a pre-meeting to go over some of your talking points with a trusted colleague or mentor. It’s also a good idea to write down any questions, concerns, or talking points before the meeting so that you don’t forget them once the meeting starts.
Make it a goal to participate in the discussion
Arrive early and get a good seat. Engage in small talk with the people who are joining the meeting. Introduce yourself if someone you don’t know enters the meeting. This will establish you as a confident person who participates. During the meeting, listen attentively and look for opportunities for quality engagement. Be careful to make your points clearly and succinctly. Don’t ramble or repeat yourself. It may take a few meetings before you break through the clutter, but continue to regularly participate in a confident manner.
Raise the volume of your voice
I’m not talking about yelling, but rather sit up straight, project your voice, and speak in a calm and self-assured way that is also one notch higher than normal. Combine this with good eye contact.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself
Just because you’re at a meeting and speaking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being heard. If you feel as though you’re being ignored or not heard, then don’t be afraid to voice your input a second or third time. If you have to present your opinion from a different angle, then take a few minutes to strategize and then try again. Remain confident and persistent, and never be defensive.
Ask a question
It can be easier to join the conversation with a question. One of my favorite techniques during a meeting is to say, “I have a clarifying question.” And then I ask my question in a complete but succinct manner. This technique allows me to ask follow up questions and also push on a specific point by asking for clarity.
Practice active listening by sitting up straight, looking directly at the person talking, and taking notes. A few notes can prove invaluable regarding pertinent data and key discussion points. Having these notes in front of you can help you push the discussion forward and lets your fellow meeting attendees know that you mean business.
As with most things in life, practice and experience help us improve our skills. Don’t be daunted if it takes you a few meetings to see the results you are looking for. Consistency and persistence with quality contributions in meetings will help you achieve the recognition and engagement you desire.
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