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I was running a Sweaty Palms Workshop (the corporate version of my Magic 3 for Small Business) a little while ago and asked what advice people had received about meetings and how to make yourself stand out.
Two particular responses stand out for me:
– Say something anything to make sure your voice is heard
– Don’t say anything unless you know everyone in the room

I checked in with both people and YES the advice to one had been ‘make a noise, any noise’; to the other ‘make no noise, people are dangerous’. I went on to unpack these bits of ‘wisdom’ hurled at my attendees by probably well-meaning colleagues.

Have you heard this type or some similar type of guidance before? Looking at these two pieces of dodgy advice through the lens of the Magic 3 elements, I offer the following counter advice.

The opportunity to speak at a meeting is a possible ‘episode’ of public speaking? Yes? Let’s start this hypothetical meeting. I will pose some questions and then answer on your behalf with a few suggestions. I will summarise it all at the end if you are the type to read the end chapter first.

Why are you attending this meeting?
I don’t know – decide what your reason is before you get there.

Why is the meeting being held? No idea – find out what is planned – is there an agenda anywhere in the invitation?

Why are you speaking at the meeting? I have a point to make or an opinion to give or this option doesn’t seem right to me. Excellent!

Why are you not speaking at the meeting? I don’t have anything to say. This is fine unless you are thinking ‘my opinion doesn’t count’ or worse ‘I have something to say but I am too scared to say it’. It is very possible to fully participate in a meeting without saying anything.

If you have asked yourself the pertinent questions in #1, the role you will play will be determined by one or more of those answers. I fully acknowledge that in ‘meeting land’, meetings are being held where no reason is clear, invitees are not relevant or able to decide, discuss or plan anything and worse no-one takes charge to chair the meeting.

For your role in this or any meeting, I would like you to look at it as a performance of some type. There is no other person living who will have your exact take on the topic under discussion.
Think about that:
– Your life experience
– Your education
– Your skills on the job
– Your family background
– Your insights
– Your interests inside work and outside
– Your passions
– Your preferences.

Your role in any episode of public speaking – remember you agreed with me that meetings fall into this category – must be authentically and uncompromisingly you. But your role also takes on another layer in your working environment. Are you the only one who has been working on this project for six months? Or when an opinion is sought, do you think that no-one will be interested in what you have to say?

Your role in each episode/meeting will change depending on what form and function the meeting has and what outcome you want to achieve there.

Let me break that down.
If the meeting is an information session – your role may be presenter of or receiver for that message.
If the meeting is a decision-making event – your role could be one of the decision-makers, one of the opinion givers or a neutral information receiver.
If the meeting is one you have called – your role may be the chair for the meeting and also the presenter of information, as well as a mediator of discussion.

So the fundamental element to all these roles is that you are aware and confident of the value of your contribution. The art of being effective in meetings is to prepare what you want to say, know when to say it or evaluate when to stay silent.

That means you have to do some work in meetings. You listen actively, analyzing what people are saying, checking in with your view/opinion and see whether it still is relevant or fits with any changes occurring. Merely hanging out/zoning out, waiting for ‘your turn’ ensures that you deliver a piece of knowledge, not a considered opinion and undermines any authority or credibility you are trying to build.

The voice you have is part of your package, the instrument you use to speak in public. If you speak like Minnie Mouse or King Kong, that is your place in the spectrum, own it. Are you aware of what facial expressions you have or make? What about your body language, the way you position yourself at the table (or in fact for the screen in these days of Skype, ZOOM etc)?

‘Voice’ here is used in the widest sense of the physical presentation you give along with the idea of the voice you want to bring to your episodes of public speaking.

Standing tall or sitting straight, using a clear and projected sound (that is not yelling, people) with good articulation is one way to be memorable in a meeting. Fidgeting, mumbling, shifty glances and knee-jerk responses are other ways to be remembered.

If you have read this far, you now have some ways that could turn every meeting into a winning event for you, your confidence and ultimately your career.

SUMMARY – if you are reading this first – not as much fun.
Decide if you have something to say – that may not always be the imperative
Decide what place you are saying it from – expert, novice, common sense, creative mind
Decide how you can say it well – voice, gaze, body positioning, avoid waving hands

With all due respect to William Shakespeare.     To Speak or Not to Speak – Did You Blow the Meeting?


Thanks for keeping with me to the very end! I welcome your comments, dissenting or otherwise.

If you are interested a copy of the ‘Sweaty Palms’ Workbook just send me a message and I will gladly send you a pdf copy.

If you are interested in booking a lunchbox session of ‘Sweaty Palms’ for your team, send me a message with your phone number and I will give you a call.


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