How to be heard in meetings

January 21, 2010

Don’t let the hairy bully from cubicle 5 steal all your ideas. Get your voice heard with these top five tips.

Jen Dalitz, business consultant and founder of sphinxx, the network for women in leadership is all too familiar with this issue: “How to be heard in meetings and how to get your initiatives onto the strategic agenda is one of the most common issues raised by the mentees and female audiences I work with, says Dalitz.

“Not unlike having good bar presence when it comes to getting served, having good meeting presence and knowing how to put forward your idea or opinion can make all the difference to whether you and your suggestions are heard and adopted!”

Here are Jen Dalitz’s top five tips to making sure your voice is heard.

1. Be clear. Just as being heard is a common issue for women, my male colleagues tell me regularly they don’t hear what it is we’re asking for! Keep it brief – focus on the key outcome or results your idea will deliver. Sometimes this will be enough, but if you’re asked to give more detail, provide a high level overview of how you’ll achieve it.

2. Avoid using meetings to launch new ideas. Syndicate them beforehand if possible with colleagues to get their buy in. This way you’ll already have supporters in the meeting you can turn to for back up.

3. Wait for the right moment to contribute. I learnt this from my friend Mark who’s a lawyer and the best listener I’ve known. He taught me to wait until other people have had their say and to look for the gaps, so that your solution, when offered, is the most obvious and complete solution on the table.

4. Own your ideas. When you’ve raised an idea with colleagues in catch-ups or meetings, follow up with an email outlining your key points and the support you’re looking for. If you’re in the meeting and someone hijacks your suggestion, repeat your initial points and point out the resemblance to your own IP.

5. Be persistent. Don’t expect to get a “yes” on the first try! It takes average of three to four attempts to get a “yes”, so manage your expectations accordingly and expect to repeat and rephrase your request until you get what you want.

“Practise these five points when you’re next due to attend a meeting, have something to say and want your input noted. You have to believe in yourself and be confident in what you have to say. Put simply, women often just don’t believe in themselves enough”, says Dalitz.

To address this issue and many others faced by women in business, sphinxx is running a new series of events, the sphinxx Ascend development days which aim to significantly boost the confidence levels of businesswomen and help increase the number of women in senior leadership roles. The program is a series of four events throughout the year, the first round of which will be held in February in Adelaide (10th February) Sydney (12th), Brisbane (17th) and Melbourne (23rd). Bookings are through www.sphinxx.com.au

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