The Fast Show often featured a character called The Girl Men Can’t Hear. In the classic 1990s comedy sketch programme Arabella Weir played a woman who was totally ignored by male colleagues every time she attempted to put an idea across…. Seconds later a man would repeat her idea and be roundly congratulated for it.
Whether male or female, it can sometimes feel as if no-one is listening to your ideas; that perhaps you should go into a meeting armed with a megaphone to make yourself heard.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Check out our top tips on how to get noticed at meetings without being rude…
Subtle, barely noticeable physical changes can make all the difference in getting your message across. Margaret Thatcher favoured the full-on friendly stare and smile, enhanced by pushing her front-on palm slightly towards the other person’s face. Such minute assertiveness seemed to work for her. Also, check your body posture and be engaging. No-one is going to pay much attention to someone whose stare is superglued to the floor with drooping, hangdog shoulders. Project yourself like you own the boardroom. Convey a child-like enthusiasm, even if this means the wide-eyed stare and waving your arms around. But fuse this with a tinge of self-effacement so as not to alienate large swathes of the room.
Tone of voice
As with so much in life, less is more. A Financial Times (FT) newspaper boss once dealt with a shouty youth by lowering his gentle voice to barely audible levels. The agitator ceased bellowing and said: “I’m sorry, what did you say?” The FT line manager replied: “There, see, you can make yourself heard even more by not speaking loudly.”
Very few politicians speak these days without an auto-cue or prepared notes. You can look all the more spontaneous and retain eye contact longer just by writing down 10 bullet points and taking it from there. Prep work is essential for this technique, however.
See the positive
No matter how hostile other attendees may be in the room, view them as allies not enemies. After all, everyone is working towards the same end. Perhaps even learn aikido or some other discipline involving life energy to help you channel such uplifting thoughts properly.
Get your message over clearly and succinctly, and, if possible, with humour. As The Comedy School founder Keith Palmer tells tomorrow’s stand-up comedians: “If they’re laughing, they’re listening.”
Hopes and dreams
Rather than opening inquests into recent failures, try and get over your aims. Be constructive by getting people to find out what they can learn from errors. Your objectives and how to achieve them should be précised at the start and finish of your address.
Losing the battle to win the war
It’s your way or no way? Such a bloody-minded attitude won’t get you far in today’s office – unless you own the company. So be prepared to make happy compromises. Delicately guide fellow attendees down cul-de-sacs and concede small points to make them think they’re getting their own way. This way, they are more amenable to you getting your own way on the bigger issues. A bit like a marriage, some might say…
Posted by Ashleigh Sharp
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