What your first words say about you in meetings

Forget power dressing and firm handshakes – those looking to make the biggest impact on a business meeting should focus on their opening gambit

The way you communicate in meetings is crucial. Psychological experiments show the way a gathering starts sets the tone for the whole meeting.

Do you begin strongly, or are your ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ giving the wrong impression?

Businessman Speaking In-front of a Group of People

We look at what you should and shouldn’t say to help you get off on the right foot.

“Good morning everyone. The purpose of this meeting is”
This is an ideal way to start. A friendly good morning said confidently, followed by a brief outline letting everyone know exactly why they’re at the meeting, gives you an air of authority.

From the outset, you’re making sure that all attendees are on the same page. You’re immediately giving the impression you’re a strong leader who won’t go off on a tangent.

“What’s rocking your world today?”
You don’t have to use that exact example (which you’re more likely to hear in the US than UK), but starting meetings with a question can break the ice and help attendees who don’t know each other get better acquainted.

A question encourages conversation, which can be painfully slow when a group gets together for the first time. Taking this approach shows you care about making participants feel comfortable with one another.

A few more examples of questions you could use to help lighten the mood include:
• What’s the most memorable holiday you’ve ever had?
• If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be and why?
• If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?

“OK, now, um”
No one expects you to be word perfect, but there’s really no excuse for kicking off a meeting with meaningless words and phrases such as “um”, “uh”, “like”, “you know” etc.

Excessive use of filler words weakens your credibility. It looks like you haven’t prepared properly and you don’t care about what you’re saying.

If you’re feeling anxious, gather your thoughts together before opening your mouth.

Business Team Holding Speech Bubble Signs

“So…” (followed by gabbling)
If you’re nervous about speaking in public, you may have a tendency to talk nineteen to the dozen in a high-pitched voice. This will make your audience feel uneasy.

Practise talking a bit slower and projecting your voice. This will give you more gravitas. You’ll appear more calm and collected, and be seen in a better light.

Just make sure you don’t overdo it. If you speak too slowly, everyone will have nodded off after the first few sentences!

“_____” (awkward silence)
It’s all too easy for your mind to go blank, especially when you’re meeting people you’re not familiar with.

An uncomfortable silence gets you off to a bad start, and makes everyone – including yourself – feel embarrassed. Attendees may squirm in their seats, desperately hoping you’ll say something soon.

Starting off strongly stops frustration creeping in. You need to be able to confidently state the objective of the meeting, the benefits of attending and the desired outcomes.


Posted by Ashleigh Sharp


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