How to get and keep ‘the ball’ in meetings

Attending meetings is one of the best ways to let people know that you exist – so make them work for you! How many meetings do you go to when some people hog the limelight and some people say nothing at all. Of course some of us find speaking up more daunting than others but remember your company doesn’t pay you to be silent – they pay you to contribute your ideas – so grasp the nettle, take every opportunity ‘get the ball’ and make your presence felt.
The first key principle of ‘getting the ball’ is:

1.       Don’t wait for an invitation

It’s the Nike advertisement: Just Do It!  A lot of us find that hard to do – we’re too polite – our parents did a good job on us. So we wait for the perfect moment to interrupt and it rarely comes! So we end up feeling frustrated and annoyed that we cannot butt in and say what we wanted to say and several things happen: somebody says what we wanted to say and takes the credit; the meeting moves on to the next item of the agenda; we beat ourselves into a pulp for our inaction.
So once we’ve made a decision that we want to take part in the meeting, then we must do the hard part and take action. So:

2.       Speak Up

It’s difficult getting everybody’s attention as soon as we start to speak so try letting them know that you’re about to make a contribution to the meeting by signalling your intention to speak, by saying:
‘I have a comment to make’
‘There’s something I want to add to that’
‘I have a question’
With any luck the meeting will then turn to look at you and then you make your point:
‘I’m concerned we will be overstretching our resources if we do this.’

Of course just because you have the ball doesn’t mean that you’re going to keep it. Isn’t it annoying when we’re in full flow and somebody comes along and steals it from us.
What do you do?

3.       Don’t accept interruptions

Use eye contact, their name and a stop gesture. It looks and sounds like this:
Put your hand up in a strong and meaningful stop gesture. Look the person directly in the eye and say:
‘David, if you wouldn’t mind, I haven’t finished what I wanted to say.’
Don’t be afraid to try this. It works very well. Some people find this very difficult to do because they think it’s rude. Remember this:
It was your ball and they came and took it away from you. They were the rude ones  – not you.
What can you do to get and hold the attention of somebody who never really seems to listen to you, always seems distracted and doesn’t give you the respect you deserve?  Try:

4.      Procedure Setting

It is a 3 stage approach:

a.  State your need to talk:  (David, I need to talk to you.)
b.  State the time you will need: (It will take 10 minutes.)
c.  Check it’s OK with the other person: (Is that OK with you?)

Sometimes of course it isn’t OK with them, so say:
‘OK David, I understand that you’re too busy at the moment, so when will be a good time for you?’
and make sure that you both make a note of the arranged time.

Finally, try to get into the habit of always summarising or closing what has been said or agreed when you’re coming to the end of the conversation/meeting. Have you noticed how when we think we have been very clear in our communication the other person still gets it wrong. Avoid this confusion, by saying:
‘I’d like your comments on that.’
‘So what exactly then am I asking you to do.’
‘Do I understand by your silence that you agree.’

So try these ideas for getting and keeping the ball and make meetings work for you by coming across in a powerful and professional manner.

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