How to Succeed in Meetings: Three Essential Techniques

Have you ever come out of a meeting disappointed because it didn't go the way you wanted? Maybe you ended up with more work to do or maybe everyone decided to do things in a way you don't like. You can reduce the risk of this happening in future by mastering these three essential techniques for making meetings go the way you want.

1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GOAL. If you are going to a meeting and you don't have a personal goal then you are probably just going to waste precious time. Remember that everyone, rich or poor, gets the same 1440 minutes in a day so don't waste them. You need to have thought of some sort of personal goal, whether it is to convince the boss to adopt your new proposal, to block something that would slow down your work or simply to escape without any extra work. For example, you might go to a meeting to define a new policy with the simple goal of keeping this policy as simple as possible, purely out of self interest.

2. COME TO THE MEETING PREPARED. Whatever your goal, you need to be prepared for the meeting. Think about what you might say, how you might counter opposition and so on. This puts you in a strong position because many people do not prepare at all, so you have the advantage.Just having a clear goal makes it easier for you, but you can go much further and come with a strawman proposal. Remember that the person who drafts a proposal can often get their own way in many details just because other people will never challenge everything so if your draft has 50 ideas maybe 25 are in at the end, while someone else struggles to get a a few of their ideas accepted.

3. LOBBY IN ADVANCE. Finally remember that if you are pitching a proposal you need to talk to other people to build support for your position before the meeting. People are more likely to accept something they have heard discussed before and by discussing your ideas in advance you can hear the objections and either rework the proposal to address them or prepare an effective rebuttal. Lobbying also has a powerful psychological effect, too, because the people you have "sold" the idea to before the meeting will be nodding as you talk, instead of looking doubtful or uncertain. This body language has a subtle impact on the decision makers.

Learning to be an effective influencer makes you much more useful and respected in an organization because you will get a reputation for someone who is able to get things done while maintaining good relationships with everyone -- friends and foe alike.  It also makes your work less tiresome and stressful because you won't spend hours in meetings that are wasting your time and you will feel more in control. Done well, effective influencing also protects you from office conflicts, preserving your health and motivation.

Related Posts on Speaking and Influencing
Selling Your Ideas Influencing Your Way To Success
Three Simple Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking 
Writing and Speaking Lessons from a Primatologist 
Nine and a Half Tips for Presenting to C.Suite Executives 
Seven and a Half Things to do When Someone Asks You to Present Their Slides 

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Great post, Andrew. There is a discipline and effort to preparing for meetings, especially when the busy corporate life is packed with them. I think of your article as an inspiration to do the hard work up front, and put in the extra time in advance, rather than suffer through wandering, belabored meetings that could have been better managed. Thanks!
Andrew Hennigan said…
Thanks Scott. Yes, it can be hard work to prepare well for a meeting but it pays off, turning a boring time suck into an opportunity to achieve something. I wish someone had told me all this stuff about influencing when I was first starting in business!

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