Survival and Success at Work Meetings - Part 3

Frank Newberryin Training & Education

In Part 1 of this article Turfcare Sector Trainer and Conference Speaker Frank Newberry offered advice on the importance of making a good impression, dealing with our fears and preparing thoroughly. In Part 2 Frank suggested what we might say and when we might say it. Now, in Part 3 of 3, Frank looks at where to sit at work meetings, what not to say, and how to deal with difficult people.

Where to sit

Hopefully, you will be able to see (and be seen by) everyone at your work meetings. Occasionally, I have attended meetings where there have been thirty or more people in attendance. If I have something important to say - to a large gathering of people - I position myself carefully in order to make an impact. I find it helps to go early to the meeting room and 'have my pick' of the available seats.

If I am Chairing (or facilitating) a meeting, I will sit centrally so that everyone can see me (being perched at the end of a table may not be very helpful). If I am not in the Chair, I will sit opposite the Chair so that I can easily get his or her attention with nods and signals.

Easier to communicate with the Chair

If I am new to the meeting, and the Chair is confident and quite dominant, I will sit alongside the Chair. This position makes it easier to communicate with the Chair using brief written messages. I am right-handed (when writing) so I try to sit on the left side of the Chair. If I was left-handed, I would sit next to the Chair on his or her right side. This makes any notes I pass to the Chair less distracting.

As the meeting gets underway, it is important to sit up straight and make eye-contact with each speaker. Nodding occasionally will show speakers that you are interested in their point of view - this attentiveness on your part might help you later when it is your turn to say something. I suspect you may find that people might be more attentive to you if you listen and respond to them.

What not to say

As mentioned in Part 2 - always tell the people at a meeting what you can do, before you say what you cannot do, then repeat what you can do. Strive to end each contribution on a neutral or positive note.

The same goes for people. Look for the positives in what they say, particularly if you disagree with them. You will need to do as much research into what is good about a particular proposal even if you know it has a lot of bad points. Tell the meeting what you like about a particular idea before you say what you do not like.

Try and have a proposal or counter-proposal that incorporates as many things as possible that your opposition values. Never put the other side 'in the wrong' even if they are in the wrong. Very few people claim to be 'in the right' all the time but no one seems to like being 'in the wrong', even for a moment. They could resent what you say and may defend their position more vigorously. Much better to point out what is right about their idea. Before you make your case, remember to put them 'in the right' first.

Dealing with difficult people in meetings

Generally speaking, the Chair would be expected to deal with difficult people in a meeting. You could help the Chair by getting his or her attention and saying (if Sam was the difficult person): 'Chair, may I just ask how many are on board with Sam?'

As also mentioned in Part 2, it has been observed that even the most domineering people at meetings will allow an interruption if they think the interrupter agrees, or wants to validate their point, or praise their ideas.

Listen carefully and, when the difficult or domineering person speaks, swing round and give them your full attention. Nod as the person speaks and give them eye contact. Often it is the attention of the meeting that the person wants most of all.

Listen for something you agree with and use 'validation' to interrupt as mentioned above ('Sam, you are absolutely right') then either make your own point calmly and confidently or suggest 'we move on and come back to this later when we can give this item more time.'

For now, I wish you the very best in your efforts to survive and succeed at work meetings. Keep cool, find the right seat, listen carefully and respond confidently!

© 2021 Frank Newberry