After filing your taxes and going to the dentist, the most dreaded activity must be going to meetings. Regardless of your title or type of association we all have to go to meetings. Sometimes you’re the organizer; sometimes you’re the chair or one of the speakers. If you’re really lucky you don’t have to do anything except stay awake through the whole proceeding (easier said than done I know!). For my first guest post I wanted to address this head on and give you three tips to improve any board meeting almost immediately. As an executive speech coach, a huge part of what I do is help my clients communicate more effectively, not only at the podium in front of a large audience, but also on the ‘boardroom stage’ in front of a smaller, but sometimes much more challenging audience. There’s often more at stake when it’s an intimate presentation to fellow board members who you’re going to see again and again. So here we go:
Read the agenda ahead of time or have your assistant read it for you. I have sat on so many not-for-profit boards over the years and always been surprised at how many times the agenda was not sent out before the meeting. If you’re a busy executive attending the meeting, then either try to make time to read the agenda (even on your smartphone on the go) or have your assistant read it and brief you on the key points, particularly if you need to address the board on a particular subject.
Prepare for and practice your talking points. So your assistant has briefed you on the agenda and highlighted one item that you must speak to. The next step is to prepare (in writing) your talking points and practice them out loud. You’ll be surprised how different things sound when you say them out loud. Be ready for any questions that might come your way. Again you can have your assistant prepare the talking points for you, but it must be in your words – otherwise when you go to speak to the board you’ll probably stumble and sound ineffective.
Use gestures and non-verbal communication to your advantage. Don’t underestimate the power of non-verbal communication in any business setting – particularly during board meetings or negotiations. A prolonged glance or meaningful hand gesture can say infinitely more than speaking in your loudest voice. Plus they can convey how you feel with more tact, which is essential if you want to maintain good working relationships around the table. So use your hands with purpose and maintain good eye contact.
These are three quick ways that you can make the most of your next board meeting and put yourself in a position of greater strategic advantage. Remember that you need to be authentic and consistent in all your communications if you want to have the greatest impact speaking in any professional setting. One final point; remember to give others the respect they deserve by listening to them attentively. My clients are always surprised when I tell them that one of the best ways to improve your public speaking skills is to listen more and talk less.
Narges Nirumvala is the Founder of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International. She has quickly established herself as one of the top executive speech coaches and public speaking trainers in Vancouver. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org