Workshop: Personal Trainer

I am not good in meetings. I find it difficult to influence a debate and make effective points. I need to improve, but how?

Well, the good news is that you have clearly identified a problem and want to take action on it. Given the propensity of our sector for interminable meetings, we have certainly got to be able to use them to influence decisions. And it ain't much fun being in a meeting where you feel useless!

There are lots of books on how to improve personal presence and on influencing skills. You only have to look along those shelves filled with management textbooks to find that out. However, here are some general tips:

- Improve your self awareness - notice what makes you excited, bored or angry and ask a friend or mentor for feedback

- Practice getting attention by maintaining eye contact and engaging with people

- Pay attention to others in the meeting - asking questions may enable you to communicate more effectively

- Think out the points of agreement you have with others, rather than the disagreement, and see if you can build on them

- Respect the views of others - yes, I know this is difficult when people are talking nonsense, but think through why they are saying it. Perhaps this is for other audiences?

- You don't need to say a lot, but when you do have something important to say, imagine how a colleague you admire might say it

- Share your passion and excitement - this can be catching

- Use humour appropriately - perhaps telling an amusing anecdote that leads into your point would help lighten the mood

- Avoid being sanctimonious or pious - there will be plenty of people in the sector who will do that better than you!

- Don't use jargon

It might help if you gave some thought in advance to the key points you want to make and how to make them. Treat it like you are about to make a speech for which you need a well prepared text. Then think about how you are going to deliver it.

And, finally, the way you feel will affect the way your audience feels about you. Prior to the meeting, you do need to align your thoughts and intentions with what you are trying to project. This will give you credibility and presence.

Remember, if you are going into a meeting thinking how rubbish you are at making points, you will come across like that!

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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