Stop rambling in meetings – and start getting your message across

While it’s important to share your perspective in meetings, it’s essential to know when and how. You don’t want to monopolize the conversation. In this article, the author offers practical tips for sharing the floor to better get your message across. First, take time to reflect after meetings. If you feel like you overshared, look back and consider who else contributed. Ask yourself honestly, “Have I talked to people? » Estimate how much of the meeting you were talking about. Also consider using other communication channels to share your ideas. For example, can you keep a list of your brilliant ideas on your computer so you’re better prepared to share them at the next meeting? Or can you share ideas in a non-meeting setting, for example, in a follow-up email or an internal chat platform? It’s also helpful to give yourself the cue to pause and practice compressing your thoughts. A colleague or trusted advisor can also give you insight into how you are achieving your goal of talking less and listening more.

Has this ever happened to you: you debrief from a strategy meeting, only to find that you don’t remember anyone but yourself sharing ideas or contributing? Many leaders need to be trained to express themselves. But what if you have the opposite problem – and you can’t stop while speaking? This can lead to frustration everywhere – your team members get frustrated because they want to share their own ideas, and your manager gets frustrated because they want to hear other points of view. Your ideas get lost because stakeholders lose patience with your habit of dominating the conversation and start disconnecting you.

If you think you’re hogging the conversation in meetings, experiment with these tactics to help get your point across.

Measure exactly how much you speak.

Take time to reflect after meetings. If you feel like you overshared, look back and consider who else contributed. Ask yourself honestly, “Have I talked to people? » Estimate how much of the meeting you were talking about.

For example: “I spoke about a third of the time and I spoke to Jim twice.” Note that there is no specific set point for how much you should or shouldn’t speak. You will have to use your gut. If you notice that you have a habit of talking to others, it’s time to reset. Going forward, make an effort to prioritize listening over talking.

Make a rule about when to share. For example: “I will not speak until at least two other people in the meeting have shared their contribution” or “I will limit my sharing to one point”. Or, “I’m going to time myself and allow only three minutes to speak.”

Of course, this advice won’t work all the time; your input will be needed and sought when the stakes are high. But for routine meetings, practice stepping back and letting others do the talking. I advise clients to over-index the respect of the speaking time allocated to them. While you don’t want to limit your speaking time forever, sticking to the time rule early on will help you get into the habit of giving up.

Consider using other ways to share your ideas.

If you excel at creativity, you can come to life in a brainstorming session and quickly generate a wealth of ideas. However, if you tend to ramble when describing these ideas, you may seem scattered and unprepared. Consider other ways to organize your ideas and communicate them to the public. For example, can you keep a list of your brilliant ideas on your computer so you’re better prepared to share them at the next meeting? Or can you share ideas in a non-meeting setting, for example, in a follow-up email or an internal chat platform?

Use all forms of communication available to you to help organize your thoughts. You will then communicate well-thought-out concepts when you do to share. A client I worked with had many fantastic ideas; however, in her review, her supervisor noted that my client’s ideas got lost when she attempted to verbalize them. This client was not succinct enough and monopolized senior management meetings. To help her regain her credibility after this review, my client only shared one point of view at a time which was fully flushed out so that she appeared more strategic and organized. For important matters, she followed up afterwards with another meeting or email. This strategy has helped her regain control of how she speaks in meetings.

Practice compressing your thoughts.

When you speak, make sure what you say is necessary and impactful. You can even think of your phrases as a tweet: How would I communicate this idea if I was tweeting and facing a character limit? How can I reduce my message to its essence?

You can also try writing down the thoughts you intend to discuss in a meeting. This will help you see the cadence in how you deliver your ideas. Once you’ve established a rhythm to compress your thoughts, you won’t need to take a lot of time to prepare and practice.

Think of yourself as an editor who weeds out words and ideas that don’t communicate the essence of what you want to share. I worked with a leader who found she could reliably shorten each of her sentences to about five words. While that might not seem like a lot, those extra words made communication more confusing. She delivered messages with more meaningful impact by reducing her sentences.

Plan breaks.

Are you giving your colleagues enough time to digest what you say and ask questions? If not, signal yourself to take a break.

A client I worked with decided that when he needed to slow down and stop talking, he pinched himself. It was a cue to catch your breath, stop talking, or ask the group questions. This simple tactic can be incredibly effective. By slowing down and taking deliberate breaks, you’ll be able to regulate your impulse to overshare, and your message will have a better chance of landing.

Ask for help.

It can be hard to tell in the moment if you’re oversharing. A new perspective can offer insight. Ask a colleague or trusted advisor to explain how you are achieving your goal of talking less and listening more.

Ask for specific feedback: “Did I share my ideas in three minutes or less?” The response you receive may provide additional information that you can use for future conversations. A client I worked with decided to have a reciprocal agreement with a trusted peer. They would make sure to notice each other’s habits and then meet once a month to share their views.

While it’s important to share your perspective, it’s essential to know when and how. Experiment with some or all of these tactics to ensure your input is heard.

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