You may wonder what meetings have to do with being successful. At worst, most people view meetings as boring; at best, they see them as unnecessary and sometimes a time drain. Love or hate them, meetings are a staple of the professional world. I believe they are an opportunity to test and exchange ideas, and show your authority in your area of expertise.
Many of my female clients often express a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension around meetings. One of my clients once told me, “[In meetings,] I want to crawl inside a shell and to never be found” Yet women need to be at the table—and at the table confidently—to be part of the conversation. Diverse views lead to better business decisions.
So what can you do to power up your presence in meetings?
Nothing works better to grow your confidence like having a clear understanding of what you want to communicate and why it matters. Preparing well means not only preparing key points but also adopting the lens of other meeting participants. Touch base with all relevant stakeholders to understand their viewpoints before the meeting. You will gain insights into their perspective, needs and motivations that can be incorporated into your delivery.
No matter how much preparation you do, without a clear mind, you will stumble. An internal narrative can be positive, but when it comes to meetings, stop listening to it. Overthinking will impact your communication flow and command of the room.
I tell my clients to practice visualization. Before your next important meeting, take a moment to visualize yourself handling questions. More importantly, visualize your desired outcome of the meeting. If you need a last-minute confidence push, try this confidence booster right before entering the room.
Successful women who know their craft do not ask for permission; they share their valuable opinion.
“My apologies, and I don’t know if this would work, but maybe we could change some of the key objectives for the coming revenue period. It’s just an opinion to consider.”
“We should re-evaluate the key objectives for the upcoming revenue period. This will surely help boost morale and hit most of the revenue targets for Q4.”
The tone and direct approach of the second option convey a more confident style.
Knowing how to deliver your opinion is excellent, but it’s certainly not enough. Make a habit of using communication tools such as paraphrasing, reframing and “and” transitions to build coalitions and rally the energy in the room towards support for your goal.
Unfortunately, the higher you go, the more ego you encounter. When you disagree, oppose or share a contrarian view head-on, people are more likely to ignore or oppose, even if you are right—because it makes them feel less powerful or less smart.
To work with contrarian views, say something like:
“Kevin, what a great perspective on incorporating statistics, and we could also …”
Or, say something like:
“Kevin, if I hear you correctly, you said_______ AND from what I understand our main challenge is to reduce cost by 10% by year-end, right? If that is the challenge we are looking to solve, we could…”
If you are the only woman on the team, deploying these tactics will help you get buy-in and get your male colleagues to hear you—even if they were not willing to listen initially.
It is vital that as a woman, and even more if you are a BIPOC female executive, you are making good use of your seat at the table. There is a lot of work to dismantle the lingering biases and discrimination that run rampant in the workplace, especially in meetings (hello mansplaining!). But if we all do our part, this can be another chapter closed on our path to greater equality in the workplace.
Remember, you have been invited to the table for a reason. There is probably nobody in that room that knows the subject better than you. So for your next meeting, step into your power, adopt some of these habits, run with them and bring it home.
You got this.
This article was written by a Fairygodboss Contributor.
Beatriz Albini-Ruiz is an Executive Leadership and Career Coach.
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