In the corporate space, meetings are part of the routine. They serve many purposes. For one, they encourage teamwork by providing a space where employees can brainstorm together, set team goals, and engage in healthy dialogue. Meetings additionally provide an opportunity to share information such as financial updates, contract negotiations, workplace issues, new projects, and more.

Of course, meetings can sometimes veer onto thin ice when an entire team is gathered around the table. Nevermind the fact that the room is filled with any number of personality types and perspectives, but if there’s a heated topic on the table (reviewing a failed project, for instance), then tensions are bound to be high. One of the hardest blows to team morale is a high-stakes meeting that implodes because of poor communication and meeting management.

Here are 4 tips to bear in mind to communicate more effectively in your next meeting:

Mind your tone

Does the message you’re delivering sound negative or positive? What feeling is your tone reflecting? The energy in your voice can provide many clues into what you’re actually thinking. If you’re delivering praise to an employee for a recent success but your tone lacks energy and comes across more so bored or uninterested, it would be the same as not praising the employee at all—or worse, even criticizing them!

The same holds true when critiquing a team’s performance. There’s no need to be belligerent or disparaging, as this will only put your employees on the defense and increase the tension in the room—fertile ground for argumentation and division. Mind your tone and learn how to positively provide constructive criticism. Doing so will keep team morale where it needs to be and will motivate your employees to do better.

Choose your words wisely

This goes along hand-in-hand with the above. Something as simple as the words you use can build up a team…or tear one down! By all means, avoid language that makes assumptions or discriminates. Matt Stratz, CEO of the HR software Namely, also says this: “Don’t make statements that personally call out the employee like, ‘you should’, ‘you didn’t’, or ‘your skills’.

Instead, discuss the issue by saying, ‘customers can’t get what they need’, or ‘this isn’t clear’.” No one wants to be singled out in a meeting and made to feel like their experience, education, and/or skillset isn’t where it needs to be. It can be demoralizing. When you choose the right words, however, and shift the focus on a project’s objective, it takes the weight off your team members and helps them to remember the bigger picture.

Watch your body language

We don’t just speak with our words—we speak with our bodies as well. In fact, our body language very often betrays what we’re truly thinking or the state of our attitude. Eye-rolling, crossed arms, pursed lips—these are all expressions all of us have undoubtedly seen in a meeting or two. Pay attention to the way your own body is speaking during meetings. If you present a closed-off body, for example, you may intimidate your employees and cause them to shy away from offering input or ideas. Forcing a smile can indicate insincerity, potentially causing a team member to feel their contribution to a meeting fell short. And of course looking at the clock, your watch, or your phone is a sure sign of boredom or impatience, which is a sure way to guarantee an employee never speaks up in a meeting again—you’ve made them feel under-valued.

On the other hand, positive body language such as a relaxed posture, leaning in when someone is speaking, good eye contact, taking notes, and head nodding and smiling will allow your employees to feel at east, validated, and understood.

Be attentive

This last tip might sound obvious enough, but you’d be surprised how often teams fail to practice it. One of the easiest ways to achieve attentiveness is simply by providing an agenda at the beginning of every meeting. An agenda is essential to planning a productive meeting. It provides a list of topics for discussion, it provides structure and focus for the meeting, it ensures that all information is covered, and perhaps most importantly: it allows each team member to adequately prepare for the meeting and thus increases engagement, teamwork, and information sharing.

Nothing’s hidden when you work with an agenda, so employees don’t feel ambushed by topics (thus lowering tension and stress and allowing them to communicate more calmly). Another important tool is active listening. Active listening can help teams avoid misunderstandings, and more easily resolve conflicts. There are a number of trainings on active listening available that can help you and your employees excel as communicators.

 

Meetings unfortunately get a bad reputation more often than not, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When you manage your meetings effectively and learn how effective communication can aid you and your employees in sharing ideas and building the team up, your meetings will become productive forums where goals are not only set—but achieved like never before!


There’s a huge amount of business today conducted online. We’ve got Facebook Ads to promote our new products, Twitter to share interesting articles, and LinkedIn to build our network. All of these platforms can be lucrative for your business, but no matter how “online” you are, at some stage you’ll have to meet in-person with clients, teammates, or investors.

It’s during these in-person meetings where your skills in business etiquette and social etiquette will count.

Connecting with others in-person is not a forgotten art. All you have to do is tap into the basics of human interaction and manners that I’m sure you possess.

To reconnect with these valuable interpersonal skills, and connect better with potential clients or investors, I want to share with you these four tips drawn straight from my business etiquette training modules.

1. Put Effort Into Your Outfit

When you put effort into your outfit, it tells the other person that you care about yourself, and you care about them. How would you feel if you invited somebody over for dinner and they walked into your house wearing ripped shorts and flip-flops? You’d probably think they don’t respect you enough to dress properly. So the next time you have a business meeting planned, make sure your outfit shows how much you care. If a suit is not standard in your industry, put on a pair of tailored pants instead. You can always lift your image with a coloured belt, vibrant shoes, or your favourite piece of signature jewellery.

2. Use a Welcoming Handshake

Your handshake can say so much about who you are and how you feel about the other person. If your handshake is not strong, the other person can quickly assume you’re not confident or you’re not interested in getting to know them. If your handshake is too firm, they can easily think you’re overpowering or dominant. Finding the right balance takes practice. So for a welcoming handshake, be sure to connect with web-to-web contact, grasp the other person’s hand fully (without crushing their bones), and shake 2-3 times before you let go. Using this technique, you’re on your way to a welcoming handshake.

3. Use Warm Eye Contact

If you’ve ever been in a conversation with somebody and they were looking over your shoulder or had that glazed look across their eyes, you’ll understand how important eye contact is when you’re trying to connect with somebody else. So how do you achieve warm and authentic eye contact? It’s easy. Try to identify the colour of the other person’s eyes. While you’re doing this, think of a dream holiday, perhaps on a warm, tropical island. Your face will become relaxed and your eye contact will look genuine and warm. A smile will help too, of course!

4. Remember the Other Person’s Name

Every time I meet somebody new and I hear them use my name in conversation, I’m always surprised and immediately touched. It’s not often people remember your name. In fact, most people I train always have difficulty remembering names. But it’s really not that hard if you find the right technique that works for you. The best technique I’ve found is to repeat the other person’s name as soon as they’ve said it, and then use it 2-3 times in conversation, or as much feels natural. If you’re more of a visual person, you might prefer to associate their name with an object. For example, Jan Brooks could remind you of a brook, or a gently flowing stream.

Connecting with others in-person is not a forgotten art. All you have to do is tap into the basics of human interaction and manners that I’m sure you possess. Try these tips at your next in-person meeting–I would love to know how it works out for you.

kara-ronin-200pxKara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. Her unique perspectives have been featured in publications, such as TIME Inc., Business Insider India, and The Local France. Get Kara’s insights straight to your inbox and her free gift here. You can also connect with Kara on Facebook.