You have just opened your mouth and started to make an excellent point in a meeting. However, somebody immediately shuts you down by talking over you with an opinion. It was actually exactly the same point you were trying to make. You would have just needed a bit more time to say it. So irritating, am I right? Some companies like Drum are lucky to have a culture of listening to others, but in the global business environment you most likely will end up in a meeting with either a client or business partner who shamelessly keeps interrupting you.
If you encounter an interrupter, before going all Charlotte (Sex and the City fans know) and ‘curse the day they were born’ or sending icy looks to their way. Try our tips on how to prevent from being interrupted in the first place. If you do however get interrupted, remember to “keep it cool” and keep your professional image intact. Thus, do not sink to the same level as the interrupter.
The below tips work for both traditional and online meetings. Some of them are more relevant for face-to-face meetings or video conferences, some work wonders during online meetings. If you want to develop your communication skills even further, you can adapt these tips to your everyday business situations. You can also try them the next time you are giving a presentation. They are extremely simple, yet effective, and we at Drum love to practice them every day!
Body language (Offline + video conference)
Everyone knows that communication is much more than just words. Your body language defines a huge part of other people’s perceptions of you and what you are saying. Focus on your presence: how you sit, where your arms are, is your chin up, how do you hold your shoulders, are you stiff or relaxed. After your posture is on point, you can try to use your hands to articulate more effectively. Try gesturing with your palms up. Engaged body language does not only send a powerful message to others, but it can also give yourself more confidence when pitching your ideas in a meeting.
Eye contact (Offline)
We wanted to separate this from other body language aspects since it is extremely vital. You will seem more confident if you look at each person in the meeting room for 2-3 seconds while you speak. This will generate a feeling that you a speaking to each of them individually. Which itself will create a barrier for them to open their mouth instead of listen to what you have to say. If there is a dominant character in the meeting, focus on having eye contact with them. When you keep eye contact rather than look around or especially stare at the table or floor, it makes it more obvious that you yourself believe in the words you are saying. Eye contact is also important when you are listening to the other attendees, for sure.
Tone of voice (Offline + online)
There are several special characteristics that confident people possess in meetings. One of them is the tone of their voice. We are not saying that you have to become a loud person. But if you want people to really listen to what you say, you have to focus on how you say it. Confident people tend to speak in a more firm tone and more clearly than others. Note that you shouldn’t have to shout in order to get your message out there. The more confident you sound in a meeting, the less likely you will be interrupted.
Listen (Offline + online)
You can’t expect anyone to listen to you in a meeting if you don’t do the same to them. Paying attention is not important only due to the fact that you’ll be somehow a good person. It is also important because it will allow you to generate a message that is relevant and on point. If what you say doesn’t actually answer the question or fully relate to the previous comment, there is a 99% chance that you are on the way to being interrupted. Others will in this case surely much rather contribute with their opinions than listen to you. So, make sure you are not thinking about anything else than what the other meeting attendees are saying. You should listen and respect other people’s opinions in a meeting even if you don’t agree with them.
Breathe (Offline + online)
A simple but effective way to be heard in a meeting. When you focus on your breathing you will most likely take your time when speaking. This itself makes you look more confident. Breathing will also make your voice sound more relaxed and natural. This will prevent those awkward moments of speaking with a high pitched tone or having a shaky voice (especially if you are a little nervous to talk in front of others). To calm your nerves before a meeting, check these tips from our recent post.
Articulate (Offline + online)
If you sound like you’re not 100% sure what you are saying or want to say, there is a high chance that someone will interrupt you at some point. Cut out ‘um’, ‘uh’ and ‘like’. Filler words can damage your credibility especially if you use them repetitively in a meeting. Really focus on the rhythm of your speech. You can pause before words you want to emphasize or slow down your speech when you want to make an important point. You should also show enthusiasm; if you’re not interested or excited about what you are talking about, how can anyone else be?
You can do so much in terms of building your confidence for meetings. The above tips are a guaranteed way for you to have a say without having to stand down. The good news is that you can practice all these areas at home before a meeting. No one can be expected to be an expert at something before they have got the chance to practice it. As Finnish people say: “No one is a blacksmith when they are born”. Allow yourself not to be perfect in your first meeting and give yourself some time to build your confidence. After mastering all the above areas, you will definitely not be interrupted. Whether it is a business meeting or a regular conversation.