The phrase may be an old one but it’s true: ‘Fail to prepare. Prepare to fail’.
If you want people to listen to what you have to say then you need to make sure that YOU know what you want to say.
Before you speak to anyone about something important such as an idea for the company to help improve a particular area, or an issue you’re having with another colleague, WRITE DOWN ALL OF YOUR POINTS! This will help to present your ideas in a much clearer way as you can cut it down bit by bit until you’re left with the main, clear ,and concise points you want to discuss.
Once you have this finalised, be sure to add in some evidence or proof relating to your point. So, for example, if you have an idea on how to improve productivity, show that you’ve done your research and what the benefits are; if you have a problem with another colleague then have evidence of times when this has affected you most. Having this to hand adds weight to your presentation and therefore shows why it’s important and/or why it will work, meaning your listener is more likely to be engaged with what you want to discuss.
Now you have everything you want to say consolidated down, you need to practice how you’re going to say it.
This doesn’t mean spending hours in front of a mirror saying it until you’ve got everything rehearsed. Just have a go at saying your points and look at the following:
The volume at which you’re speaking
The way you’re saying it
Your body language
You want to be heard by the people that can help the most or, in some cases, as many people that will listen. In a meeting, often, it can be best to seat yourself in one of the centre seats.
Because if you were to sit at the end of the table, you could be left out or miss parts of conversations. By being in the centre, you can get a better understanding of the room’s views and therefore having a better understanding of questions or problems. This allows a greater chance of preparing how to answer rather than someone catching you off-guard. Plus, you can discuss things much more effectively by speaking to as many people as possible.
We know for some people, the above is easier said than done. So, if you’re nervous to make your point so outright, then there’s another option.
Depending on the situation you’re in, you’ll need to find a way to get your point across by finding an ally, someone shares similar thoughts as you, and agreeing with their points. For example, in a meeting setting, if said ally were to say “I think we need to focus on XYZ”, you might jump in and say “Yeah, I was thinking the same” or “Completely agree”. Just a few comments such as these will relay the message to your other colleagues and/or boss that you share these views.
Another suggestion is, instead of directly stating your own point, you could ask questions instead so you can build up talking to people which can help make you feel more comfortable come the next meeting. Then, who knows? You may find the courage to ask the question!
Sorry to say, but this is almost always going to happen. People naturally want to speak and be heard and so when something else is preventing them from doing that, you can get the dreaded INTERRUPTERS!
But that’s okay!
If someone interrupts you, respond calmly but firmly with…
If they continue, be direct, stating…
Calling someone out on their behaviour will make the point resonate much more.
You’ve made your points and people seemed to listen and agree with you but, be sure to follow up with something like:
All of these will give some urgency about moving forward. Be sure to reiterate these points after the meeting too! During the day, during the week, during the next meeting—whenever you think it’s most appropriate.