Sometimes, despite all our preparation, meetings can go horribly wrong. Business consultant Barry Tomalin explains how to perform damage limitation when you're worried that you've really messed up in a meeting — in an excerpt from his new book, "Effective Meetings in 7 Simple Steps", part of the new "7 Simple Steps" series.
You lost the plot
Symptoms: You talked too much, you went off the point and introduced irrelevant subjects. You probably felt insecure, so you needed to make your presence felt.
Solution: Hold your tongue. If you do that, the other person will value what you say much more. Remember: the best talkers are listeners.
You disagreed – loudly
Symptoms: You talked loudly, you seemed to be in permanent disagreement with the other person. He/she probably thought you were inconsiderate and insensitive.
Solution: Speak more quietly, and if people look at you, ask yourself: ‘Am I too loud?’
You were always on the defensive
Symptoms: Someone commented on your behaviour or attitude, even slightly negatively, and you were instantly on the defensive, or you attacked back.
Solution: Listen carefully. If the point is broadly accurate, you’ll gain more respect if you admit to it than if you defend yourself against it. Remember: the apparently negative comment you feel most defensive about may be true.
You were stubborn
Symptoms: You refused to accept anyone else’s suggestions or modify your position in any way.
Solution: Say you are open to suggestions and ideas and will consider them. Never reject out of hand, even if you can’t accept them.
You tried to dominate the meeting
Symptoms: You hogged the meeting. You talked too much. You got emotional. You even told the group how important you are, or used to be in another environment. It was insecurity once again. You needed to feel recognised.
Solution: Don’t focus on yourself. Listen to other people and when someone makes a good point, recognise it and endorse it. That will get you the positive recognition you crave.
You used sarcasm too much and too often
Symptoms: You constantly made fun of people, made sarcastic comments and damned with faint praise. Others may have laughed at the time, but ultimately you came across as a negative influence, and they were scared of your sharp tongue, so tried to ignore you.
Solution: Curb your tongue. Use your wit and observation to show appreciation of people. This way, your occasional sarcasm will be seen as wit and humour, not, as may appear now, bitterness.
You provided too much, or too little, data
Symptoms: You rolled out huge amounts of facts and figures. No one knew where they came from and no one cared. Alternatively, you produced no facts and no data. It all sounded like hearsay and received opinion. People ignored what you had to say.
Solution: Select your information. Two ‘killer’ facts and sources to support your argument, are better than too many or none at all.
You tried to be funny
Symptoms: You couldn’t resist a joke or a clever or flip remark. You wanted to display your huge sense of humour or show how sharp and clever you are. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. The others assumed you were a ‘smartass’ or ‘too clever for your own good’ or, even worse, ‘not taking the matter seriously’.
Solution: Check before opening your mouth. Keep your sense of humour under control unless you know it has a place.
Barry Tomalin has worked for the British Council and the BBC World Service, and has run thousands of meetings. He is the author of Effective Meetings in 7 Simple Steps, part of the new ‘7 Simple Steps Series’, published by Collins: www.collins.co.uk/7SimpleSteps