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5 Tips for Better Communication in Meetings

Meetings are a notorious hotbed for negative sentiments and experiences. Employees and managers alike often report that team meetings, conference calls, and other similar gatherings can often lead to mixed signals, miscommunication, and even sore feelings under certain circumstances. Fundamentally, these issues all point back to one broader concept: communication.

But how can better communication in meetings be achieved? What can brands and businesses do to ensure that their employees are properly engaged with the topic(s) at hand and are in fact absorbing the information?

To help guide teams in the right direction, let’s examine 5 tips that can help improve the communication that occurs in meetings (regardless of industry or niche).

Respect People’s Time

How much is your time worth to you? For many, it’s a complex answer, but virtually everybody values their time. This includes not only personal time, but the time spent at work completing required assignments and tasks.

Whenever employees are required to depart from their normal duties and join in on meetings, they may be missing valuable opportunities to complete work. The nature of team meetings may involve stealing people from their assignments halfway through, creating a fracture in productivity. Likewise, workers may resent having to make up for lost time just to sit in on a meeting that might not seem valuable to their specific tasks or responsibilities.

As such, respect the time of employees and ensure that meetings are kept as short as possible (while still collaborating and providing all necessary information, of course).

Have Short, Specific Gatherings

Not every moment for instruction or inspiration necessitates a long-winded meeting. Sometimes, individual concepts can be better absorbed through quick, specific gatherings. Whether in-person, via conference call, or online chat, periodic five-minute gatherings to cover unique topics can sometimes be far more effective at conveying specific ideas and answering questions effectively.

For instance, in the world of construction and manufacturing, foremen and floor leaders often have toolbox talks at random intervals throughout the workweek. Also known as a Safety Minute, these gatherings help re-focus workers and ensure proper safety protocols are being met in otherwise dangerous working conditions.

However, the broader theme is applicable to all minutes: take short blocks of time throughout the workweek to cover specific work elements more effectively.

Enforce an On-Topic Policy

It is human nature to become distracted. This is even more so in situations where groups of people are placed together and asked to discuss various issues. Much like the topic of conversation in social gatherings can drift from place to place, distractions in workplace meetings can be horribly disruptive if appropriate measures aren’t taken to ensure otherwise.

Any formal meetings being held and scheduled in advance should always have an itinerary with defined topics decided ahead of time. The mediator or manager of each meeting must enforce a rule that only items on the agenda will be discussed at the meeting (or until all defined business has been concluded). It is acceptable to place an open business segment on the agenda for meetings at the end to cover any topics that may have arisen during the discussion that weren’t part of the itinerary.

Listen (and Avoid Interruptions)

Too much discussion in modern life isn’t really a discussion at all: it is groups of people talking at one another, interrupting each other, and/or waiting until others are done speaking so they can speak themselves.

If communication during meetings is to improve, then these broader dynamics have to be eliminated. First and foremost, individual team members and managers alike must be asked to genuinely listen to the words spoken by each participant. This is the basis for any quality communication in any capacity.

Next, a hard rule on interruptions must be implemented. Consider appointing a dedicated interrupter who will only cut into the conversation to get it back on topic or to move things along due to time constraints.

Consider Tone and Body Language

More so for each individual than for the structure of the meeting at-large, each person’s demeanor can dramatically impact their personal ability to communicate during meetings. While we all may believe that there is no issue with how we express ourselves, certain physical and verbal cues can disrupt how – and whether – people pay attention to us during meetings.

Avoiding any negative or accusatory tones when discussing projects, tasks, goals, or results is imperative for managers and leaders. For attendees from all backgrounds, keep body language in mind: the wrong indicators can completely derail or contradict our statements without us even knowing it. The basics of body language in meetings are complex but relatively easy to master once aware of them.

Without quality communication, meetings are a rather pointless endeavor. This is why improving communication skills matters: from listening and interrupting to staying on-topic, there are numerous conversational and communication-based dynamics that can either improve or derail every meeting. Take these five tips and use them in the workplace to achieve more productive and enjoyable meetings.

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