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How to make a BIG impression and be influential in business meetings

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by Startacus Admin


Want to make an impact in your next business meeting? Ga Lok Chung of Toastmasters International offers some tips to help you do just that...

If you’ve never watched the movie Big it is well worth checking it out. In the context of meetings, it has the great example where the child Josh Baskins, who has been turned into a grown up played by Tom Hanks, is participating in a marketing campaign meeting. Frustrated by what’s going on he put up his hand and states, simply ‘I don’t get it.’ You can see it here

photo-1542744095-fcf48d80b0fdWith the honesty and directness of a child, Josh makes an alternative suggestion that inspires a frenzy of ideas and excitement from other meeting participants, earning the admiration and praise from the CEO; ‘Well done, Josh. Well done’.

Do you wish you could always make a strong, positive impression and inspire others during your business or pitch meeting? Clearly the scene from Big is in exaggerated, humorous Hollywood style. But it’s a reminder that there are ways to create the impact you want in your meetings.

Let me share some ideas to help.

Adapt for your audience

When making a contribution at a meeting, a common mistake is to focus on exactly what you plan to say, with little thought for the audience. Consider what the audience needs to hear, and how much they already know about the topic first. By understanding your audience and explaining your ideas in a way that connects with them, they can then experience and visualise the impact of the message.

Make sure you are using language the audience is familiar with; if you need to use terminology or acronyms that might be unfamiliar, to potential investors for example, then briefly explain them so they are clear.

Develop the discussion

Think about why people talk in a meeting? The answer is usually to be heard and to be understood. What do people do after they’re certain they’ve been heard and understood? Generally, they listen to the person who heard and understood them first. By building on what someone else has said, it creates a sense of continuity that makes it easier for others to follow what you are adding to the discussion. Make it a habit to take notes in a meeting. Try to paraphrase what the person said that relates to your point. Mention them by name if this point was made earlier in the discussion and include a pause in case they want to clarify.

Managing disagreement

photo-1558403194-611308249627.Imagine, someone has just said something incorrect: 3 + 3 = 7 ‘Idiot’, you want to shout, ‘it’s 6’. Whilst you are logically right, you should consider how you can diplomatically correct them. Start by letting others know the value you received from the discussion, it validates the conversation and the contributions of others. It’s also rare, so people appreciate it. ‘I think I’m clear about you’re saying’, and ‘I see it differently, could you clarify it further’.

When you disagree, you should say so, as others might be thinking the same think but are afraid to point it out. It’s helpful to introduce your comments in a way that helps the other person hear your view. Whilst ‘I don’t get it’ is direct, ‘could you explain that to me again’ indicates your support, takes the notion of the person being an idiot out of conversation and, in turn, encourages a better discussion.

Make use of better filler words

It’s hard not to say ‘uh, um, er’ while you try to gather your thoughts. Filler words natural but can indicate a lack of confidence when speaking at a meeting. Try to replace your filler words with stronger alternatives. The sentence, ‘Um, I was thinking…’ sounds much more definitive and powerful when slightly adjusted to ‘You see, I was thinking…’. It sounds intentional, and when people perceive you to be intentional, it instils confidence. This tip requires practice, don’t be too critical of yourself if you are still using your old filler words, even a 50% reduction will give you enormous benefits.

Adjust your body language

If you're speaking softly or sitting hunched up, people may not take you seriously. Not ideal if you’re a startup founder! How you position and move your body not only affects how you speak; it also affects how you come across.

When speaking, set yourself up so that:

photo-1603202662747-00e33e7d1468.You are sitting up and forward. Practice leaning in slightly and not using the chair’s backrest

Start with your hands on the table and then bring them up to use open hand gestures to emphasise points. In online meetings, position your camera so that people can see your hands making gestures

Smile and make eye contact with everyone as you make your point. When online, remember to look into the camera, not at your screen.

In addition, it is good to take a deep breath in your belly/abdominal area. This will make you sound more confident by giving strength to your voice.

It’s vital to have the right mindset

Making an impact is about more than what you say and how you say it – although both are important. It's about your mentality. And nothing detracts from making an impact like undermining yourself. Remove apologetic language like ‘I apologise if I’m wrong here…’Tentative language may be appropriate, for example, during a brainstorming session, but not when you're trying to be perceived as expert, decisive and investable.

In summary

Whether you’re answering questions after your presentation or engaging in pre-meeting networking, you don’t have to sweat it when you want to make a contribution. Practice with your friends, trusted colleagues or in places such as a Toastmasters clubs that provide a safe space to practise and learn. That way you’ll build the important skill of making a positive impact that every business owner needs.

Making an impact is about sincerity, and with the tips shared here you make a more polished impression. Over time your confidence will grow, and you’ll find yourself making a high impact contribution at all your important meetings.


ga lok chungGa Lok Chung is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. 

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Published on: 28th June 2021

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