Mind mapping is a simple technique that helps you ensure meetings work in your favour, says Constance Lamb

If you are spending more than 25 per cent of your working time at meetings then having mastery over speaking effectively in them is a must.

One junior manager was having difficulty communicating with a director. Each time the junior manager tried to explain their view the director would interrupt and take over

It is not only an opportunity to speak with clarity and brevity and convey your message powerfully and persuasively but is also a chance to position yourself and your department.

The aim is to be perceived as efficient, capable and effective; someone who is known for getting things done.

Time is of the essence at meetings. It is a waste of time to flick through reams of detailed notes that resemble a treatise, or to work from a few bullet points if you then waffle about them with no clear purpose.

Yet this is all too often what people do.

One senior manager who regularly attended weekly governance meetings was seen as making very little impact. His technical expertise and knowledge were not in question; however, the ability to persuade and influence was.

We worked with the manager to achieve better results at meetings and identified a number of issues:

  • his notes and handouts were too detailed, making him tend to waffle;
  • his body language was weak, with very little eye contact and with poor posture;
  • he showed lack of clarity and planning;
  • he wasn’t clear about his outcomes/action plans.

Preparation is everything, but how to incorporate this into a busy schedule is challenging.

What is the solution? Using mind-mapping gives a clearer overview of the message. Determine the main points you wish to convey - a good guideline is five, an easy number of points for your colleagues to remember.

The mind-mapping technique enabled the manager to stay focused on the material and also maintain good eye contact. It also reduced waffling. The delivery style was punchy and clear. A decisive action plan was conveyed. The senior manager noticed that he got more attention in the weekly governance meetings than he had before and made more impact. And using the mind mapping technique on visual slides, for teleconferences and handouts, received very positive feedback from colleagues on the way he ran the meeting and presentation.

Meetings can involve negotiation, influencing, persuasion, listening and information giving. Building rapport is a powerful way to influence and persuade. By developing the skill of rapport, individuals no longer need to rely on merely words to clearly communicate a message.

Rapport is created by using all levels of communication to create a bond of familiarity with a colleague through word, tonality, physiology.

The key to creating rapport is matching and mirroring in such a subtle and undetectable way that the other person can only recognise the similarity unconsciously.

So, how would this work in a meeting?

One junior manager was having difficulty communicating with a director. Each time the junior manager tried to explain their view the director would interrupt and take over. It was clear that the director spoke very quickly and found the junior manager’s speaking style too slow and would interrupt. To build rapport the junior manager had to change and match the tempo/speed of the director’s voice. Immediately she noticed a change in behaviour - no interruptions; a better rapport was established.

Also there are stylistic differences of communication. Some people prefer to hear more of an overview rather than too much detail. Others prefer information to be more specific and detailed. Adapting your own preferred style of communication to “match” theirs increases rapport, which is particularly useful when negotiating.

At meetings take the opportunity to observe, watch and listen to your colleagues speak and communicate. Who are more effective? Why? What do they do?

One of the most important aspects is to determine the outcome and action you want your colleagues to take. If you work from that premise the effect will be more successful.

Mind-mapping for meetings

  • Start the map in the centre of the page with the subject heading
  • Radiate out of the central box
  • Use A4 paper - landscape format. It expands thinking
  • Use key headings
  • Use different colours for each heading and the same colour for related detail
  • Determine what action you want them to promote
  • Number each key heading - start from top left hand page and work round clockwise. It is easier to read from mind-map and prevents waffling

How to speak effectively at meetings

  • Establish a clear outcome and action plan
  • Prepare and speak from a mind-map
  • Use positive language
  • Build rapport
  • Listen to colleagues