3 Ways to Get Your Voice Heard in Virtual Meetings

Meetings matter. Now more than ever.

Just when we thought it wasn’t possible to jam more meetings in the span of a day, the pandemic arrived.  And from the many coaching encounters we have with leaders across geographies and industries, more virtual meetings are happening in the course of an even more prolonged day. This calls for a renewed awareness on why meetings matter and how to make your voice heard.

Linda is a senior level leader in financial services and recently connected for a coaching session immediately following one of many Zoom calls she had during the day.  She was frustrated that she couldn’t get her idea across. She couldn’t hold the conversation long enough to move it forward. She found it harder to be heard in the virtual format even more than the in-person meetings at the office.  Even so, she needed to gain support from this group. Her frustration with the interruptions, questions and occasional resistance eventually made her retreat, lose her voice and leave feeling unheard and misunderstood.

Tip #1: Work the Influence Loops Beforehand.  

In our book, The Influence Effect, we talked about the concept of Influence Loops. This is a process by which you begin to line up your support and get votes in your corner. It is imperative to get people on board with your ideas before you get on the virtual meeting. When you know what the resistance to your ideas might be, you can deal with it better in the virtual format.  And the bigger the idea the more resistance you might face. That’s why big ideas are meant to be sold in smaller chunks.

This is slightly more involved and precedes the “meeting before the meeting” in that it requires a deeper dive into excavating where resistance or land mines might be. The end result will be a clear picture of where your supporters are and where and why your detractors might be inclined to push back.

Tip #2:  Have the Meeting Before the Meeting.

Remember that, especially in a virtual world, the meeting before the meeting is crucial. But in the current environment, and for some time to come, there is no coffee pot or water cooler or hallways around which to gather for the preliminaries.  This means you have to be intentional about how to connect…make the phone call, leverage texting or email before the meeting to get others to support your ideas.

Virtual calls demand a lot of energy from us now. Reading body language is confined to head and shoulders only. And unless you have a formal speaking part, it is harder to get your voice in the air. So you might also need to orchestrate your comments with the meeting host to find the best time to interject.

Tip #3:  Decide How You Want to Show Up.

The question for meetings in the virtual world, much like face-to-face interactions, is to be intentional about how you want to show up. Consider your outcome and practice your intention in order to gain that outcome.

In Linda’s case, she was lulled into believing that if she just hurled a good idea out there, she would be done. Not so easy.

Language matters.  For instance, if your outcome is to come across as credible and engaging, then practice using “muscular” words, or words that are definitive and carry impact. ”Direct” versus ”help” or ”achieving a success rate of x” versus ”hoping to reach”.   Muscular language means using active words and authoritative statements, avoid hedging and take ownership of your opinions. Instead of ”how about” say “I strongly suggest“ or instead of “well, what if” say “my recommendation is…”

Practice and prepare in order to stay composed when the discussion starts. In virtual meetings as in live meetings after you have prepared and practiced, don’t allow yourself to be interrupted.  Respectfully say “If I could finish this one thought…” or if there is confusion or questions, say “I would like to rephrase what I just said because I did not quite get to finish” or “I want to come back to the idea that I put out there”.

Get support.  If you have taken the time to work influence loops prior to the virtual meeting and have prepared for how you want to show up then find an ally.  If you already have a buddy in the meeting, text them and ask them to bring your idea back up or to make a supportive comment during the conversation or to ask a question that would help you tee up some detail around your idea.

In the end, virtual meetings are here to stay for an unforeseeable time-frame. So we have to adapt and work differently to make the medium work for us.

Meetings matter. Virtual meetings matter. It’s crucial to have your voice heard. Now more than ever.