Escalate Your Communication Skills: Drive Clarity in Group Discussions
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw
We’ve all been there.
A colleague schedules a meeting to discuss a Salesforce project. She invited all the important players to the table and even included some just-so-you-know folks.
She’s leading the meeting, but a senior-level director with a projecting voice and strong opinions takes center stage. They are discussing the technical design of the system being built, but the technical details are not a familiar topic for most people in the meeting.
A discussion between Ms. Opinion and the project leader ensues while the others sink into their mobile devices. You wonder if anyone else understands what’s being discussed, or if you needed to be in the meeting at all.
Get Productive in Your Group Discussions
As Salesforce professionals, we spend hours in meetings every month and conversations can get fairly technical. It’s important that everyone in the meeting is clear about what is being discussed.
Whether you’re the one who called the meeting or an attendee, you have the power to make meetings more productive for everyone involved.
Use the following steps to help drive clarity in meetings and group discussions.
Tip #1. Take live meeting notes and make them visible to everyone.
Minds wander. It’s inevitable.
Keep everyone in the conversation by writing agenda notes on a whiteboard or shared screen for virtual meetings. It’s also a great way to pace the meeting by capturing agreements and summaries of talking points.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is that it shows people you’re listening to them.
Tip #2. Draw a picture.
Visuals are immensely powerful.
They provide a place to focus the conversation. They de-personalize the conversation because it’s easier to say “I disagree with the second step” than to say, “I disagree with Bob’s idea.”
Visuals make it easier to point to and discuss something tangible. This is especially helpful when discussing systems or concepts that are intangible.
Tip #3. Listen to the verbal contributions.
Each time someone speaks, they offer a verbal contribution to a discussion.
What kinds of contributions are being shared in your meetings? Are people sharing information? Asking questions? Making proposals by recommending ideas or actions? Is it clear that people are listening?
Research shows that in effective meetings, 10 percent of verbal contributions are statements that reiterate or summarize the discussion. These are clarifying behaviors that are typically underutilized.
Tip #4. Identify communication patterns during group discussions.
Teams meeting frequently establish communication patterns without realizing it. Observe your team conversations and determine if you have adopted a particular pattern.
Does one person dominate the conversation? Do all meeting attendees have an opportunity to contribute?
The manner in which people offer verbal contributions creates a rhythm that can make or break productivity in a group discussion. You can improve the quality of your meetings by paying attention to the communication pattern in use.
Offer a verbal contribution that will break an unproductive pattern and put your team on the path to more efficient and useful meetings.
Tip #5. Find a healthy conversational balance.
Once you’re able to recognize and identify verbal contributions in meetings, think about how much time is spent on each category. Like a healthy diet, group discussions need a good balance of nutritious verbal contributions to maximize the benefits.
Use verbal contributions to steer discussions into healthier directions when you sense someone is shutting down or the conversation goes off topic. Be sure to summarize and clarify frequently.
For example, in a one-hour meeting, it’s best to summarize or confirm understanding at least once every ten minutes. This keeps everyone on track for the remainder of the meeting. These summaries give everyone a baseline of understanding — or reveal where there is confusion.
Tip #6. Stay focused.
Chances are, you have an agenda for your meetings. However, we all know conversations can veer off the rails.
When you sense the conversation is moving away from the agenda, use phrases like “To bring us back…” or “To reiterate the last item on our agenda…” to steer the conversation toward a more productive track.
Tip #7. Lose the lingo. Agree on consistent terms.
Using tech lingo, acronyms, and internal-only terminology can leave some people in the dark in your group discussions.
You may feel the need to showcase your expertise by using high-level terms, but you’ll be more successful delivering your message if you use plain language and spell-out acronyms.
Using consistent language and non-technical terms when discussing high-level concepts helps people in the room follow the conversation. If they can’t follow the conversation, they can’t contribute their expertise or opinions.
This is a missed opportunity.
Did verbal contributions in the meeting just drop? Perhaps attendees are lost but aren't comfortable admitting it.
If this is the case, the best thing you can do is summarize where you are and provide space for questions. If you’re not able to summarize — ask someone else to do it. Your team will thank you.
Contact CRM Science Salesforce Consultants
Now that you’ve gained the skills necessary to communicate your Salesforce puzzles to everyone involved, you’ll find ease when getting all stakeholders on board for making improvements.
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Pamela Roller Presenting at Dreamforce 2019
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