By Mercedes Acevedo

Successful leaders know that communication is about more than just the words one uses.

Below we have some tips to help you communicate in a meeting like a leader.

1) Go with the plan

Whether you have a meeting or are about to take a business trip, you should always prepare ahead of time. Try to answer these questions: “What is the aim of this meeting?” and “Who is attending the meeting?”. These questions help frame the situation in particular ways that can then help direct your plan. Additionally, try getting in touch with co-workers that have conducted similar meetings, as they can give you valuable input about the topics or attendees.

2) Do your research

Before a meeting, try to do a little research about the attendees: who are they, what are their positions at the company, do they have children, are they married, etc. Learning about the audience beforehand will help you avoid unnecessary discussions and hone your messaging. When meeting someone for the first make sure you listen carefully during introductions and try to remember their name throughout the whole conversation.

3) Small talk can help

Small talk, also known as the art of knowing how to chat with a total stranger, can help make everybody feel more comfortable and is a useful way to avoid awkward silences. The FORD (family, occupation, recreation, dreams) method might help you come up with some topics to discuss. For instance: “Any plans for the weekend?” “How is everything going at the office?”, “Have you seen any good Netflix series lately?”.

4) Watch your body language

You are constantly communicating, even when you’re completely silent. As such you should always be mindful of your body positioning. It doesn’t matter if you are in a video conference, you should always show interest. Try to make eye contact and smile, show confidence by sitting-up straight, when in a video chat look directly to the camera, and please, do not cross your arms, as it can make you appear defensive or withholding.

5) Show you are interested

Be alert, mindful, and watchful of what is going on around you. Keep your phone out of sight, listen, and maintain eye contact. Asking questions and repeating the other person’s last words shows you’re interested in what they are saying and helps clarify points that could be misunderstood. Let the other person talk without interrupting, and avoid being quarrelsome before the person has finished talking. 

6) Say goodbye to the distractions

How do you feel when the person you’re talking to is distracted by their smartphone? Distractions in a meeting can seem harmless, but they can easily annoy participants. Using your phone, scribbling on a piece of paper, or staring out the window not only diverts attention from the meeting but also communicates that you are not interested in what others have to say. As difficult as it may seem, it is possible to eliminate most distractions. Next time you are in a meeting, remember to take your computer, a pad of paper, and a pen for notes. That is all you need.

Remember that everything you do communicates messages to those around you, so to help ensure you have successful meetings, come prepared, be mindful of your body language, and stay engaged.