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Influence: How To Get Noticed In Meetings

A friend asked me to write about how to get noticed in business meetings. This is a wonderful topic to explore as it touches on using influence tactics in a group setting. First, let’s reframe the objective. We obviously want to get noticed for the right reasons, so how can we leverage the organized business meeting environment to improve our personal brand image?

Here are three ideas:

1. Volunteer to lead a project. If there is one common dynamic in nearly all business meetings it’s that attendees love to be heard, but hate to be called on. Few hands are raised to take on more work. In fact, the most closed and negative body language I’ve seen occurs when the boss is looking for volunteers to take on a new project. This passive behavior provides you with opportunities to shine.

The next time a big idea is floated around the conference table, volunteer to lead the project. This does two things: it takes the burden off of the boss’ shoulders to assign the project to someone else; and, you have just assumed a leadership position and all the rights and emoluments that come with it.

Your boss will most likely be grateful, impressed and relieved that you took on the assignment. By volunteering, you are demonstrating assertiveness, enthusiasm and confidence… all positive character traits. And, by comparison, you have just separated yourself from the passive pack of meeting attendees who were unwilling to take on the challenge.

The complaint I hear most often from employees is the lack of leadership opportunities in their place of employment. The quandary is in order to be seen as a leader, you must lead. If you are waiting to be chosen for a leadership position, you might be waiting for a long time. So, choose yourself! By volunteering to lead a project, you have just given yourself a leadership position along with unofficial hierarchical power.

2. Show genuine appreciation for someone else’s work. We all like praise, especially when it is unexpected (and in front of our boss). Expressing thanks or admiration is a selfless and giving gesture. Here’s a caveat: only show gratitude for acts that truly benefited you or your group. Otherwise, the praise looks self-serving and inauthentic.

There are three benefits to showing appreciation. First, it is a covert display of power, because only people with power can give power away. Second, this act creates a reciprocal obligation. The recipient of the praise will feel an obligation to pay the favor back. That is how politics works. Third and most importantly, prominent psychologists and social scientists believe gratitude is the key to happiness. So, by giving thanks we receive a positive emotional state of being. Everybody wins!

3. Give away a big idea (to a person with influence and power). As Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I call this planting a seed. The idea is simple, bring up your idea in a casual conversation with a person in a position to champion the idea and then walk away. Let the idea germinate in the influencer’s mind.

Bring up the idea again at a later date, but position it in a way of non-ownership. Something like, “Hey remember that idea we discussed last week; have you thought any more about it? If so, I’m interested in helping you bring it to life.” You have just succeeded ownership of the idea and volunteered to work on implementing it. I recommend offering to lead the project at this point.

When the big idea and new project is announced to the larger team, the sponsor will introduce his or her project leader… you. See idea number 1 for the benefits of leading a project.

Who gets noticed in meetings? People who volunteer to take on more work, desire less credit and show genuine appreciation and support to their coworkers.

That’s a personal brand image with real value.


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