Career Woman

How to boss a meeting when you’re an introvert

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Success in business requires a broad range of skills and aptitudes, but no-one can be expected to have them all. It’s not uncommon for an entrepreneur to be blessed with creativity, drive, and financial nous, but to also consider themselves held back by a reluctance to network or to speak up in group scenarios.

When this is the case, the businesswoman in question is likely an introvert: someone who excels when working alone, taking their time to respond to questions, and who may need a period to ‘recharge’ in between social encounters.

Introversion is not a form of lack or weakness. Quite the opposite, it is a specific set of skills and approaches that are fundamental to your character. But while there are many situations in which an introvert will out-perform an extrovert, an unfortunate aspect of the business world is the obligation to develop ideas and broker deals within the kind of group meetings that are anathema to an introverted businesswoman.

There’s only so far you can get without engaging in meetings and learning to share your ideas and opinions. So while you may never grow to love meetings, you can at least get more out of them by adopting some professional techniques to help you through. You don’t need to become a used-car salesperson or thrive on being centre of attention to influence people in the conference room – instead, you can capitalize on your own skills and approach to quietly win respect.

This begins with a bit of self-knowledge. Ask yourself what your strengths are and make a list. Under each of your specific skills – the ones you think your colleagues value you for – write three ways that you can lever that skill to perform better in the meeting room.

It can help to refer to the generally agreed upon skill set of the typical introvert:

You’re great at researching by yourself

Studies have shown that the brains of introverts function best in an atmosphere of quiet solitude. You’re not going to get that in the meeting, so try to utilize your alone time in the days ahead to prepare by yourself. Email your colleagues for the agenda, and annotate it richly so you can refer back during the meeting.

You think ideas through thoroughly before responding

While extroverts thrive on a ping-pong like exchange of ideas, introverts like to delve a little deeper by themselves before giving a more considered response. You’ve already got a head-start by doing extra research before the meeting, but during the conference try to let the group calibrate to your rhythm. Don’t be rushed into giving answers, but instead ask for a moment to formulate your response – and keep notes, so that if the moment passes you can always follow up later.

You speak in concrete terms

Extroverts tend to be pretty abstract in their speech – perhaps because they don’t take the time to think things through before stating their idea. That can be very useful in some ways, but a meeting also requires a concrete agenda, proposals, and a conclusion or call-to-action.

This isn’t just ‘housekeeping’: the person who introduces and concludes a meeting and each of its section plays an important role in defining what’s spoken about, how it’s discussed, and the outcome of what is said. It’s a quietly authoritative role that also provides you a framework within which to test your voice.

This new infographic from Onward Financial explores a few other techniques you can use to turn your introverted disposition to your advantage during meetings. Make it part of that thorough behind-the-scenes preparation strategy, and you can supplement your regular skills with an upgrade to your conference room game.

How to boss a meeting when you're an introvert

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