Win at Meetings
There's actually method to this madness. There's an order here that I hope you can see. One of the most important things to do in a meeting is to be an audience, at least for part of the time. Let's talk about how to do this. And this is pretty easy, actually. So we're not gonna spend too much time on it because we already talked about the power of being an audience. And that's what we're talking about here at meetings. A lot of times we keep thinking, okay, how are we gonna be the ones who just, like, take over the meetings and be in control and have our point of view expressed when maybe we don't have the power to do that. One of the single best ways to take over a meeting is to take over the meeting at the end. You think, this is when people, at the end of a meeting, what's going on? People don't want to be at the meeting any more. (laughing) Right? Like, toward the end of the meeting people are bored, they're yawning, they're checking, you know, surreptitiously or otherwise, checki...
ng their emails. They wanna get out of there. What you can do is wrap up the meeting. And here's how you do it. You say, this is what I'm hearing. Now, let's talk about Stalin. (laughing) Yoseph Stalin, I think that's how you pronounce it, he actually was just this peasant people didn't have a lot of respect for. And a lot of people don't realize this, a lot of the leaders of the Communist party at the time in Russia, came from fairly aristocratic backgrounds. They just claimed to be workers. He was a genuine peasant and he has a lousy accent. People, he didn't dress right or anything. What he did in these meetings was, he would be silent throughout. And then at the very end he would say, this is what I'm hearing. And he would quote what other people have said. And people would be flattered to be quoted, right? Here's what, you know, Amanda said. Here's what Karin said. And then he would say, so let me sum this up. And he would sum it up in a way that set the frame that he wanted. Does that make sense? So you think, you're in a meeting. What you're doing is, take notes. Don't check your email. Write down what people said, and even, if you can, if you can, even verbatim. Say word for word what you are hearing. And what you'll do is, if you can capture little phrases and things like that, you know what I loved, you know, was when Louis said this. And that is, that's just perfect because what I'm also hearing, and the sense of the room, is this. And what you can do, you don't wanna turn it upside-down, but you can say, here's what my opinion is. And I'll tell you, this works. I've used this. So you're gonna be silent in the beginning, you're taking notes, you're writing down what people say, and then you're gonna quote them and you're gonna say, this is what I'm hearing. So I've actually done this, I used to work in magazines, and I would be in meetings where we're talking about story ideas, but often it had to do with marketing ideas or coming up with new titles, which we'd test on the newsstand. And I would sit there, listening, and then I would say, I would have something in mind in the first place. So for example, I had this idea for a magazine that would be called Camping Magazine. Really original title. And what I'd noticed was, there's this huge industry for things like, you know, RVs and campers and the equipment that goes into campers. And people were car camping, and this is maybe 10, 15 years ago, at higher levels than ever before. So they were driving their cars, they were packing it up, and there was all the gear that went into it. But there was no magazine serving them. So I didn't go in with a pitch to do a magazine on camping. Instead, I said, hey, can we come together and talk about ideas on how to serve the outdoor industry better? And then I sat there and I listened. And I said, you know, this is great. And I listened for things that would support my point of view. You know, this camping magazine. So here's what I'm hearing, I'm hearing about the number of vehicles on the road. I'm hearing that people don't hike more than a quarter mile, on average, in any place they set out outdoors. Kinda pathetic, but an awesome statistic. Then I'm also hearing from so-and-so that people are buying gear worth $3,000 a year. I'm also hearing that there's an audience of more than six million people who go camping at least once a month, as they define camping, which is getting in your car and not going a quarter mile out in fresh air. Okay, so, and I said, you know what I'm hearing here? This all, hearing what so-and-so said, and so-and-so said, and Jane and Billy and whoever else they were, I'm hearing, what you guys are really talking about here, is a camping magazine. So what if I had started by saying, we need to have a camping magazine and here's what it's gonna be in and here are my statistics and I'm totally right, don't argue against me. I'm gonna be, I'm gonna have to defend myself, right? I'm not defending myself. I'm basically saying, I'm just incorporating everything you just said, and you know what I hear? I hear camping magazine. (audience laughing) It totally works, by the way. We did a one-off and by the way, I proved to be totally wrong. The thing didn't sell at all. But I won the argument. So I'm a lousy marketer, okay? But I did great persuasion in the room by being the audience.
So, when you are leading the meeting, how do you use these kind of techniques? So it's like, you're the one who's starting the meeting out and everyone's waiting to hear from you.
That's a great question. What do you do if you're the one who's supposed to be the leader of a meeting? You know, you can't just, like, maintain silence from the very beginning. People kind of expect you to do something, like lead the meeting. You're gonna set the agenda, aren't you? Right, or at least you're gonna introduce the agenda, the way Kennaget has been doing so capably. When you set the agenda, you can also set the frame, right? Okay, this meeting is about, here's the topic we're going to discuss. And that sets the frame you want. Then you can shut up. You can let people talk, like, let's have your opinions. And you do the same thing, you write things down. And then it's actually easier, 'cause people do expect you to say, here's what I'm hearing. This is what I'm hearing. And it's actually easier to do it if you're running a meeting. But it makes it sound like you're the amalgamator, that's the whole point here. You are taking everybody's brilliance and you're summing it up in one bright, shiny package that just happens to be what you want. Is that ethical, by the way? I don't know. I keep using it, so. (audience laughing) We'll find out what happens in the afterlife. Okay, a couple other things to talk about with meetings. And these are, you know, pretty obvious, maybe. We talked about timing. Let's talk about timing in a little bit different way. And I mentioned at the very beginning today that I was gonna speak specifically to women because I hear more problems arising expressed by women when I get questions than I do from men. And I think there's a good reason for that. It's a male society. I think men invented meetings. (laughing) You know, you think about that, you know, from day one, like before we even started speaking, women would just get together and do things. Men would meet. They may fight, but then they'd also exchange words and that was a meeting. So one of the things women have a problem with in meetings, the way they go on, is that tone of voice is really important. And there's lots of research that seems to show that people, men and women, will trust a lower voice, a lower tone of voice. So the deeper the voice you have, and you think, who's the actor who's the voice of God? You know who I'm talking about? Everybody calls him the voice of God? African-American actor.
[Multiple Audience Members] Morgan Freeman.
Morgan Freeman, thank you. He's the voice of God. You know that he actually had his voice lowered an octave by a voice coach? So like he was, he was the voice of a mortal and the speech coach made him God. How awesome is that? Unfortunately, some of us don't have the stuff and didn't take the lessons. So here's what you can do, especially if you're a woman or if you're a man with a relatively high voice. I'm like a high baritone, which is a little problematic too, in terms of trustworthiness. Women, more so. Don't worry about your tone of voice. Don't worry about how high or low it is. Keep it at the same level, though. In other words, speak a little bit in a monotone. You've been taught all along that monotone is bad, right? A monotone can actually be very trustworthy. And I want you now, you're not gonna believe me, so you're gonna look for evidence, and I want you to.
Sources. (audience laughing) So, watch movies with characters that are heroic. Especially men, but women too. More and more, women too. And then think, how are they expressing themselves? Are they going like this, and going like this? Or are they going like this? Now, I lowered my voice, but you could also say, or am I going like this? Okay, what am I doing here next? Watch me. When you want to emphasize a point, really nail it. Did I lower my voice, did I raise it? What did I do?
I paused, exactly. So timing, that's what I mean by timing here and monotone. Combine the two. I'm gonna sum all this up with two words: George Clooney. (audience laughing) Watch Ocean's Eleven. The guy is absolutely brilliant. Do you remember the scene where he's standing in front of the elevator and he says at the end of this little spiel, you know, did I, I thought I was running my lines too fast. Did I go too fast? And Brad Pitt says, no, you're perfect, I really liked it. Remember that? So I think that was ad libbed because that's the way George Clooney goes. He will use pacing as well as timing. But think that there's a timing, don't worry about what pacing it is, whether you're talking too fast or slow. If you want to really make people trust what you're saying, pause. Pause longer than you think is even necessary. And people will be hanging onto your words. Speak in a monotone. And don't do this all the time, but especially when it's important, if you really wanna boldface what you're saying, don't boldface by speaking louder. What you can do is pause. And people will think you are so earnest (laughing), first of all, that you really believe what you're saying. Not, you really believe what you're saying. That's a little different tone, isn't it? Now, this allows women to use their voice in a really powerful way, in a male-dominated society. Because people will interpret what you're doing as depth, even if your voice is soprano or alto. People will interpret what you're saying as baritone. Even bass, possibly, but not like basso profundo. (audience laughing) Rather, simply a powerful person expressing thoughts powerfully. And I didn't raise my voice here. And it's really hard for me, by the way, because I, my voice goes up and down like a bird, okay, whey I get excited. But when I'm in a meeting, I'm trying to be really understood and really believed. And even better, if you wanna be a little scary with people, like if people have been behaving unethically or you want them, you know, if you really wanna turn them around and you wanna put a little fear of God in them, don't speak louder. Allow your anger to be cold, not hot. And express that cold anger in a monotone with eye contact, with pauses. And it will terrify 'em. I mean, it's really awesome. To, I mean, you can absolutely have people just shaking in their boots, whether you're a man or a woman. Challenge me on this if you think I'm wrong. Love hearing that I'm wrong. But I'm not. Oh, I guess I am, Karin. (woman speaking softly)
It's not a challenge, it's just a question. What about speaking quieter or softer?
That is absolutely, you know, I did say don't talk louder. And sometimes it's true, isn't it? Do you see that? I get a sense that your question comes from knowledge. Do you find it more effective to speak more quietly sometimes?
I just think it's another option, just to have, you know.
Okay, one of the things that's really important, if you're gonna use that technique, especially if you're doing something where you're really trying to express power over someone, especially if it's a powerful person, or a really mean and nasty one, you wanna use your eyes. So when you're speaking quietly, you need to have some connection beyond your voice. So you need to really, like, stare uncomfortably into the other person's eyes. And speak quietly. You're the adult in the room. And the person you're talking to.
Yeah, that's it. (laughing) Thank you.
You know, it's funny, if you, here's something that Marcus Tullius Cicero, one of the great rhetoricians of all time, and according to Cicero, the greatest orator of all time, he said that rather than expressing your anger, what's more effective is to look as if you are struggling to control it. And that's, when you talk more quietly, it's like, there's something that's just about to burst from me any second now. But you don't wanna look like, you know, you're about to become truly dangerous. But sometimes speaking quietly really shows, especially with certain kinds of pauses. Letting your voice get even quieter while just zeroing in on the eyes can show a struggle for self-control. A mastery of, you know, over that struggle. You are mastering yourself. It shows that you're, have power over yourself and the room at the same time. The reason I'm saying this is, I'm a little uncomfortable talking about power, frankly. Because I don't think that everybody should think about rhetoric as overpowering other people. We should be talking about agreement, right? Not necessarily power. But if you're not the one in power, then I think it's really important to know how to use some of these tools to gain power that you otherwise don't have. And I think it's a mistake when people say, women need a voice. Or the LGBTQ community needs a voice. What they need is power. Voice alone isn't going to do it. We've got lots of voices, the world's full of white noise. What you want is to be the penetrating voice. The voice that actually reaches people and makes a difference. And one way to do that is to gain these tools that give you the power in the room and the power over audiences. So power matters. I think that it matters more when people traditionally don't have power, right? And here I am, 62-year-old white guy, telling you about power.