What Isn’t Said In Meetings – How to Read Between The Lines
Less is more. Generally, a good rule to live by but when it comes to your business-critical meetings you should always be sceptical of what the presenter is electing to leave out. What doesn’t make it into the conversation can speak volumes.
Regardless of whether it’s the statistics and figures left out of the quarterly report, the job experience left out of the remote interview, or the redundancies kept quiet during the ‘state of the union’ address, we believe the guidelines we set out below will help you be attentive to these omissions.
Know the Agenda
Knowing the conversation plan, or the agenda of the meeting, in advance will assist in highlighting when someone is avoiding crucial information. Prior to the meeting, make sure you have a rough idea of the meeting’s purpose and what the desired outcome of the call is. When certain points are rushed through, or brushed over altogether, you may acknowledge that perhaps not everything is being revealed. Knowing the agenda and the desired outcome of the meeting makes it tricky for others to hide things.
Is this meeting a sales pitch?
Or an interview?
Is it a portfolio review?
Knowing the context of the meeting is important in order to remain attentive to the areas that a presenter might try to gloss over. Consider the context, prepare some tough questions that might shake any clever distractions. Doing background research on the presenter and/or their product will allow you to direct the conversation quickly to the core of the matter. This will make it harder for anyone else to lead the conversation astray. When the presenter is asked a question, is their answer detailed or evasive? Dig deeper with follow up questions. Are they avoiding answering your question due to a lack of knowledge or does the full picture paint them in a bad light?
Empathy & Pre-empting Fear
Sometimes it’s easier to catch the missing information if you reverse engineer the situation. How? Have empathy. Try and understand the fears the presenter may have, this will often lead you straight to the pain points that the presenter is doing their best to manage. Did the interviewee have a difficult working experience in the past? Is there a limitation in software that the salesman might not want you to be aware of? What figures or outcomes would reflect poorly on the presenter’s region or office’s performance? Empathy can be a hugely constructive skill in a range of professional situations and it’s easy to practice!
Know Your Audience
There is a popular saying that only 7% of our communication in conversation is verbal. And while there are also plenty of detractors there is certainly something to be said for keeping your eyes peeled during a meeting.
Participants will unwittingly reveal visual clues to boredom, engagement, anxiety or uneasiness. Sometimes even lies! Who is taking notes and at what points in the meeting? Could they be preparing a counterpoint or material to support the argument? Who is fidgeting? Are they preoccupied or unsure of how this point of information will be received at the meeting? Are they anticipating a difficult question? Also, take note of eye contact, it can be a sign of confidence but it is also easy to fake. Is the presenter trying too hard? Pay attention to those in the meeting who are making non-verbal connections across the room. Are they conspirators? What do they know?
Keeping an eye on all the non-verbal communication in your meeting will put you in charge of the facts.
Bias & Values
This point relates to empathy, but knowing what biases and values the presenter has will allow you to preempt things the presenter will be excited about. One can also preempt the information they will be less enthused about sharing but still equally important. People also suffer from confirmation bias where they will emphasise and seek out the facts and figures which further confirm their beliefs and biases. Read up on how statistics can be misleading and be aware that your presenter may be unconsciously misleading based on their pre-set beliefs.
The Perils of Inference
Reading between the lines, alternatively known as inferring, can lead to trouble. Inference generally involves reading subjective cues like tone of voice and making assumptions without being aware of the entire picture. When you have made an inference and want to pursue it further, caution is advised. If it is a minor issue, perhaps you should take a risk and bring it up during the call. But, if it is a more serious conclusion you may want to make further enquiries or speak to the presenter privately, at a later date.
Alternatively, by using our 247meeting Mobile app, you can host a private conversation with another conference call attendee on a separate private line, all within the conference call. This feature can help avoid any social faux pas or misunderstandings by allowing for immediate clarity! Download our app here.