Don’t Get Ignored At Meetings: Do This.

Communication skills training is all about discovering how to deal with everyday situations that we all face and trying to find ways to improve how our words are understood.

Picture this scenario, for example: you’re in a meeting and make, what you think, is a great suggestion. Everyone carries on talking. So, you repeat yourself. There’s no response. Twenty minutes later someone echoes your own suggestion and everyone stops as if they’ve heard the Divine Word and praises the speaker, leaving you totally flummoxed.

‘Why aren’t they listening to ME!’ cries your inner voice.

According to a study published at Prague University, there’s a direct correlation between attendee involvement during meetings and their perceived effectiveness.

So much so, in fact that earlier research relates this to team productivity.  In fact, constructive meeting interaction processes were related to organisational success 2.5 years after the meeting.

Despite these statistics, 11% of meetings are deemed productive.

Now, that might not be due to communication skills but more down to the fact that the meeting was too long, had no purpose or could have been an email.

But if you’re in a meeting where you need to be heard, where you could have an impact, don’t let your interactions hold you back.

I’ve put together some communications coaching tips which will help to grab and maintain the attention of others, and you can use these in meetings to convey your point and have impact.

Two ways to grab someone’s attention in meetings

  1. Vocal emphasis

Vocal emphasis is key to speaking with enthusiasm and conviction. Once you learn to use emphasis, your speaking will:

  • be more engaging
  • sound more interesting
  • feel more comfortable
  • sound more confident

In order to apply vocal emphasis effectively:

  • use physical gestures in tandem with vocal emphasis;
  • vary your vocal pitch and pause for emphasis and to underline important words/phrases;
  • maintain eye contact right to the end of the phrase.

Go here, for a 5 minute video that’ll help you add colour to your voice.

  1. Use the right level of information

Sometimes people go right for the detail when the listener wants the big picture or headlines. When there’s a mismatch in the level and quantity of information required, it can be a cause of communication frustration that’s enough to flick the ‘off’ switch.  Your own credibility is snatched from you when your earlier statement is repeated later in the meeting, but with the right level of information, with its key points, that you missed.

If the situation demands it and you have people’s attention, you can then embellish your point with more detail. Think about it like a newsreader; they give you the headline to grab your attention, and then follow-up with the detail.

If you get too much detail, try phrases such as:

  1. ‘So, what you’re saying is…’
  2. ‘From what you’re saying, the main points are that…’
  3. ‘Right. Essentially, what I need to do is…’

If you need more information than you’re getting, use any of the following phrases:

  1. ‘Could you give me an example?’
  2. ‘Could you tell me more about……?’
  3. ‘What exactly would that be like…

But how do you get people’s attention in the first place?

When talking about presentation coaching and communications skills training, I think the easiest way to answer this is to think about why we wouldn’t want to listen to someone before they even open their mouths.

I have put together a list of considerations to help:

8 reasons why someone might get ignored at meetings

  1. You don’t trust or like that person – you’re basing your opinion/feelings on previous contact and historical behaviour, and so you naturally switch off.
  2. Physical behaviour – the person may physically cower, dominate, seem aggressive or passive aggressive or they don’t look ‘genuine’. How are they sitting/standing? Is there a false smile, slightly tightened jaw line or narrowed eyes?  Is there a ‘hard’ facial expression, or that look in the eyes? Does the person inappropriately the tone of the gathering, either physically or vocally?  Note, mismatching can be appropriate. For example, if you want to energise a slumping group, you wouldn’t get very far if you slumped along with them!
  3. Pace of speech – and…while I’m talking about mismatching…the pace of movement or seems to bother the listener.  Is it too fast and making you feel nervous?  Too slow and you feel frustrated?
  4. Difficult to listen to – vocally, from the moment they open their mouths, you can’t understand the accent, hear the speech or the vocal tone is gruff or grating in some way.
  5. Inappropriate or distracting presentation – this can include inappropriate dress, for example, the probation officer giving a presentation as her top continued to ride up over her pregnant belly. This slightly detracted from a serious message… or, and shall I be blunt here…?  Yes, why not…poor hygiene. If someone has a strong personal smell, listening may be rather challenging since your sinuses are being seared.
  6. External influences – these could include too much noise from elsewhere distracting you, limited time, or you have other priorities that you need to consider such as a deadline.  It could simply be a case of others allowing their phones to distract everyone.  Go here if that’s an issue.
  7. Physiological needs – if you have a lack of sleep, need the toilet or food, or you are too hot or cold this could override anything going on around you, no matter how attention-grabbing the speaker may be.  In that case, good communications skills training is deferring a conversation, allowing comfort breaks, breaking in food etc. This will all help improve the attention levels of an audience immensely.
  8. Belief and conviction – from the speaker’s point of view belief and conviction in your message go a long way.  No matter about your posture, eye contact or voice, it’s the belief and conviction that you’ll project before you open your mouth and that can go a long way to drawing people in. If it looks like you are just reading verbatim from a text book or have just memorised a passage of information which you are robotically repeating, people won’t be grabbed by what you are saying. This goes back to gestures and vocal emphasis as key presentation skills.
  9. They waffle – it’s challenging when pressed for time to spend attention on trying to find the point someone is making.  If this is you, go here for a some structure, even if you’re speaking spontaneously.

Now you know why your amazing point was totally missed and how someone else managed to grab the glory using the same information.   But then what you need to do is put this advice into action.

Your Action Steps

  1. As a starting point, observe others.  How do they have others listen to them?  Why might you not give them your attention in a meeting?
  2. As you start watching and listening, you notice what works, and what doesn’t. Pick one aspect that’s successful in engaging others and replicate it.
  3. Practise giving summaries of information by using paraphrasing during conversations.  I’m often encourage this in communication skills coaching with specialists in Tech: not only does it help you to speak in ‘headlines’, when necessary, but also creates more of a rapport with the speaker.

If you have any needs for communication skills courses, presentation skills training or storytelling courses, then contact me today.  I’ll help you become less vanilla and more THRILLER.  Have others get your message and run with it.

*This article was originally published in 2011 and updated in August 2023*



Kauffeld, S. and Lehmann-Willenbrock, N. (2011) Meetings matter effects of team meetings on Team and organizational success, Available at:
_on_Team_and_Organizational_Success (Accessed: 14 August 2023).
Král, P., Králová, V. and Šimáček, P. (2023) The impact of interactions before, during and after meetings on meeting effectiveness: A coordination theory perspective, Measuring Business Excellence. Available at:
doi/10.1108/MBE-08-2021-0108/full/html (Accessed: 14 August 2023).
28+ incredible meeting statistics [2023]: Virtual, Zoom, in-person meetings and productivity (2023) Zippia. Available at:
%20unproductive%20meetings. (Accessed: 14 August 2023).


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