During my meetings with clients I’ve often sat at tables with individuals from various demographics representing their companies. They’ve been men, women, senior management, middle tier managers, team members and so on. Unless I’m in a meeting with predominately women, I’ve often felt that men do most of the talking. I did some reading on this and found that it’s not just something I’ve observed, but generally women aren’t speaking up in meetings as much as they ought to. What’s more interesting is that the same is happening in internal meetings within the company. Women participate in the meeting but seldom do they contribute to it.

There could be several reasons why this has been happening. It could be they haven’t overcome their shy personalities and hence choose to silently participate in the meeting. Maybe they were told by their managers to listen and learn and so they didn’t contribute much. Or maybe it’s because they just didn’t have anything to say.

Since you can’t avoid attending meetings, mainly because it’s part of your job and because you are talented enough to be there, here are a few tips on how to increase your chances of speaking up in meetings.

Use Your Abilities to Your Advantage

Studies have shown that women have stronger analytical skills than men. So the questions is how you can use this ability to your advantage? One way could be to master your preparations to meetings. Instead of walking in ill-prepared, make sure you have all the facts, numbers and support to your arguments or decisions readily available to you. Numbers are always weighed higher in meetings because they’re harder to challenge and form baseline for many decisions. So have your numbers handy and you’ll be a shining star in any meeting.

Another research has found that women are very efficient. They’re usually punctual at arriving to meetings, stick to the agenda and leave for the next meeting when the current one is finished. Men on the other hand tend to share varying ideas and use meetings to connect as well. Women remain focused and move on more efficiently. This can help you get more done in less time and your productivity will propel your image as a “must-include” in any meeting.

Avoid Over-Analyzing Your Thoughts

More often than not women think and rethink what they’re about to say. This stems from the natural instinct women have to be non-threatening (in general) and not to sound aggressive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great not to just blurt things out and make a fool of yourself or offend someone. But not making a point at the right time can backfire.

You’re smart, talented and you’re in that meeting for a reason (and that reason isn’t just to fill an empty seat). Be confident in what you’re about to say. If you have a point to get across don’t think it over for more than 15 seconds. That’s all the time you should allow yourself to formulate what you’re about to say and then be heard. What’s the worst that could happen? You may not be correct and so you’ll learn something. Or, you may be correct and you’ll have added value to the conversation, earning yourself credibility.

Deliver With Confidence

If you’re going to start your sentence with “I’m sorry to jump in”, or “I’m not too sure about this but I feel…” then you’re setting yourself up for an argumentative and challenging meeting. You won’t be taken seriously in a meeting if you aren’t confident about what you’re saying, irrespective of which gender you are.

You’ve arrived to the meeting prepared and you have solutions. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Speaking up in meetings will enable you to showcase how prepared you are. Deliver what you have to say with confidence, assertiveness (not aggressiveness) and surety. You’re entitled to your opinion which people could agree with or feel otherwise about. That’s only natural but if you’re unsure about yourself, or deliver your message in a manner that reflects self-doubt, you’ll lose your audience’s attention. It’s exactly how the cliché goes – it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Irrespective of the reasons, you’re there in the meeting for a purpose. You’re working in the company for a purpose. And that purpose was defined when you were hired. From then on you’ve done a marvelous job to make your mark. You’ve been a talented and skilled member of the team. So if you’re all that, why hold back on what you have to say. Speaking up in meetings will only give you the ability to add more value and earn more respect.

Perhaps you are in the early stages of creating your blog. Or maybe you have a blog, but the traffic is low. Traffic is vital to the growth and success of any blog and should be the top concern when building your online presence.

Success Is In The Title

The very first thing anyone sees on your blog, or shared links to posts, is the title. It should be catchy, relevant to the subject, and contain keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases people use in their search engines when looking for pertinent information, so they are essential to helping you be found, while also describing what the post is about.

Enjoyment Is Key

Are you writing about something you really enjoy and are passionate about? Your attitude towards the subject always comes through. Be sure all your content is something you enjoy and are knowledgeable about. Your readers are more likely to share something they can get excited about because you are excited about it.

Sharing Is Caring

You want people to share your posts, right? But if you’re not sharing them, how can you really set everything in motion? Share your posts across all social media networks you use. Don’t think you can only share them once. People are on social at different days and times, so there’s nothing wrong with sharing the posts again a few days later.

Make it easy for your readers to share your posts with their audience. Include social sharing buttons on all of your posts – making sure to include the top networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. However, don’t discount some of the smaller platforms your readers may also enjoy using. If you build your blog with WordPress, there are a number of social sharing plugins available you can use to automatically include buttons on each of your posts.

Bring On The Guests

Bloggers love to network with one another, and guest posting is a wonderful way to expand your audience. When you post content on someone else’s blog, their audience gets new, fresh content, and will likely check out your blog. If they like what they see, you’ve just earned yourself a new reader.

If someone asks to guest post on your blog, you’re not obligated to accept the offer, but, keep in mind that they’ll send traffic from their blog because they’ll be promoting the post, too. And, it gives you content with a fresh, unique perspective, without having to write an additional post yourself.

Revamp Your Posts

If you find that one particular post is more popular than another, consider how to revamp that post. Perhaps you should embellish more on the subject in a podcast or YouTube video? An e-book is also a great way to take a short subject and expand on it. An added benefit of an e-book, you can link to other posts so that people can read more on your site. Pay attention to what your readers are really enjoying and grow with it.

It may mean deviating from your initial strategy and focusing more on a certain topic, but you’ve got to listen to what the audience is saying and give the what they want, if you want any kind of long-term success.

Share The Link Love

Being knowledgeable is fantastic, but having the ability to research and prove your knowledge is even better. It lends you to more credibility. Google loves to see you linking to other useful, related, outside sources and will increase your ranking in searches. It also helps other businesses know who is appreciative of their information and are more likely to reach out to you and even link to your blog. It’s a hidden gem of networking that is highly beneficial.

Know What They Are Looking For

While you do want to create content pertinent to your business, what is it that people want to know that is related? Searching keywords about your business is great because you can see what people are saying. Quora is super helpful as you can type in your keyword and see what people are asking. This is a great way to help with those times when you can’t figure out what to write.

Respond To Your Audience

Whether it is a comment on the blog or a comment on a Facebook status, answer and engage with those who took the time to read and comment. The more engaged you are with your clientele, the more likely they are to talk to you and about you online. And that leads to new people finding you and reading your posts. If you continuously avoid responding, people won’t want to read you anymore, because they don’t think you’re paying attention or that you care about what they have to say.

Write More Often

If you are only writing once a week and not seeing growth, it’s time to write more. People forget about your blog when they don’t see a lot of updated information. Your posts need to be informative, but they are also conversations with your clientele. Growth is often stunted by limited conversations. Grow it slowly until you find that manageable amount of posting to substantial growth that benefits you in the long run.

It is not easy to create massive traffic. There is an incredible amount of information available online so becoming noticeable is a challenge. But these tips should help you travel the road to increased visibility and long term benefits to your business.

Events coming soonEDIT

If you want your small business to be part of creating radical change in your industry, then you might be interested in a few upcoming small business events.

First, the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco on October 31 is a week of keynote talks, interactive workshops, mentoring, bootcamps, tours and more. The event brings together bootstrapped startups, government agencies, civic organizations and more who are looking to make change in different industries.

In addition, NextCon16 in Scottsdale on November 14 is an event that aims to help entrepreneurs walk away with actionable insights about how to take their businesses to the next level.

You can see even more information about these events, along with others that might be of interest to your small business, in the featured events section below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Lean Startup ConferenceLean Startup Conference
October 31, 2016, San Francisco, Calif.

A gathering of thousands of thought leaders at Pier 27 for a week of keynote talks, interactive workshops, speed mentoring, industry dinners, bootcamps, and startup tours at the scenic edge of San Francisco. The conference unites intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs from government agencies, international conglomerates, boot-strapped startups, and civic organizations in their mission to create radical change in their industries.

Influencer Marketing DaysInfluencer Marketing Days
November 14, 2016, New York, N.Y. 

Influencer Marketing Days is a unique conference dedicated to all things influencer marketing. The event is for marketing professionals responsible for their company’s influencer marketing strategy, campaign development, and relationship management. Whether you already run influencer marketing campaigns or you’re investigating ways to leverage this powerful type of marketing, Influencer Marketing Days will equip, educate, and inspire you to make the most of your efforts.
Discount Code
SBTIMD15 (Register today with code SBTIMD15 and you’ll keep 15% off of two-day passes!)

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt TrainingLean Six Sigma Green Belt Training
November 07, 2016, New York, N.Y.

This ?five-day ?program ?is ?a ?highly ?interactive ?training ?course ?in ?lean ?Six ?Sigma ?tools ?and ?methodology. ?You will learn how to apply ?Lean ?Six ?Sigma ?tools ?and ?methods to improve key business processes.Follow Us: @Vectorint
Discount Code
GBIL2016 (10%)

November 14, 2016, Scottsdale, Ariz.

No matter your industry, company size or role, you can take advantage of the fresh perspectives, creative strategies and expert advice shared at NextCon. You will walk away with actionable insight to take your business to the next level and gain the insight and inspiration to make an impact.

Ignition Future of DigitalIgnition Future of Digital
December 05, 2016, New York, N.Y.

At IGNITION you’ll get a new understanding of the transformations taking place in the digital world. Join 700 senior executives working in technology, media, entertainment, investment, and finance in staying on top of today’s most innovative ideas. The conference is one of the fastest-growing digital-media companies in the world, and hosted by Henry Blodget, Business Insider’s Editor-in-Chief and CEO.

Secret KnockSecret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.

More Events

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Conference photo via Shutterstocl

This article, "Lean Startup Conference, NextCon Event Loom on the Horizon" was first published on Small Business Trends

Business Productivity SoftwareEfficiency is an important part of running a small business. When you have fewer resources than large companies, you need to be able to get more done with less. There are ways to increase efficiency in all areas of your business, as members of our small business community have learned. See some of their top tips in the list below.

Learn the Power of Personal Branding

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s not enough to simply brand your business. You also need to consider your own personal branding. You can learn a bit about personal branding from the experts included in this post by Dipti Parmar on Preceptist .

Get Stuff Done With Productivity Tools

Want to get more done in less time? There are plenty of different productivity tools out there that entrepreneurs can benefit from. Some small business experts shared their favorites in this post on Tina’s Blog. We were thrilled to have Small Business Trends’ publisher and CEO Anita Campbell included.

Network a Conference Like a Jedi

When attending conferences for your business, networking is a must. And if you really want to help your business, you need to learn how to network like a Jedi, which you can do with the tips in this Content Marketing Institute post by Aaron Orendorff. You can also see discussion surrounding the post over on BizSugar.

Protect Your Business from Phishing Scams

Phishing scams can really harm small businesses. But if you know how to protect your business and data, you can really decrease your chances of seeing any negative impact. This post by Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology includes some tips to help your small business avoid phishing scams.

Use These Tools to Guide the Blogging Process

Blogging isn’t as simple as just jotting down a few thoughts and hitting publish. You need a strategy and a lot of help if you want your blog to be effective. Luckily, there are plenty of blogging tools available to help you create your own blogging process, as Neil Patel shares in this post.

Scope Out Your Competition With These Sneaky Strategies

Keeping an eye on the competition is essential if you want your business to be competitive. And there are some simple ways you can do just that, as outlined in this Small Business Marketing Tools post by Kevin Bartley. The BizSugar community also shares thoughts on the post.

Develop and Fulfill Your Philosophy for Top-Notch Web Content

Your idea of the perfect web content strategy isn’t likely to look the same as anyone else’s. And no other strategy is likely to work perfectly for your business. But you can develop your own philosophy and use it to make the best web content possible, as Neletha Skelton details in this Media Shower post.

Get the Benefits of a Responsive Website

If you don’t already have a website that is responsive, you should probably consider the potential benefits of doing so. In this post, Steven Werley explains some of the key reasons small businesses should have responsive websites.

Use Integrations to Increase Productivity

Since there are so many different business tools out there, choosing tools that can easily integrate with other tools can greatly increase your productivity. In this Duct Tape Marketing post and podcast, John Jantsch discusses integrations with Wade Foster. And BizSugar members talk about the post further too.

Add These Filters to Your Interview Process

If you want your business to be successful, you need to hire the best people. And that means you need to develop an interview process that is most likely to bring you those perfect candidates. This CorpNet post by Jeanne Grunert goes over some key parts of the hiring and interview process.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:  [email protected].

Productivity photo via shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips for Increasing Small Business Efficiency" was first published on Small Business Trends

Whether you need to implement a new business intelligence solution, or you need to find ways to implement Big Data analytics across the organization, innovation is a must. Despite the pressing need for digital transformation, there are still many obstacles on the road to business innovation. To push forward new initiatives, business and IT teams often must achieve “buy-in” among top-level executive stakeholders, which requires a thoughtful and methodical approach.

Consider these best practices to develop executive buy-in for technology innovation projects:

Include Everyone

When implementing a transformative new technology such as BI or a cloud-based and integrated CRM, it’s best to include all levels of the firm in the process. You want buy-in from finance and IT on the budgeting for the project, especially as it might involve multiple layers and various company departments. Case studies can prove invaluable during this phase, as you can relate innovation to successes at other firms. And you can illustrate the reverse, where a company should have innovated but didn’t and know they’re an afterthought.

Speak Directly to Stakeholders

And you must engage the actual stakeholder users. If you’re for example installing a CMS platform, then talk directly with the sales staff pulling presentations while on the road, and the website managers who need to keep content fresh on the site. It’s essential to understand the specifics of “what isn’t working” so the innovation can be aligned as a solution, which will encourage widespread buy-in and later adoption.

Before suggesting a large-scale innovation, you should have an understanding of the various roles in the department as well as specific pain points. When you meet with the sales team for example, you need to “speak their language” in a different way than a customer service meeting.

Engage Early

The discussions with stakeholders need to happen early in the process, not after a vendor is selected and implementation is under way. Early engagement will help determine if the innovation is truly needed, or perhaps uncover another technology platform that should be considered first. For example, there might be thoughts that a BI solution is needed, but innovation in terms of better data warehousing and categorization is required before diving into BI.

Early engagement gives stakeholders time to raise concerns, and the team to get together to produce evidence about satisfying those issues.

Discuss Benefits (Backed by Data)

With some innovations such as BI platforms that are powered by new sets of Big Data, the payoffs might be unexpected. Here’s another time to leverage vendor case studies so can illustrate the productivity, profit, and customer experience gains that are possible.

It’s also important to discuss the longer-term benefits that should come as users become more experienced with the new innovation (CRM, CMS, BI, etc.) and dive into new features and insights. Set expectations as far as the expected ROI for the innovation, with the understanding that the understanding that increases in revenue/sales might take a little time. When generating buy-in, focus on how the innovation will improve internal workflow and customer activation, conversion, retention, and overall engagement numbers.

Transparently Talk About Risks

When presenting a new tech innovation, it’s important to openly discuss possible risks. Perhaps the implementation will go awry, or the UI of the chosen vendor will prove clumsy. Talk about the risks, but frame them in comparison to the benefits and the likelihood of the risks occurring. Discover the worst-case scenario that would be acceptable to the core decision markers, and then adjust to make sure the innovation project fits without the boundaries.

Communicate Throughout the Process

Once buy-in is established throughout multiple stakeholders and the vendor(s) are selected, it’s important to provide clear communication about timelines and goals.

Consider putting the new innovation in beta, and allow certain employee and customer segments to utilize its main functions. If this is a rousing success, then disseminate the news to the broader group. If it needs some work, then at least you have real user data to make refinements. Keeping the innovation to a smaller initial group reduces the chance of unintended negative consequences and potential branding hits.

The steps to generate innovation buy-in apply to nearly any type of business initiative or interaction:

  • Identify an issue.
  • Talk to people in person about their wants and/or dislikes.
  • Discuss ways for improvements (provide examples).
  • Openly mention risks.
  • And then engage in transparent communication.

Managers that take this route will find it easier to push through their tech innovation projects as they guide their companies to become modern data-centric organizations.

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