Think about the most influential person in your organization. Why is he or she so influential? Is it because he is smarter than everyone else in your organization? Or because he is so charismatic? Is her influence a result of the power and authority that she wields, or the eloquence and articulation of her speech? These and other factors influence our perception of influence. And, to a great degree, influence is a matter of perception. Although certain qualities, such as a dynamic personality, may have an almost universal effect on people, not every single person will react to a speaker in the same way.

Some of the skills we use to influence groups can be easily learned and applied,others cannot. Some of the behavior patterns we exhibit in group settings are learned through the long process of socialization and cannot be easily broken. If these behaviors are negative, such as shyness or lack of confidence, then the individual will participate less than another participant who exhibits positive behaviors.

The result of lessened participation in a meeting is a concomitant reduction in influence over a group. You can't influence anyone if you don't communicate. And studies have shown time and time again that those who talk more have more influence,regardless of what other personality or intellectual skills or attributes they may bring to the table.

Despite the fact that it may be difficult for us to teach ourselves how to be charismatic or smarter, there are many skills that we can learn to make ourselves more influential in group meetings. The following list is by no means an exhaustive one. Make it a point to monitor your own patterns of group interaction and determine which behaviors have a positive effect on your influence and which behaviors have a negative influence. Once you have identified these different behaviors, you can take definite steps towards increasing the frequency of your positive behaviors while decreasing the frequency of your negative behaviors.

Faster and Louder

You have no doubt experienced the passion that is generated by a meeting participant who is so excited by the topic that he can barely contain himself. His passion is so strong that he talks faster and louder,not consciously,but merely because he has so much to say about the topic and because he feels so strongly about it.

Group members who talk faster and louder are generally much more influential than their less passionate counterparts. The main reason for this is that group members who speak faster and louder tend to naturally dominate a group's talk time. And, as we have already discussed, the person or persons who dominate a meeting's talk time tend to also be the most influential in the final meeting outcomes.


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