How to make an impact in meetings

When I’m asked by HR and L&D people to coach someone to improve their impact, it’s almost always their impact in meetings that’s being evaluated and needs improvement. 

Even at a senior level, with peers and/or their manager present, people can struggle with speaking out in meetings.

In order to impress and have a big impact, people think they need to say something that adds huge value, or put across an important view or opinion.

But less is often more, and I tell people to listen first, build on what’s been said and then make their point concisely. 

I also encourage my coachees to ask questions. Insightful, useful, timely questions that get others to adjust their thinking can make a real impact – and get the person asking the questions noticed.   

There are 5 meeting questions that can make a positive impact:

1. Purpose Check question

“What are we aiming to achieve to get out of this meeting?” 

This question shows you care about making the meeting purposeful and that it’s not going to waste everyone’s time. 

In fact, rather than sending our an agenda ahead of a meeting, try sending out a list of questions to your attendees. This is a much more effective way of getting people thinking about outcomes for the meeting. 

2. Pivot questions

“I think we’ve moved away from the agenda. Let’s get back to the point at hand.”

We’ve all been in meetings where people waffle on, so bringing people back to the agenda can reflect well on the person who’s valuing others’ time.

3. Summary check 

“A lot’s been said – to clarify…” 

The key here is to summarise what’s been said and what you’ve heard. This helps people digest where the conservation is, and can create clarify as to where the discussion needs to head next to move towards the meeting outcomes.  

4. The Close with Action

“I’d like to be clear what action I’m going to be taking – I’m going to be calling John and Sarah, by next Tuesday, etc”. 

Very often people walk away from meetings and no real action points then wonder why things don’t progress. So if you can help make the meeting more action-orientated this will leave a good-impression.

5. The Impact Question

I’ve left the most impactful question till last. This is called impact question. 

In sales, and the same applies to making an impact in meetings, the most ‘value’ you can add is to get your audience thinking about issues they’ve not considered. To do this, ask ‘Impact questions’ – these make people think deeper than other forms of questions. They make your audience think, analyse or elicit emotion.

The key thing is to understand the issues in the room are that are being discussed. Then you need to show them you understand the issues, and help them understand the issues they’ve not considered.

You might say something like: “Given what’s just been said, how will we change the way we approach that next time?” 


“If we don’t solve this particular challenge, what kind of difficulties are we faced with going forward?”

These are great questions to get people to think beyond their agenda. If possible, you want to get your audience to think, or to analyse something they hadn’t thought of or to elicit an emotion, which will move things forward.

All these tips and more are all available in my online course, How to Make an Impact in Meetings. 


Sonia Gavira, course tutor, Unchain Your Brain

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