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5 Highly Effective Words for Business Meetings

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Meeting analysis shows specific words breed increased success in business meetings.

  • Research from MIT found that the words "yeah," "give," "start," "meeting" and "discuss" have a larger impact than others.
  • Using these words effectively can result in success.
  • A data-driven approach to meeting analysis produced this list of five power words.
  • These words need to be used in the right way and at the right time.
  • Using power words in the opening of a meeting grabs the attention and focus of attendees.
  • Refocus attention in business meetings with essential words that help change the topic of discussion.
  • Closing a meeting with positive words prompts a positive response.

Forget about presentations, handshakes and power suits; the secret to succeeding in a business meeting is what you say.

Research shows that the words "yeah," "give," "start," "meeting" and "discuss" have a bigger impact than other words. Furthermore, those words often result in proposals being accepted more often than others.

For the research, MIT professor Cynthia Rudin and MIT student Been Kim examined data from several business meetings and pinpointed specific words that appeared to have a big impact.

More than 11 million business meetings take place daily around the world, so learning which words affect the productivity and outcome of those meetings can help companies change the course of their success, Rudin and Kim said.

The study of meetings is complex, as it's challenging to understand social signals and complex interpersonal dynamics. However, it's not a new field of academic research.

But Rudin and Kim's approach was unique because it was one of the first studies to use a data-driven approach to meeting analysis. Using hypothesis tests and predictive modeling, they created a list five words that demonstrated high persuasiveness and often led to a desired response.

There are several reasons why these five words hold so much sway at business meetings. The word "yeah," for example, shows acceptance of, or agreement with, a point of view. "

The researchers also found that compliments given at meetings did not always have the intended effect. The study discovered that compliments used to offset negative comments in a meeting were often viewed as disingenuous.

The researchers also studied words that signal an imminent decision, to reveal insight into the decision-making process. They determined that employees expect a decision when they offer suggestions or requests for information.

"This would be useful when listening to a previously recorded meeting and you want to fast-forward to the key decision," Rudin said. "Or, it might help managers be more efficient if they could be automatically alerted to join a meeting when a decision is about to be made."

To use these words effectively, you need to know how and when to sprinkle them into the conversation. The study outlined the effect of each word during various parts of a meeting. Check out this summary to discover the most powerful time to use certain words and communication tactics.

The opening of the meeting is a perfect time to begin using these five words. In this part of the meeting, these words grab attendees' attention and focus.

For example, the word "yeah" indicates agreement or acceptance. When used in the opening of a business meeting, it can demonstrate your commitment to the topic as well as the need for the meeting. If you use "yeah" at a change of topic, however, others may see it as concurrence with the need to move on or as a dismissal of the previous topic. At the end of the meeting, "yeah" may establish your desire for the meeting to end.

By throwing the word "start" into your opening statements, you grab attendees' attention; it lets everyone know the time for waiting and chitchat is over and indicates they should begin actively listening, as the business of the moment is about to proceed.

Similarly, the word "give" focuses everyone's attention on the speaker. By using this word in the opening of a meeting or when introducing each new speaker, you trigger subconscious excitement over being awarded something valuable.

When "meeting" is added to the opening, it demonstrates the tone the conversation will take. It indicates this won't be a casual conversation but a productive work session.

Using "discuss" in an opening statement invites attendees to contribute to the discussion. People pay more attention when they feel they are included. Calling any communication within a meeting a "discussion" creates a camaraderie that makes it more likely that everyone will feel welcome to add their own views.

When it's time to transition to the next topic, it can sometimes be difficult to get others to change gears. By using these five words, you can help ease people through that transition.

The word "yeah" can help you segue. Agreeing with what is being said about the previous topic captures attention. You can then use that agreement to move on to the next topic. For example, "Yeah, that's a great point. It reminds me of the issue we're having with … "

"Start" is also a great word for changing the subject. It literally tells listeners that something new is beginning.

Sometimes, meetings can veer off-topic and need to be redirected. Using the word "meeting" can do just that. For example, saying, "Maybe this is something for the next meeting," is a fantastic way to gently change the topic. The study indicated that this kind of gentle redirection was well received every time a speaker employed it.

At the end of the meeting, using the right words can ensure you receive a warm reception of – and, ultimately, approval of – your proposals. The study found that using the five essential words at this stage usually resulted in the approval of a proposal.

There is an element of neurolinguistic programming at work when you use the positive words "yeah," "start" and "give" at this stage of a business meeting. Phrasing your conclusion as though it were a given that your proposal will be accepted often prompts a reciprocal response.

Using these five highly effective words in a business meeting may not ensure success, but it makes success much more likely. These researchers' unique approach provides valuable advice for any business meeting.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.