How to stand out in meetings? It’s a difficult one to judge. On one hand, you want to make an impression and be noted as one to watch for your eloquence and knowledge. On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as obnoxious. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible dilemma, with the right tools, you can use meetings to build strong face-to-face connections and get recognition for your work.
Stand Out in Meetings 1: Be Prepared
You need to be clued up to contribute to the discussion, so check the meeting agenda, read up on the topic, prepare your key points. Make sure you understand what the meeting is about and why you’re attending. Review your relationship with the subject and gather notes/records so you’re ready to answer any questions quickly and accurately. For example, if the meeting is reviewing a client’s experience, have a quick scan of any email correspondence you’ve had and make note of anything important. If you’re attending the meeting on behalf of your team, make sure you understand the full gamut of the work you’ve done as a collective. It’s also key to know who is attending, match the names of attendees to faces and ensure you understand their roles.
Stand Out in Meetings 2: Stay Present
So the senior team checking their emails during meetings look busy and productive. It will not do the same for you. Stay off your phone, even if it is to reply to work emails. You’re on display to people who don’t know you outside of the meeting room, what impression of you do you want them to leave with? That you are interested in the work, right?
Use your body language to signal engagement; lean in, make eye contact with the speaker, take notes. It will not go unnoticed.
Stand Out in Meetings 3: To Speak or Not to Speak
It can be hard to know when to speak as a junior employee, or even if you should speak at all. I think that a meeting is a rare opportunity to engage with the wider business, often with otherwise inaccessible senior leaders, so it’s imperative to make a verbal contribution. The question is how and when.
If you’re an introvert, you’re likely to shy away from public speaking and might prefer not to do it at all. Don’t feel pressured to make a lengthy speech, a good team is made up of a range of characters with a variety of skills. Instead, arrive early and introduce yourself to the other attendees, it’s easier to strike up more intimate conversations. You could also, plan something to say at the beginning of the meeting before you can talk yourself out of it. Go through the agenda, and identify a question you could ask. Prepare and practice, the more familiar you are with what you’re saying the better.
For those of us who are more confident in taking the floor, there is a danger of talking too much. Remember that everyone is busy and has limited time, so don’t just speak for the sake of being heard. Ask yourself, if you’re really adding value; does your point make a difference to the outcome of the meeting, does it help us understand the topic better? Leadership consultant Robyn McLeod uses the mnemonic system ‘WAIT’ to coach clients that are talkative. It means ‘why am I talking?’
Introvert or extrovert (which I am using for ease, I think we’re all mix of both), once you’ve established what you’re going to say, keep it professional and succinct. Pay attention to the body language of the room, it will be the first indicator if you’ve been talking for too long.
TOP TIP: Do not undermine yourself with opening phrases like ‘I could be wrong’ or ‘I’m not sure but’, you’re giving the room permission to dismiss you before you’ve even started.
Stand Out in Meetings 4: Answering Questions Like a Pro
Being asked a question is a great opportunity to contribute and show off your knowledge, You’ve prepped for this so you’re ready. Answer the question confidently and positively, If someone says ‘Can you explain how you did XXX?’, make eye contact, smile and start with ‘Yes, of course’. Don’t be flustered if you don’t have the answer, it’s better to say you’re not sure than to commit to something which is incorrect. Admit that you don’t have enough information to answer that accurately, so you’d rather look into it later and follow up later today. Make sure you do!
Stand Out in Meetings 5: Always Follow Up
First impressions count but following up leaves a lasting impression. So thank the meeting organiser, or send out action items, offer to be the minute taker so you can send out a round-up to all the attendees. Judge what’s appropriate for each occasion.
A lot of our nerves about meetings come from the pressure we place on ourselves to shine or the fear that it’s an exercise to expose and embarrass. If instead, you regard your next meeting as another part of your role that you can prepare for methodically, you will probably find them more enjoyable and effective.
Words by Akilah Cohen