27 August 2018
Meetings are unfortunately a necessity in modern business. Whilst it’s all too easy to fall into the habit of having too many unproductive meetings (which I blogged about here) it’s also easy to become stressed about a big meeting or pitch that’s on the horizon.
What’s the worst thing to do before a big event? Stress! Stress physically affects us, ruins concentration and becomes a huge distraction. Even after more than 35 years of being in business, I have moments where I feel a little nervous or know I really need to put the preparation in. No matter your age or experience, some meetings are inevitably more important than others and therefore come with a certain level of pressure.
So, how do you ensure you perform at your absolute best during a big meeting? I’ve had plenty of practice but certainly don’t have all of the answers! Here are some of the key tips I’ve picked up along the way…
The single most important part of any meeting is preparation. Do you ever want to be in the position of being asked a question and not knowing your facts or figures? There’s little that makes a worse impression than being unprepared. That doesn’t just mean knowing the agenda points and who you’re meeting – know everything about the subject that you need to, have figures to hand and be ready for key questions.
Know your meeting etiquette
Did you know that there is certain meeting etiquette that breaking is a huge faux pas? Starting with clicking your pen. You may notice that I always have a pencil to hand, rather than a pen. This is partly because you can’t click a pencil, the temptation isn’t there. Clicking your pen shows that you’re either nervous, disinterested or purposefully trying to disrupt the meeting.
We often speak far louder with our bodies than with our voices. Non-verbal communication can be more powerful than the words we use. For a starting point, walk into the meeting with your head held high, shoulders back and introduce yourself with eye contact and a firm handshake.
Equally, maintain your posture during the meeting. Do you want to appear bored because you’re slouching and yawning?
Keep your phone in your pocket or even better, in another room!
The rudest thing you can do in a meeting is pick up your phone. I will never forget a meeting I had with an agency a year or so ago. They were pitching to us to start a new relationship and potentially bring us on as clients, however, the CEO spent the entire meeting scrolling through his phone. I honestly can’t remember him meeting either mine or Gail’s eyes once the whole time. Safe to say, we didn’t do any business with them then and we certainly won’t in the future.
I have a simple rule in the boardroom: phones stay in pockets, or even better, out of the room entirely. If for any reason they have to be on a desk, they’re face down so that notifications don’t become a distraction. A phone ringing quickly disrupts the flow of a meeting and interrupts the speaker. Keep them out of the room.
Be on time
Back when I ran our weekly sales meetings, the Friday morning session was very much like a train leaving the station. The team knew that once that boardroom door had closed, you were not coming in. When you arrive late, you miss parts of what has been discussed and the speaker then has to circle back to catch you up. If more than one person is late, this happens multiple times and disrupts the flow of the whole session.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list and everyone has their own tips and tricks. I would love to know yours, share them on social media and in the comments below.