Conference Room Savvy: How to Establish Credibility and Professionalism



How much time do you spend in meetings at work?  The average business person in America spends four hours a week in meetings. That is almost one full year throughout a lifetime! Upper management spends even more time in the conference room. A savvy businessperson will use this valuable time to establish herself as a true professional.

Every meeting in which you participate presents opportunities to mediate conflicts, present information, demonstrate leadership and support management and coworkers. Here is how to do it with style while establishing credibility.

Prepare

Be physically and mentally prepared to contribute effectively. If possible, familiarize yourself in advance with the meeting’s agenda. To establish credibility, write and rehearse any opening or closing statements you plan to make. This preparation will encourage others to believe in your position and follow your lead. Have questions and answers ready. Be informed and know your statistics. Also, be sure to get adequate rest and eat properly prior to a meeting, allowing you to concentrate fully. Do a brief image check just prior to walking into a meeting. This will instill self-confidence.

Dress for Effect

Know that the clothes you wear will influence others’ reactions to you. For an assertive impact, choose bold colors like red and purple. For a softer more subdued position, wear muted colors such a navy or gray. More casual clothing will project a relaxed attitude, while formal styles will indicate all-business. Fashion-forward outfits will say risk-taker, innovator. Classic business clothes indicate a traditional approach. Your accessories also reflect your business style. A quality pen, a well-kept carrying case, and neatly kept papers and file folders will show attention to detail and indicate consistent preparation.

Position Yourself

Select your seat carefully. A savvy leader will assign seats in order to promote certain dynamics. However, if you can choose your own seat, know that it influences your level of involvement. A seat up front puts you in the middle of the action, ready to participate. A seat in the rear positions you as an observer, a listener. A seat in the middle of the table could indicate a neutral stance unless you are facing a direct opponent over an issue. You may want to sit as close to the leader as protocol allows. This seat gives you the opportunity to casually mirror the body language and energy of the leader.

Be Aware of Body Language

Remember, words tell our thoughts, but body language reveals our emotions. A slumping posture, excessive hand motions, and downcast eyes could indicate disinterest, nervousness or lack of self-esteem. Demonstrate confidence and poise with a strong, upright posture, quiet hands, and direct eye contact. Sit close to the table with both hands in view while leaning gently against the chair back. Your body language will frame everything you say. Be aware that people mimic each other’s body language. Smile, listen and remain relaxed with an open posture. This will encourage others in the room to reciprocate positive behavior.

Practice Proper Protocol

Arrive on time. Greet and acknowledge everyone in the room upon arrival. If you are leading the meeting, make sure all participants know one another, making any needed introductions. Before the meeting begins, exchange business cards with participants you don’t know. Exchange cards with upper-level executives only at their invitation. It is acceptable to place other people’s business cards on the table in front of you during the meeting. This will help you remember names. Avoid interrupting others and don’t engage in side conversations when someone else is speaking.

Keep a Diary

After each meeting make confidential notes on your performance. Keep these in a file and review them as you prepare for future meetings. Be honest with yourself in your evaluation. Did you prepare and present your point of view effectively? Did you listen actively and understand all the points made? Did you exhibit proper protocol towards visitors and upper management?  How can you improve for the next meeting? The conference room is the perfect place to establish yourself as a professional. Take advantage of the time you spend in meetings to project a powerful, confident image.


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