How to stand out at your next meeting

Many of us spend a good part of our day in meetings. In fact in some organisations you could be forgiven for thinking the world revolved around them!  And it can be very easy - and perhaps even tempting - to blend into the background at a meeting and not make an active contribution. But remember, we’re now all operating in the Reputation Economy. Everybody’s interactions with you influence the opinion they form about you as a professional, and about your business or organisation.
It's important you use every opportunity to perform at your best and to leave a positive impression of your professional skills. You want to give the best service you can in every meeting by genuinely making a contribution to whatever the outcome of that meeting needs to be. Here are some tips for standing out in meetings:

1. Prepare.
How many times have you been to a meeting where there has been information circulated beforehand, and it's very obvious many - if not most - around the table haven't read the background information? That wastes time, slows down decision making and means the outcome isn’t going to be as valuable as it otherwise would be. Take a lead by making sure you’re always prepared. If there is background information, make sure you read it before the meeting so you can make an active and valuable contribution. If there isn’t information, do your own research anyway and if there is time, you can even share that beforehand with other people scheduled to attend the meeting. This demonstrates your commitment and professionalism.
The more you put in, the better the result. 

2. Think about the audience.
Every time you interact with someone, you’re communicating. Even in a business meeting, it’s important to think about the audience - the others in the meeting. What are the issues that are concerning them right at this moment? What are the things that are important to them? What are the triggers that are going to make them more engaged?

Once  you think about your audience, you can then tailor your communication in the meeting to make sure it’s easy for everyone to digest. If you're delivering a presentation at the meeting, putting your audience first will help you achieve maximum engagement. if your audience is made up of senior executives and you know they're heavily focussed on data and specific outcomes,  make sure you aren’t just speaking generalisations.

Present evidence that backs up your point. Prepare a short handout with data or relevant statistics. Make sure you present it in an engaging way. If it’s a different kind of audience, tailor your communication accordingly. Communication is never a "one size fits all" situation. You need to think about the outcome you want from the meeting, what you need to get across and who you’re going to be speaking to. Who are the key decision makers and influencers, and how can you best present your information so they will be receptive? That will only happen if you first consider your audience.

3. Have a clear message.
If you've prepared and thought about your audience, you’ll be attending the meeting with a clear outcome in mind. Know what it is that you need to get across in the meeting. Have a clear message that’s tailored to the people you’ll be speaking to. Try to break the information down to brief key points. Three is an effective number when it comes to communicating points of information or opinion - it’s not too few and not too many. It enables you to present your material in manageable chunks that people can absorb. That's not to say you should "dumb down" your information or over-simplify it, but brevity and clarity is showing respect to other people at the meeting. Your information is clear and to the point, and it respects the fact that we are all busy and nobody wants to have to grapple for the meaning of your information. Keep it clear, keep it succinct and keep it relevant to the audience.

4. Be clear on the action you want others to take.
Many meetings flounder and never reach a positive conclusion because there is no clarity about the action that needs to come out the other end. You can help that by being clear yourself on the action you want people to take from the meeting. Make that a part of your key message. Don’t just contribute and wait for others to be the action takers. Take the initiative and suggest action. If you’ve been invited to the meeting, presumably your opinion is valued, so act accordingly. Don’t wait to be asked, be proactive. Have clear messages and clear actions.

5. Bring your best self.
It’s easy to get bored and disillusioned if you attend a lot of meetings, but that’s never going to bring a valuable result for your organisation. We all need to bring our best game to the meeting.

Bring enthusiasm, knowledge, preparation and organisation. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative. Those who sit back and are passive are never going to build a solid reputation for themselves within their own organisation, and they certainly won’t represent their business well in a meeting where other organisations are present. Remember, you’re a reputation ambassador not only for yourself, but for your whole organisation, so take pride in what you do, be confident and enthusiastic, and put your point of view across willingly and professionally.

6. Follow up.
Often there will be actions coming from a meeting. If you’ve been given tasks to do, keep the other members informed. Don’t wait until the next meeting, get on the front foot and let people know what you have done to follow up. If there are questions you would like to ask, do that by email or in face to face conversations after the meeting.

Show your professionalism and initiative by demonstrating that this meeting is part of a bigger process of decision making and action. Who knows? Other people might catch your enthusiasm and you might start a wave of much more productive behaviour in your business or organisation.
Meetings can be hard to love, but if you bring your best game every time, you'll show yourself to be a standout - and you'll be building reputation capital for yourself and your organisation.

Neryl EastComment