If you’re like most professionals, meetings are the bane of your existence. But in these days of project teams and consensus management, they are a necessary part of corporate life. Further, how you come across in meetings can be critical to your success.
Your supervisor and other office VIPs often make judgments about your competence based on how you present yourself in meetings. You may unknowingly be doing things to undermine your professional image.
“The way people see you in meetings can either enhance your professional image, and your ability to get promoted, or take away from it,” says Barbara Pachter, president of Pachter & Associates, a business com-munications training firm in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “You want to give the impression that you know what’s going on and that you’re a team player.”
Pachter says many people don’t realize the effect their unconscious behavior — negative conduct, especially — has on other participants. She recalls a meeting in which a manager, who was clipping his fingernails, turned to the woman sitting next to him and casually asked, “Oh, that didn’t get into your coffee, did it?”
Unbelievable? “I don’t make this stuff up,” says Pachter. “Bad business behavior stems from bad habits.” And you don’t want those actions to speak for you in a meeting, she says. “If you’re mutilating a paper clip, you are going to give the appearance that you’re possibly nervous or not paying attention,” she says.
Sometimes people do distracting things because they simply don’t want to be in the meeting, says Pachter. The way to handle that is to talk to the meeting facilitator ahead of time to discuss whether you really need to be there.
The bottom line is that mind-ing your meeting manners can only pay off for you. Pachter suggests watching out for these common meeting no-no’s:
- Not greeting office staff. This first mistake is usually made before the meeting even starts. If you’re attending a meeting in your company’s regional or home office and you don’t know the administrative staff, introduce yourself and make a point of greeting them in later visits.
- Not greeting other participants. Greet those in attendance, and introduce yourself to individuals you’re not acquainted with.
- Not arriving on time. Time is money. Being prompt shows respect for others’ time.
- Grooming. Freshen up your lipstick, comb your hair and clip or file your nails before — not during — the meeting.
- Not staying focused. Reading e-mail or memos, twisting paper clips or doodling gives others the impression that you’re not paying attention.
- Not maintaining proper posture. Putting your feet up, leaning on the table or slouching gives the impression that you aren’t interested in what is being said.
- Being disorganized. Failing to prepare for your part of the meeting makes you look like the kid
- who gets caught without his or her homework.
- Interrupting others. This is one of the most annoying bad habits. If you’re a culprit, become more aware of it and change the behavior immediately.
- Leaving early without a reason. Tell the other participants at the outset that you will be leaving at