Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Strategies for a Successful Meeting

Many of us go into meetings without being fully prepared and make the wrong impression by what we don’t say (rather than what we do say) and by gestures we make unknowingly. Think of meetings as opportunities to impress your colleagues and superiors and to meet others.
With that in mind, here are some tips about how best to take advantage of these opportunities:
  • Do your homework. Make sure to read all the materials provided in advance, including the agenda, before going to the meeting. Find out who will be attending and the purpose of the meeting; then, focus your preparations. Prepare any comments in advance so that you are not rambling and repeating yourself.
  • Arrive on time or a little early. Nobody takes a latecomer seriously. Lateness is an affront to those who took the trouble to arrive on time. And, no, it doesn’t convey the message that you are very busy, only that you are disorganized.
  • Bring all necessary materials. Make sure to take along the agenda, papers, pens, notebook. Have them at hand so that you don’t have to fish around while others wait.
  • Store your baggage. Keep briefcases and purses on the floor, not on spare chairs or, worse still, on the conference table.
  • Don’t play. Leave the paper clips alone. Don’t stretch the rubber bands or doodle on your notepad.
  • Turn off cell phones and pagers. Unless you are expecting a genuinely urgent call, turn off your cell phone and switch your beeper to vibrate mode before the meeting begins. If you do expect an urgent call, let the chairperson know when you enter the meeting and sit near the door so that you can leave and return with the least disruption.
  • Keep your feet on the floor. If you must cross your legs, do so at the ankles. Otherwise, you look inattentive and altogether too casual. Make sure your shoes are polished and in good repair. Scuffed shoes imply a person who disregards details.
  • Keep ties on. Unless the person calling the meeting strongly suggests otherwise and actually sheds his own tie, keep yours around your neck.
  • Don’t cross your arms in front of you. It communicates hostility. You want your body posture to suggest open-mindedness and approachability.
  • Sit straight and don’t slouch. You will look alert and attentive.
  • Maintain a high-energy and involvement level. No matter how much your mind wants to roam, remember that meetings are a place for team players and enthusiasm.
  • Enter the meeting room decisively. Unless you are certain about how the seating arrangements work, ask where you should sit.
Shake hands with your colleagues, introducing yourself to those you don’t know and calling those you do know by name. Do these preliminaries while you are still standing. If you are seated and a new introduction is made, stand up.

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