See How Easily You Can Look Professional in Meetings

There are about 11 million formal business meetings each day in the United States. That time around the conference table can be a waste of time or you can turn it into your opportunity to shine.

When you learn how to look professional in management forums and client consultations, you can impress your boss and bond with your colleagues.

It’s an important skill because the amount of time you spend in business gatherings is likely to increase as you take on more responsibility. Study these tips for what to do before and during a meeting so you’ll be prepared to move on up.

Things to Do Before a Meeting

1. Streamline your schedule. You’ll feel calmer and accomplish more if you’re realistic about how much you can squeeze into a single day. Sit out meetings where your attendance is optional. See if you can delegate some sessions to another member of your staff.

2. Check the agenda. Read through the agenda in advance. Focus on topics where you can make the most significant contribution.

3. Review action items. Did you promise to find a new IT consultant or reduce paper costs the last time the department sat down together? Ensure you followed up on each of your previous commitments.

4. Research solutions. Maybe you can anticipate the challenges that are likely to come up. Be prepared with potential answers. If you’re going to be short-staffed over the summer, line up temp workers and interns.

5. Pause and refresh. Give yourself a breather between revising the budget and reporting on your sales figures. Stop to call a friend or drink a cup of tea. Rest your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Clear your mind so you’re ready to tackle the next topic.

Things to Do During a Meeting

1. Be punctual. Showing up on time demonstrates your respect for others. If you’re unavoidably tied up, let the group know so they can decide whether to start without you.

2. Recognize the leader. There’s a difference between adding to a meeting and taking it over. Follow any rules about taking turns to speak, and stick to the time limits.

3. Turn off your devices. If possible, leave your phone and tablet off. Turn the sound off if you’re expecting an urgent message, and step outside to take calls.

4. Resist multitasking. It may be tempting to try to catch up on paperwork or plan your grocery shopping. You’ll be more productive if you stay engaged.

5. Listen closely. Now that you’ve put aside the distractions, you can give your colleagues your full attention. Sit up straight. Make eye contact, and voice your approval. Ask relevant follow up questions.

6. Chime in early. It’s easier to participate in a meeting if you start weighing in from the start. That way there’s still plenty of original comments to make and you feel like you’re part of the conversation.

7. Take notes. If your mind wanders, it may help to write down some observations. Studies show that you may even remember information better when you write it down by hand rather than using your laptop.

8. Be positive. How do you remain enthusiastic when it looks like others are zoning out or preparing to race for the nearest exit? Try to steer the discussion towards what’s working and constructive actions that can build on that momentum.

Stand out as an employee who can discuss ideas, sort out conflicts, resolve challenges, and increase productivity. Developing an executive presence in meetings will help you to work smarter and advance your career.