Photo credit: Breather
Meetings make most of us want to crawl under a rock and hide. It was easy for you to get away with skipping or zoning out in meetings while you were in college, but now it’s time for the real thing! Like any 20-something entering the workplace, you’re probably freaking out and wondering how you can possibly prepare for the important professional meeting.
The good news is you can never be too prepared going into a meeting. But how do you prepare for success? Here’s six ways to ace your first meeting.
Research the People
Don’t be afraid to do a little bit of stalking (come on, everyone does it). You should know at least a little bit about the people attending the meeting. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter make it easier than ever to look up professionals you may be interacting with.
There’s one universally important tool, though: a quick Google search. It will reveal information about these people from other sources. Using the power of research, you’ll find information about the players of the meeting that reinforces company culture. This includes tidbits such as their hometown and interests.
Know Your Role
Meetings usually have an agenda that is sent out to the participants a few days beforehand. By studying this agenda, you’ll get a sense of your role in the meeting. Here’s a few questions to consider if you get stuck:
- Why were you invited to the meeting?
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- What is expected of you?
- How should you participate?
Once you figure out your role, get ready to deliver your knowledge with extra finesse. This means bringing up relevant facts and data, a unique perspective, or an in-depth analysis. You were invited for a reason, so show everyone why you belong!
Hone Your Listening Skills
While it’s important to step up and make your feelings known in a meeting, it’s even more important to listen. Make use of active listening skills, so you can engage yourself in what a speaker is saying. Active listening skills include:
- Turning off your phone
- Making eye contact with the speaker
- Nodding when the speaker makes a point you agree with
- Raising your hand when a speaker asks a question
- Asking questions to the speaker
By practicing active listening, you’ll benefit from paying attention. More importantly, however, you build a relationship with the presenter.
Dress to Impress
Appropriate dress isn’t just reserved for job interviews. You may think you should pull out your finest suit right away, but hold up. There’s a golden rule when it comes to meeting attire: wear something that will be fitting to your audience. Here’s some examples:
- Will the meeting be filled with customers of your company? In this case, think about the customer’s perception of your company when they see you. What kind of vibe do you give off? Hopefully not one that will make a customer feel like they’re taking a risk when talking to you.
- Is the meeting with important business investors or clients? In this case, switch out bold jewelry for classic pieces and the collared tee for a professional suit. You can always ditch the jacket if your clients are looking for a more casual atmosphere.
Chances are, you don’t know everyone in your company. Meetings are a great time to break away from your small department and mingle with some new people.
Take advantage of meetings by arriving a few minutes early. This will give you time to make small talk with some new faces. Some light socializing sets a more positive tone and hopefully makes everyone feel more comfortable. Who knows? You might make a new friend or important connection.
So crawl out from under that rock – you need to sometime, or else you’ll lose your job! Meetings aren’t that bad if you spend some time preparing. Follow these steps and you’ll stand out positively, which will lead to further benefits in your career.
About the author: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum