5 ways to stand out in your next business meeting!
Ellen Cohen JD, CPCC, PCC, CPQC
I was speaking to an executive coaching client the other day, she is an Assistant General Counsel who is looking to get promoted to General Counsel within her high tech company. One of her coaching goals was to elevate her influence within the company and be perceived as a thought leader / problem solver and be the “go to” person for business and legal issues. With several important business meeting coming up, she asked me to help her come up with a plan to help her stand out and show up as a General Counsel. Coincidentally and fortuitously, I was in the process of writing this article so I was able to share the following list. My client loved these tips and I’m excited to share them with you as well!
Whether you’re getting ready for a one to one or in a room (or screen) of many, these 5 tips are based on my proprietary framework called the “5 Pillars of Influence™ (C.L.I.M.B.™) and they can help you show up as competent, confident and collaborative team member and stand out in that meeting. If you’re looking to figure out how you can be your best in your next business meeting, consider these options:
1. Preparation: You may have heard that quote by Benjamin Franklin “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Preparation is a first but critical step to establishing your credibility and your authority on a subject. Showing up in a meeting where you demonstrate your competence through the knowledge of your projects and business context will be the differentiator to looking unprepared and “failing” to being on top of your game and standing out in the room.
Some simple tips are to begin by studying the agenda — if you are lucky enough to have one or, if not, being aware of the purpose and desired outcomes for the meeting. Regardless, take the time to practice and review your material, notes, and complete file so you’re prepared to discuss your talking points and anticipate what questions you might be asked. Think about what materials/information you might want to have at your fingertips if you need to respond to questions or verify data.
To take it to the next level, you want to establish your value by knowing the industry, the landscape and trends/innovations. The next step would be to consider what YOU can ask — how can you show your curiosity, listening and thought leadership by asking critical questions. Ask yourself what could come up? How can you contribute?
2. Sound & Look the Part: Communicating with confidence is fundamental to sounding and looking the part. I call this “Leadership presence” and it’s the 2nd Pillar of the 5 Pillars of Influence™. Although we “only have once to make a first impression”, we have many chances to change that impression if it wasn’t the one we wanted to leave. This pillar is all about “style over substance”. By starting with the steps in tip #1, you will have the content to establish your credibility and by building on that confidence, it’s much more likely that you will be able to sound the part. Always critical to leadership presence is listening, being curious and paying attention so you can answer coherently, especially on camera when it’s easy to be distracted. The obvious is to minimize checking the texts and emails when you’re live on camera but self awareness is also imp — notice your voice, the tone, the inflections and emotion and energy. All of this will be perceived by your audience.
Lastly, and some people may push back on this one, but looking the part can have a signification impact on the impression you are making. This is all about how you are being perceived. You are in control of certain aspects — you can decide what message you want to convey by your clothing — the type and style, hair style and other discretionary appearance options (jewelry, makeup, tattoos, facial hair, glasses, head coverings, manicures, etc.). Check the mirror and watch your body language and facial expressions. Ask a friend, colleague or other trusted advisor to give you feedback — honest and compassionate- that can help you to hone in the adjustments, if any, that you could make to improve your leadership presence.
3. Bring The Vision & Value — Demonstrating that you understand your customers’ or internal “clients” needs, wants and requirements can help them to feel you care and want to support them and their success and that can assist or support when appropriate and offer innovative and strategic approaches for continuous improvement whether it’s a process or practice — Keeping in the positive by building on ideas rather than negative. It combines a customer service approach with client management and product development all in one. This tip aligns with the Pillar called “ Professional identity”. This Pillar is about defining your differentiator and brand. Having a strong personal brand is similar to having a great reputation. Think of great products and why you chose them, recommend them and rely on them. A professional brand is having strong clarity on what you do, why you did it, who you serve and how you do it. Having strong professional brand will carry you a long way in your ability to influence and in being viewed as a leader. Your brand sets expectations and standards as well as establishing the consistency and quality of how you are delivering your work. If you head a department, a strong department brand can improve departmental morale if the department is viewed positively within organization and by colleagues. and able to share how your /department’s expertise and how
4. Empathy and Understanding — One of the keys to standing out in your next meeting is to embrace a leader’s mindset and show that you are open to and encourage diverse opinions and perspective. Influential leaders have the ability to be in the present moment, focused, calm and exude a confidence that tells everyone you can count on and trust the leader to be able to rise above the fray of frenzy. They display equanimity and create an environment of psychological safety for people to speak their minds without fear of retribution or judgment. While they may feel stress, they know how to manage it so they can provide confidence and vision. Taking care of your wellbeing and exuding good health and energy have a positive impact on others and your energy will be much greater.
Tracy Bower, Ph.D. in her recent 2021 article in Forbes Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research talks about how those leaders who exhibit empathy are able to get much getter engagement when they “consider someone else’s thoughts through cognitive empathy (“If I were in his/her position, what would I be thinking right now?”). Leaders can also focus on a person’s feelings using emotional empathy (“Being in his/her position would make me feel ___”). But leaders will be most successful not just when they personally consider others, but when they express their concerns and inquire about challenges directly, and then listen to employees’ responses.” How can you employ these tactics in your next meeting when you are framing your thoughts, questions and responses?
One last tip is to try to refer back to a topic or conversation that may have occurred earlier in the meeting to show you are integrating issues and people always appreciate when they feel heard.
5. Don’t be knowledge Hoarder — Offer to help and share your expertise: In the seminal book the “Trusted Advisor” , the authors, David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert Galford have validated that a critical factor to success is the ability to build trust. Trust is established through consistency, authenticity, reliability (doing what you say you’re going to do) and accountability. People will also develop confidence in you if you are willing to help, be that “go to” person and be the person who is willing to share knowledge (teaching/mentoring), eager to learn and take on new projects. How can you become that person your colleagues turn to for help, questions, support, guidance and become a trusted advisors someone to be counted on? When opportunities arise, don’t be afraid to raise your hand whether it’s to assist on a project or take full ownership, you will stand out in the room and be respected as that person who is willing to go the extra mile.
Additionally, you can build important relationships (the 5th Pillar) by embracing collaboration by suggesting to work with and/or to support someone.
What do you do to stand out?
Ellen B Cohen JD, CPCC, PCC, CPQC
Executive Coach & Consultant, EBC Coaching & Consulting
Elevate Your Influence, Leadership & Resilience — 5 Pillars of Influence
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