In this previous post, I spoke about what to do in meetings so you can make your mark and build your brand. In this post, I’ll share with you what not to do—the most egregious actions (or inactions) that impede your ability to use meetings as your secret career advancer.
How many of these personal brand killers have you observed at work?
1. Show up unprepared. Just winging it might seem like good time management, but it won’t help you build your brand. When you consistently show up to meetings without having prepared, people take note, and your brand traits become “mediocre performer” and “doesn’t care about quality.” To prepare for a meeting efficiently, with your personal brand in mind, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the key message I want to communicate?
- Who’s attending and what do I want them to think, feel or do?
- What’s the most valuable contribution can I make?
- Who is there that I’d like to acknowledge or support?
2. Show up late. You might think it makes you look like you’re a busy, in-demand executive, but in fact, you just look like you can’t manage your schedule—or worse, that this meeting isn’t that important to you. Or even worse, that you like to go on power trips by making people wait for your grand entrance. Show up on time, ready to make an impact.
3. Tune out. Some participants in meetings only pay attention when the topic is related to their area of expertise. At that time, they’re paying attention and contributing, but when the topic changes, they blatantly signal that they are no longer interested. They stop making eye contact with anything other than their phone. They start up a side conversation with a colleague. They clatter away on their laptops, clearly working on something unrelated to the meeting. These behaviors tell others that you’re selfish: you don’t think they’re important, and you’re not interested in what others have to say. Commit to being engaged for the entire meeting.
4. Slouch and yawn. When you sit up, you show people you’re engaged and interested. When you slouch (especially when you combine it with blatant, repeated yawning) you’re sending the message that you’re disrespectful and easily bored. Good posture makes a good impression, and that’s what personal branding is all about.
5. Make excuses for your questions. When you ask a question, just ask. Don’t precede it with “I know I should know this, but…” or “Is it OK if I ask a question” or “This may be a dumb question, but…” When you precede your question with qualifiers like those, you’re telling people you aren’t confident. Ask your question directly, without excuse.
6. Repeat what others have said just to be heard. It’s important to make an impression in a meeting. Just being in a meeting is the equivalent of having a check mark next to your name indicating that you showed up to gym class. Attendance isn’t enough; you need to contribute, but repeating others’ contributions doesn’t impress people. In fact, you just waste meeting time. Instead, acknowledge others for their brilliant point when you agree with it. “Chloe—as always—identified the most important challenge. As she suggests, I totally agree that we need to focus on that first.”
7. Hog the floor. When you can make your case in a pithy and potent way, you impress those around you. No one wants to spend more time in a meeting than they need to. Don’t add bloat to a meeting. When you make a meeting productive, you become a hero in your colleagues’ minds.
8. Use your mobile device. It’s rude to tune out and even ruder to tune out by tuning into your Instagram account or email inbox. Yes, people can see you using it under the conference table, too. If it’s just too tempting, put it in your pocket or purse, or better yet, leave it in your office. That will make it more likely that you’ll be focused and involved for the entire meeting.
Take this list to your next meeting and see if you can avoid all these meeting DON’TS. When you eliminate all of these behaviors, you’ll be able to make a mark and effectively use meetings to bolster your personal brand.