I distinctly remember one day, turning up at a meeting with meeting paperwork, tablet and phone, piled in one hand; coffee, swipe-card, and pen in the other hand; water bottle wedged under my elbow; and my glasses perched on my head (because they’re only for reading). No word of a lie.
When I had finally turned my phone on silent, sorted out where I was going to put everything in the small space I had between my neighbours, and had a sip of coffee, I paused to look around. The reason why I remember this moment is because it was the day that I noticed how many of the men at the meeting didn’t appear to have anything with them.
What difference does this make?
Coming in to a meeting with a lot of stuff unfortunately doesn’t make us look busy and important. It can actually make us, unfairly, women more than men, look disorganised, messy, overloaded, or even struggling to handle our workload.
Furthermore, struggling with stuff takes your time and your attention away from the people around the table, reading the mood, and being ready to start, which are definitely more important.
So, to help make a good impression in meetings, check in with what you typically do, and work out how to come with the essentials only.
Come with the essentials only
Just because you have prepared beforehand doesn’t mean you have to bring your own copy of the agenda, minutes, reports, and so on. Have your own notes somewhere if you need them, but there should be printouts supplied of essential documents. If not, you could request that this be organised.
Not bringing spare paper might also make it less likely that you’ll be invited to take the minutes. “Take the minutes did you say? Can’t. (Shrug). No paper.” (Same goes for laptops or other devices.)
Request water to be on the table
If it is a long meeting then you could ask about coffee and water being supplied in the room. You shouldn’t need to bring water. And ask yourself: Can your coffee wait?
Wear clothes with pockets!
Winner – a place for your phone, swipe-card, and your glasses. Pockets are a feminist issue and I encourage you to read more about it.
Take a moment before you enter
Get organised before you walk in the room. Put your phone on silent. Make sure you have a free hand to open the door, shake hands, and pull out your chair. Take a breath and get centered.
With less distractions, you will appear more present, actually be more present, and more effectively do the work you are there to do.
These are small adjustments, and easily achievable, but the impact on how you ‘show up’ all adds to your ‘leadership presence’. Small changes can lead to great ones.
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