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How to Conduct a Meeting with Confidence

Image of Michelle Farnsworth
Michelle Farnsworth


Conducting a meeting can be a daunting task, especially if you are a novice and feel a heightened pressure to exude more confidence than you may actually be feeling. How can you have that “It” factor, that ability to command attention just by walking into the room? How can you conduct a successful meeting and leave everyone wanting more rather than feeling their valuable time has been wasted in your hands?

The ability to be confident and composed while remaining in control is ideal, but by no means does it mean it is innate. Although, it can seem like some people “just get it,” 99% of the time it is actually something they have worked very hard to achieve. That means you can develop “It,” too!   

But, how?

Be Prepared When Conducting a Meeting

Though obvious, this step often doesn’t take the precedence that it should. And a lot goes into it, too. Before stepping foot into a conference room, you must know the goal of the meeting. What exactly is it that you want to accomplish? The more prepared you are for the meeting, the more confident you can be while conducting it. There are three basic types of meetings that can help you figure out your end objective:

  • To Tell This type of meeting is held to introduce something new, such as a policy, program, or change in management. You don’t sell anything, just simply give out information.
  • To Sell Gather to give an extra push towards hitting this month’s sales goals or ask for help in meeting a certain target. Make sure to listen to any suggestions for improvement.
  • To SolveThis meeting is needed in order to come up with solutions to a company or staff problem, such as how to overcome prospect objections while trying to close a sale.

Formulate an Agenda

Once you have a firm grip on the purpose of your meeting, create an agenda and know your end goal from the beginning. What needs to be discussed? What facts and examples are relevant to your overall objective? Put the most important topics first on your list so know you will have plenty of time to discuss it. Check and double-check for any typos. Brainstorm possible questions that may be thrown your way, and come up with well thought-out responses so you won’t be caught off guard. It’s amazing how much this will help to prevent you from being flustered while in a moment of leadership during your meeting.

Let those who are expected to attend know well in advance, if possible, so that they can plan accordingly. You can’t get annoyed or upset because you have low attendance if people were not aware of the meeting or did not have enough time to arrange their schedules. Give them a time estimate for the duration of the meeting and STICK TO IT. Everyone’s time is valuable, not just your own. Arrive 10-15 minutes early to make sure everything is working and ready to go. Take a moment to slow down and organize your thoughts, freshen up, and take a deep breath to help calm your nerves. Start and end according to the schedule so that your attendees can see that you value their time and the effort they made to show up.

Stay focused. It is important as the meeting director, that you keep the ball rolling in the intended direction. Make note of any off-topic ideas or questions that were presented and make sure to get back to them at some point, whether that be at the end once all the agenda items have been discussed, afterward via email, or during a later one-on-one meeting.

As you close the meeting, make sure that everyone is leaving on the same note. Does everyone know what they are to do now? Is there a plan set in place? End the meeting with clarity, not confusion and reiterate what needs to be done.

Develop Executive Presence

According to SHAMBAUGH Leadership, executive presence is defined as “the combination of behaviors and attitudes that enable you to clearly and confidently express your ideas and influence others”. It is less about your actual performance and more about the signals you are sending others in your day-to-day interactions. This is the “It” factor previously highlighted, and its acquisition is crucial to your success and the overall effectiveness of your leadership.

There are seven common traits that professionals, who possess a strong executive presence, display. They are:

  1. Composure: The ability to control your emotions, as well as recognize emotion in others, and manage your response to them. You appear composed, even under stressful circumstances. Self-awareness and understanding is a crucial component to keeping your composure in all situations.
  2. Connection: It is important to develop a connection with others while interacting with them. Make them feel comfortable. Find some common ground. Uncover any disparity between your expectations. Learn to read and adapt to the style of others.
  3. Charisma: One important trait, that those with executive presence embody, is the ability to draw others to them. This often comes as a result of being able to “stay in the moment” and really listen to what others are telling them. People become drawn to you because they know that they matter to you. You are not distracted by the other things you could be doing.
  4. Confidence: The ability to communicate confidence in both what you say and how you say it is essential to displaying executive presence. To appear confident you must have good posture, maintain eye contact, ensure your facial expression matches your message, and speak with the appropriate pitch, volume, and pace. In addition to posing the part, you must also look the part, so choose your wardrobe and accessories carefully.
  5. Credibility: Both content and language impact the credibility you have with your audience. Filler words such as “um,” “uh,” “like,” and “so” distract from your presence.
  6. Clarity: The ability to clearly communicate is critical. If your purpose is unclear it is difficult to command and keep attention. Can you describe your message in less than ten words? If you can’t articulate it to yourself, how will you be able to describe it to someone else?
  7. Conciseness: Fluff and fillers are not the way to establishing an executive presence. You must be able to communicate concisely. Deliver your message and then turn the conversation back over to your listeners by asking them what else they’d like to know about on this specific topic. You will not only stay on point but be able to expand on those things that your listener is interested in.
Keep in mind that becoming someone with executive presence doesn’t just happen. It takes time, practice, and effort, but it is an important skill to develop and worth all the exertion. Such confidence and composure will allow you to connect with others with confidence and composure.

Watch Your Body Language

While this was mentioned briefly above, body language goes hand-in-hand with confidence. Start by paying attention to how others are sitting. What does it make you think about them? How does it make you feel? Typically, shy or unconfident people will close off and make themselves small by crossing their legs or arms. Our thoughts, feelings, and physiology are all affected by our nonverbal signals.

Next, take a look at yourself. Where are your arms? What is the expression on your face? If someone were to walk into the room at this very moment, what would they assume about your simply by looking at your body language?

Let’s talk about fidgeting for a moment. We all have our nervous habits, those quirks that help us get through a stressful situation. Twirling your hair, tapping your foot, biting your nails, or touching your face all draw attention away from what you’re saying and distract people from your message. Fidgeting sends a clear message that you are not self-assured. In fact, over 500 managers surveyed by Adecco USA indicated that they rejected ⅕ of the candidates they interviewed because they were fidgeters. They thought it came across as insecure and unprepared for the interview.

So how can you use body language to your advantage?

It is important to maintain appropriate eye contact. This will allow you to appear more approachable and display more confidence. It is also suggested that you are truthful and imparts a sense of intimacy with those you are interacting with. Too much eye contact, however, can come across as aggressive or make the other person feel uncomfortable. As you lead a meeting, make sure to keep eye contact with those who are commenting or contributing, and make sure you are connecting with each person in attendance at some point in time; meaning, don’t maintain solid eye contact with one person while in a room full of others.

Smiling at natural points in a conversation is also noteworthy because frowning sends a message to your brain that what you are doing is difficult and that you should stop. By smiling you help your brain tell your body that, “Hey, this is not so bad”. Smiling releases endorphins that counteract and lessen stress hormones, slows your heart rate, and relaxes the body. Studies have also shown that it can even increase productivity while performing a task.

Power posing is another great way to use body language to your benefit. Just as smiling sends your brain a positive message, power posing can cause an immediate change in your body chemistry which can affect the way you do your job or interact with others. High-power posing is all about opening your body up, rather than closing yourself off, and taking a posture of confidence, whether or not you truly feel so. To learn more about the benefits of power posing, take a look at The Power Behind Power Posing”. 

As you can see, a large percentage of communication and how other people perceive you comes from your nonverbal signals. Understanding and managing your body language increases your confidence in two ways. First, send appropriate signals in specific situations, such as demonstrating confidence while conducting a meeting. Second, and most importantly of all, practicing positive body language sends messages to your brain that will reinforce positive, confident feelings in yourself. Engaging in positive body language truly creates a cycle of feeling more confident.

Speak Up!

It is hard to be self-assured if you have to constantly repeat yourself. You start to second guess what you are saying. If you want to be taken seriously by the group, speak clearly, firmly, and loudly enough for them to hear you with ease.

Start the meeting on the right foot. How much more assertive does it sound to begin by saying “We have lots of exciting things to talk about this morning, so let’s get started” versus “Well, I guess we should get started”? There’s a big difference! 

Take note not to use filler words such as “I hope”, “I think”, “Er”, or the dreaded “Um”. (Ever counted the number of times a speaker said, “Um”?) The use of such filler worded detracts from the intended message, work hard to weed it out. Avoid trailing off at the end of a sentence or thought.

Almost as important as what and how you say things, is how you listen. Do not be afraid of silence! Give your audience time to process, think, and respond to what they are hearing. Rambling is nonsense and is all too often filled with unnecessary or unintelligent statements. It will not help the purpose of your meeting.

Make Everyone Feel Important

Just like you want your audience to listen to what you have to say, they too, want to feel like their voice is being heard. If you do not know everyone in attendance, walk around prior to starting (on time of course) and introduce yourself. Ask questions, such as their company position or how long they’ve worked for the company. Get to know the attendees and their role. 

If you do know those present, feel free to ask more personal questions, such as how their family is doing or how their family vacation went. Interact and enjoy those in your company.

Give each in attendance a firm, solid handshake. The handshake is a universal sign of confidence and demonstrates mutual respect between both parties. A firm handshake will boost your feelings and make others see you as more assured.

During the presentation, make sure to really listen to what people are telling you. Do not interrupt or try to speak over someone, and respond thoughtfully to what you heard. Asking questions is a great way to let them know you were listening.

The more you listen to and engage with them, the more they will want to pay attention and engage with you in return.

We all feel less than confident at times, especially when we are put in front of a group of people and expected to be the one in control of things. How you manage a meeting of colleagues, clients, or a combination of both can be a good indication of your leadership abilities. As you implement each of the guidelines above, you will not only gain confidence in the conference room but around the clock as well.


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