How to Stand Out at Your Next Business Meeting

By Robert Half September 21, 2016 at 8:00am

Love it or hate it, the venerable business meeting can be an opportunity to improve your visibility and advance your career in accounting and finance.

The key to standing out at a business meeting is to go in with a plan rather than simply showing up and “winging it.”

Here are 10 pointers — five for those who have been invited to the business meeting, and five for those who are running it.

First, for those who participate, meetings can give you a chance to contribute and shine. Here are a few ideas to do your best at every business meeting.

1. Respond promptly to an invite

This is not only courteous but also helps the meeting organizer know whether you got the invitation and that the scheduled time will work.

2. Review the agenda ahead of time

This will help you anticipate the course of the discussion for the business meeting. Do some research and try to go in with answers rather than simply asking questions. If the organizer has not provided an agenda, ask about discussion topics before the meeting starts.

3. Be strategic about speaking up

Make sure you know what you’re talking about before you speak. If you’re not the project lead or an expert in the matter at hand, it often makes sense to let others ask questions first. The answers may clear up matters for you and can inform any comments you’ll make. Analyzing protocol at prior meetings will help you understand your company’s culture and what your role should be in the discussion during subsequent meetings.

Here’s a way to make a good impression at a business meeting: Make sure you’ve developed and polished your soft skills.

4. Be brief with your message

Whether you are a presenter or simply an attendee at the business meeting, practice ahead of time to express your ideas as succinctly as possible. Your colleagues are more likely to hear your message if it’s short. If you’re projecting a presentation from your laptop, keep the number of slides you present to a minimum. You no doubt have a lot of accounting and finance expertise, but make what you present easy to understand — especially if there are non-finance people in the room.

5. Turn off your phone and pay attention

Put your cell phone on vibrate and follow best practices for the use of email during a meeting. Take notes to record action items to jog your memory later. Be sure to look up from your notes periodically so you don’t appear disengaged. Try not to commit any other etiquette breaches.

Now, for those who are running the business meeting, it’s less important to stand out than to accomplish your goals and enable others to share and connect without wasting their time.

Here are a few ideas to encourage more productive meetings:

1. Keep your business meeting brief and to the point

Professionals interviewed for a Robert Half survey said 25 percent of the time they spend in meetings is unproductive. So with that in mind, whether you’re having a phone meeting with a client or you’re leading a quarterly management meeting, make sure you have a clear purpose for the meeting and that you stick to an agenda. Also consider dialing back the frequency of standing meetings. Take a look at invite lists and remove those who are included out of habit rather than relevance.

2. Experiment with non-traditional meeting formats

Hold standup meetings to encourage brevity. Introduce walking meetings to get participants away from old meeting venues and habits.

While you're at it? Consider throwing in a bit of finance and accounting humor to keep the audience engaged.

3. Give everyone a chance to contribute

Send an agenda or short description ahead of time so everyone knows the purpose of the meeting and what will be covered so they can do their homework ahead of time.

4. Be a good leader

Leaders know when to lead and when to sit down, act with integrity and get feedback from others. Good leaders inspire, motivate employees and coworkers to achieve better results, delegate effectively and communicate clearly. They also offer leadership training to boost their teams.

5. Follow up with results from the meeting

Whether you have notes from the meeting, action items or a strategic plan to share, it’s a good idea to follow up with an email. Clarify details as needed and include any ideas sparked by the business meeting.

With these tips, you’ll not only make a good impression on others at the business meeting, you’ll be in an excellent position to benefit from what you’ve learned — whether you’re the attendee or the organizer.

Keep reading for career and management advice in the accounting and finance field.

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