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Real Advice: 5 Tips for Handling Yourself in an Executive Meeting

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It isn’t difficult to stray from the rules that govern the generally accepted behaviors in a business setting, especially when surrounded by people who share similar motivations, interests, and professional experiences. However, it is vital to be aware of the potential of these moments and adhere to the mandates that will ensure your professionalism (and the opinions of those that matter) remains at its highest possible level.  

With executive interactions, you must be intentional about what you are doing and what you are saying. Not being aware in these moments can be the difference in whether you get the job or the promotion. If you are in sales, it’s an essential skill to be successful. Ultimately, it’s required to get the respect you deserve.

It’s essential to be aware of how your words and actions impact how you are perceived by executives, peers, and bosses. They constantly assess your decision-making ability, awareness, and reaction in high-pressure situations, as this behavior typically mirrors how you interact with your customers and employees. 

#1. End of Story First

Get to the point. Executives are short on time and long on experience. When you meet with them, they want to hear the end of the story first (at least I know I do!). My advice is to skip the warm-up story. We understand that you need to provide context, but there are ways of doing this without an extensive overview. 

#2. Avoid Talking Only About Yourself or Talking Too Much

This is especially important in a meeting with potential clients. The reason for the meeting should occupy the space at the forefront of your mind. There would be no reason to gather without the client or potential client, so make sure that the focus remains on the business at hand. If you tend to begin irrelevant side conversations, make it a point to refocus your discussion on the topic at hand. This is done by listening to what everyone else in the room is discussing.

If you’re guilty of over-sharing from time to time, it might simply mean that you’re too comfortable with the people in the room. There’s nothing wrong with that, but make a mental note that there’s a time and place for everything. Small talk before the meeting is absolutely fine, but switch those gears to business mode when it’s game time. 

#3. Save the Inappropriate Stories for Never 

Remember that someone is ALWAYS listening. If you have a tall tale to tell about weekend shenanigans, you should keep that in your pocket for after meeting/after work. Don’t be tempted to finish the story when the client or potential client arrives, even if they are across the room. Powerful ears make powerful impacts, depending on what words fall on them. Make sure that what comes out of your mouth is fit for the boardroom, rather than what’s best said behind closed (personal and private) doors. 

#4. Just the Facts

While it is important to personalize your approach with an opening and relevant story or connection, you shouldn’t make your sales pitch or presentation using stories as your only means of support. Anecdotes are unreliable in that, although they may seem genuine, they may not be. Your managers want data and hard facts, and it is your job to give them those things. Switch to a more scientific approach, showing up with legitimate data to support what you’re offering, rather than information that MIGHT be true. It’s frustrating, and it also makes you seem like you aren’t prepared, organized, and don’t value everyone’s time. Also, offering some suggestions brings value to the table versus relying on executives. 

#5. Stop and Think Before Responding

When you are a part of a team, you must act as a responsible team member. To that end, as others are speaking and offering ideas, make sure to pause and actually listen to what is being said before you respond. Every thought provides opportunities for great ideas. When you interject with ideas, consider if they align with how your organization wants to solve problems. 

If you follow these four guidelines, you’re sure to host or participate in a successful meeting for all involved. Colleagues, managers, and clients will appreciate the time, thought, and respect shown by those who adhere to meeting mindfulness.

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Dan Conway