Granted, the term “meeting” is a bit general – there are things that would be devastating if you did them during a first meeting with a potential new client that would absolutely not matter at all if you did them during an in-house staff meeting. So certainly we could have much more specific conversations about ideal conduct and gaffes to avoid in different types of meetings. But the following six things are best avoided regardless of the topic and company you’re meeting with.
- Pulling things out of your…you know.
Perhaps even more than people respecting someone who has every answer and really knows their stuff, is someone who is so confident in their abilities, and comfortable with their strength and knowledge in their role that they can readily admit when they don’t have all the facts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with answering a question with, “I have some thoughts about that, but I want to give you the most thorough, informed answer possible, so let me go back and do some digging on this issue and let’s revisit it in the next day or two.” There is so much wrong with dancing around giving a real answer in an attempt to hide the fact that you don’t have one to give.
- Saying things like “Well, to be honest…”
So, I mean, were you not being honest before that? Sure, that’s probably not what you mean, but really think about what phrases like that imply: That you’re cutting to the chase. Getting to the bottom line. Bypassing all the fluffy niceties. All that saying “honestly” will do is implicitly suggest that maybe you were wasting everyone’s time or being less than completely forthcoming up until that point.
- Being offensive
There is nothing quite so refreshing as a well-placed and well-received joke during a meeting, especially if it doesn’t divert too much attention away from the business-at-hand. So we’re not saying to never try to infuse little moments of levity into professional settings. But absolutely keep it clean. Even if you’ve been doing business with someone for years, you might not know their personal opinions, boundaries, and feelings on every topic. So do a kindness to the health of your working relationship, and keep the jokes as PC as possible.
- Making certain promises
There is pretty much nothing worse than sounding like a used car salesman in a meeting, especially if you’re trying to pitch investors or potential clients. A good rule: the more you want to sell something to someone, the less you should employ language that sounds like cheesy sales tactics (think: “I guarantee it!”)
- Being distracted
Taking phone calls, checking your email, running in and out of the room – all of these things say two things: “I’m disorganized”, and “What’s happening with you in this room is not my top priority.” Good luck getting anything productive accomplished when you’re sending those messages.
- Taking too long to get to the point
You know what no one has ever said in the history of all humans doing business together? “That meeting was too short.” The goal of a meeting is to cover certain points – as long as you give those topics and ideas the attention they need, it is impossible to be too expedient about it. You aren’t impressing anyone, or convincing anyone that what you’re saying is more important by using more words to say it. All you actually do is look a little insecure, and a lot like you don’t respect everyone’s time.