Learn How to Make the Most of a Business Meeting

What You Should Do Before, During, and After

Group of 5 people exchanging ideas in the boardroom
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Has your boss asked you to attend a large business meeting? Sitting through meetings with your coworkers may be a regular part of your job, but from time to time you may have to attend a very large company-wide or industry-wide gathering. Attendance at these events may range from hundreds to even thousands of people. It can be somewhat nerve-wracking especially if you are an introvert who prefers not to be in those types of situations. Here is what you can do before, during and after to help you make the most of a business meeting and relieve some of the anxiety you may feel.

Before You Go

  • Meet Other Attendees in Advance: Do you know who is attending the meeting? If not, try to get this information. Connect with people who are attending the meeting on the organization's Facebook page or LinkedIn. Get in touch with your network to find out which of your contacts are attending or if any of them know someone who is. Then make plans to meet a few local people before the meeting. Seeing a familiar face or two will help alleviate some of your discomforts.
  • Do Your Homework: Familiarize yourself with the content of the meeting. Find out what topics will be discussed and read up on them. While you will learn a lot during the meeting, it will be helpful if you know something about the subject matter going into it.
  • Dress Appropriately: Figure out what you are going to wear a few weeks before the meeting. Try to find out whether the style of dress is business formal or casual. Remember that casual dress doesn't mean old worn out jeans and a t-shirt. You may have to dress up for the meeting even if you can normally wear casual attire. If you have to wear a suit and you haven't done that in a while, make sure the one you have is in good shape and fits well. Take care of any alterations well in advance of the meeting. Check to see if your shoes are in good condition and if not a jar of polish or a trip to the shoemaker may be in order.
  • Bring Clothes that Travel Well: If you have to travel to the meeting, make sure you pack clothing that travels well. It won't matter that you chose appropriate attire if what you put on is wrinkled. You don't want to look like you rolled out of a clothes hamper. Bring an iron or steamer to get rid of creases.
  • Look Your Best: If you look good, you are more likely to carry yourself in a confident manner. Get your hair trimmed a week or so before the meeting. Men should shave or groom their beards and mustaches. Fingernails should be neat and clean. Get your hair trimmed but this is not the best time to try out a new hairdo! 
  • Pack Comfortable Shoes: You want to bring shoes that match your outfit, for example, dress shoes if you have to wear a suit, but you don't want to spend your day distracted by how much your feet hurt. Find something you'll be comfortable in all day long.

During the Meeting

  • Introduce Yourself to Other Attendees: There are few things more uncomfortable than standing around while you wait for people to come up to you. Relieve some of that awkwardness by making the first move. Introduce yourself to others. Remember, they may be feeling the same way and may be relieved that you made the first more.
  • Don't Forget to Smile: Smiling will make you look friendly and approachable. People will feel comfortable introducing themselves which will take some of the pressure to make the first move off of you.
  • Give Your Ego a Boost: Think about all the qualities others like about you. Do they consider you knowledgeable, reliable, nice to be around or caring? If you have a positive attitude about yourself, you will convey that confidence to others. 
  • Get People to Talk About Themselves: Most people love to talk about themselves so make sure to ask those you meet about their jobs, their lives (without getting too personal) and their hobbies. 
  • Beware of Alcohol: While alcohol will probably not be served during the meeting, it may be served at accompanying social events. Drinking alcohol may relax you, but it can also lessen your inhibitions. You may say things that you shouldn't. While you may want to have one drink, you should only do so if you know it won't affect you, but you shouldn't have more than that.

After It's Over

  • Take Home Something Valuable: Takeaways are the most important byproduct of business meetings. They can include new ideas to implement in your job or new people to add to your network.
  • Keep in Touch: Making new connections at a business meeting is pointless if you aren't going to maintain those contacts when you go back to work. Keeping in touch with the people you met will make attending your next business meeting easier.