What does “power” look like at a meeting? Many may imagine it looks like a stern individual wearing a tailored suit who marches into a room and takes command. Personally, I find that image to be a bit antiquated in today’s workplace. Appearing powerful in meetings isn’t necessarily contingent on clothing choices or only certain individuals may take the lead.
True power is often much more nuanced, and maintains a “we” over “me” mentality. Whether you’re leading a meeting or attending one, here’s what female professionals can do to make a confident appearance.
1. Have something productive to hold.
In theory, a smartphone might be okay to bring along to a meeting. However, some meeting participants might use their phones to text friends. Or, they may conduct a not-so-subtle check as to how many messages they've gotten since the meeting started.
Instead of holding your phone, hold a notebook or planner with a pen and pencil.
Sarah Campbell is a content manager for Summit Labels and freelance writer. Campbell has worked in marketing and advertising for three years and swears by her trusty notebook and pens for meetings. More than having something to hold, they serve a greater purpose. Campbell uses her notebook for quick shorthand and to write down what everyone says. This allows her to keep from fidgeting and keep her meeting takeaways organized and neat.
2. Add a strategic pause.
Let’s say you’re speaking at a meeting. You’ve practiced what you’re planning to say and timed it out beforehand. You may even have a PowerPoint presentation queued up and ready to go. Then, disaster strikes. In the middle of speaking, you lose your train of thought.
You’re about to do it. You’re about to say “um” or “like” in an attempt to get that thought back! Here’s the secret. There’s a way to not do this.
Career and leadership expert Alexia Vernon says if you need to find your thought, stop and smile. That brief pause, and grin, doesn’t make you look silly. It’s better known as a strategic pause that helps you to better speak with moxie.
“When you strategically pause like this, you will weed out filler words,” Vernon says. “It also helps to stop telegraphing insecurity and gives you an opportunity to connect with the people listening as you find your next idea.”
3. Speak slowly.
If you’re used to speaking at a fast-paced Lorelai Gilmore clip, you may struggle to make this meeting power move. It’s difficult to transition from rapid-fire speech to slow down the conversation.
However, Hatzikostas advises anyone leading a meeting to speak slowly. It’s perfectly okay to take your time to make a clear, articulate point with the audience.
“This not only shows your power, but speaking slowly allows your audience to truly listen, digest and engage in what you have to say.”
4. Ask thoughtful questions.
There’s nothing worse than crickets after a speaker has finished speaking and nobody has any questions for them. Don’t blend into the quiet crowd. Ask questions, but not just any questions; Make sure the questions you ask are thoughtful, tie in with what the leader has discussed and address concerns or areas that are relevant to other individuals.
5. If you're in person, claim your seat.
Do you ever consider where you sit in any given room? Some people grab a seat right in the front. Others tend to pick somewhere in the back. Sitting in the back is a little bit out of the way. You’re less likely to be noticed there. That can become part of a bigger problem if you want to participate.
Erin Hatzikostas, founder of b Authentic inc, advises women not to sit in the back or opt for the “kid’s table” space. Claim your seat and make sure it’s the best seat available in the room. Once you’ve got that prime spot picked out, make your presence known in the meeting.
“Take initiative. Shake others' hands and introduce yourself to everyone,” Hatzikostas says.