Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Meetings

12 June, 2013 of the most effective ways to enhance your personal brand is to make an impact in meetings. This is because meetings are one of the easiest platforms to create confidence and value. Engaging with your peers in relevant, purposeful behaviour creates trust, and trust is the foundation on which you build relationships and boost your reputation. Managing your personal brand in meetings allows you the opportunity to manage the impressions that others have of you.

Here are 12 of the most common meeting pitfalls to avoid if you want to build a convincing and professional personal brand:

 1. No clear value

Assuming you’re leading the meeting then it’s good to remember that all meetings must have a concrete, measurable goal. If the purpose of the meeting is not for decision-making, hearing out a disagreement, or setting a course of action, then you might be wasting people’s time. If you can’t pinpoint exactly why you’re calling the meeting, and are able to keep everyone focused on the end result, then you shouldn’t call one at all.

2. Losing sight of the meeting’s purpose

Even if you are brought into the meeting for your specific skills and expertise, it is also your responsibility to be a part of the overall outcome and do whatever it takes to make the meeting successful. When you take a meeting off-track you run the risk of receiving one of the most damaging of all personal branding actions – the eye-roll. Stay focused on the topic and the agenda, keep the objectives of the meeting in mind and contribute purposefully and meaningfully.

3. Unclear thinking

Try and get your point across in one sentence. Difficult as this is, if you can’t do this you’re probably guilty of random thoughts or unclear focus. If you ramble your listeners will get bored or at best confused and their attention will soon wander. If you want your opinion to be heard or to persuade your audience, first make sure your thinking on the issue is totally clear.

4. Irritating non-words

You probably don’t even know you’re doing it, but words like ‘um, like, so, hey, hmm, ah, you know what I mean’ can be big audience aggravators. Not only does it impact your authority but it also provides opportunity for people to tune out. Give your friends permission to point out when you are using these filler words and learn to stop saying them.

5. Bad meeting style

How you conduct yourself in meetings is significant to the success of your personal brand. Do you arrive unprepared for the meeting? Do you constantly interrupt and talk over others? Do you really listen to what the other person is saying, or are you forming your response in your mind?  Do you bad-mouth your colleagues or competitors? Do you fiddle with your tablet or mobile phone, or worse, do you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom so that you can check emails or facebook from your phone? These bad habits highlight your self-interest and label you as arrogant, haughty and a poor team player.

 6. Pursuing a personal agenda

Chances are the meeting is not about you. Stick to the matter at hand and work towards the benefit of all concerned. If you give off so much as a sniff that there are personal priorities at play, you’ll raise the ire of your peers and quickly be eliminated from the process, physically or socially.

7. Constantly playing devil’s advocate

Nobody likes a naysayer. Consider your opinion and determine whether your negative contribution is absolutely necessary, or whether your constant need to undermine your colleagues’ opinions is getting in the way of a successful outcome and in the process damaging your personal brand. If you have something relevant to add, speak up. If not, stay out of the way.

 8. Using the f-word

Don’t even think about using this, no matter how well you know the people or how much part of the company culture it is. Not only do you come across as inarticulate – people assume you swear because you have a limited vocabulary – but it’s also immature and offensive. You make it hard for people to take you seriously.

9. Sitting quietly

Although it’s a good idea to listen more than to talk, it’s not a good idea to say nothing at all. Silence does not get you noticed. Offer ideas and suggestions, but do keep them short and to the point. Intelligent questions will also make sure you are not overlooked.

10. Making private public

Don’t be tempted to make the meeting leader look foolish by sharing inappropriate anecdotes or being confrontational. If you have contradictory information or opinions to share, do so while keeping your and your colleagues’ personal brands intact.

 11. Showing skin

Professional integrity doesn’t sit well with flesh on show. Interestingly, this doesn’t only apply to women in clothing that’s too short, too low or without sleeves.  Men in short sleeves also come across as less professional than their long-sleeved counterparts. The more flesh you show, the more credibility you lose and the harder you have to work to be taken seriously.

 12. Not saying please and thank you

It may sound like kindergarten, but arriving on time, being polite and keeping your promise, go a long way towards creating trust. When you are late, don’t say please and thank you, and forget to do something you said you would, it lets people down and damages their belief in you. Your reputation is the essence of your personal brand, so it pays to get it right.

If you want to positively impact your personal brand then start managing your behaviour in and around meetings. A good way to get started is to:

  1. Craft a one sentence premise or objective for the meeting. This will help you get clarity and focus on the goal.
  2. List the objectives for how you want to come across. Articulate the values you wish to be associated with.
  3. Think of how to achieve these results – how would you look, sound and behave if you were successful?
  4. If you’re running the meeting, send out a meeting agenda. It gives others the chance to prepare and understand what’s expected of them.
  5. Arrive early so that you can strategically choose your seat. Looking into the light or sitting directly under the air-conditioner might be distracting.
  6. Be pro-active and offer your help. Anticipate problems before they come up and give suggestions to fix them.
  7. Keep everyone focused on the end result and stick to the allocated time. It will be noticed and appreciated.

Not only will these 7 steps help build your reputation, they’ll also boost your confidence and you’ll look forward to getting the most out of yourself and others in meetings.



Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.