Many of us, normally confident in our day to day lives, become a bit of a nervous wreck if we have to take a meeting about what we are working on. Why is this?
Do we feel we have to be a totally different person in a meeting? Why can’t we just embrace who we are? A writer, an innovator, AND a business person?
The good news is that you CAN be yourself in a meeting. Whether you are there to pitch your script to an agent, or your project to a business person, they liked your work enough to invite you to a meeting. Why should you act different from the person who wrote the story or came up with the idea? It is your idea or story, after all, that got you there.
Outside of the meeting, you are a brother, father, sister or mother, right? You are also probably a goofball, good cook and person fond of movies. You don’t need to discuss those things in your meeting, but neither do you have to check them at the door.
An easy way to ruin a meeting is to try very hard not to be yourself but to act like some idealized version of a person in a meeting. But – whose ideal are we talking about? Something we read in a dusty book about How to Act in Meetings?
I don’t know about you but when I am preoccupied with:
1. Don’t forget this part!
2. Don’t forget that part!
4. Remember to mention this and that and THIS!
I feel so stiff I can’t relax. Don’t worry so much! You know why you are at the meeting, you know what the bottom line is of what you want. Don’t memorize lists; you’ve GOT this.
Of course there are some basics of taking a meeting: dressing nicely, being on time, being polite – but being relaxed is not generally found on those lists. And it should be.
What trips many up in a meeting is the huge effort they make NOT to be themselves. You know your story or your product or your innovation perfectly well – of course you do – you wouldn’t have any problems discussing it over a beer with a friend, would you? Yet we focus on perfecting our “elevator pitch” when in fact, what you should do is just – relax.
Increasingly, as the gap between personal life and business life erodes, and Don Draper is a thing of the past, you can feel confident in a meeting by simply being yourself. You ARE a writer. Or an entrepreneur who thinks in such and such a way. Why should you strive to act less personal, more stiff than you normally would? Why should you hide your personality – which is what gifted you with the great idea that got you to that meeting?
Make your meeting great by closing the gap between the real you and an idealized, imaginary version of yourself that you are chaining yourself to. Of course, it is common sense to slow down a little bit and leave room for questions and conversation – but outside of that, just be yourself. It isn’t a crime.
Nothing is more exhausting than trying to be someone you are not. So don’t do it. You’ll just sabotage yourself and the meeting. If you are a cheerful, outgoing person, terrific, if you are a quieter person, you only have to remember why you are there – to sell your book or product and also to sell yourself – I am a quieter, contemplative, intellectual person and I speak softly but I make eye contact and I am confident about why we are here. Nothing is as compelling as confidence. Embrace who you are and your success rate will skyrocket.
Remember – it’s only a meeting. And the person on the other side of the desk is just another person.
Here is a fascinating video of authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman discussing their new book The Confidence Code, on why men seem to be more confident than women. Short answer: they don’t “womanate” (ruminate) and they keep their focus more narrow.
Meetings are GOOD. That means you have done something very, very right. So relax! Be yourself!