Commanding respect at those crucial moments
We’ve all had that moment where we’re anticipating that big meeting – the classic is the meeting with a celebrity. I had one a couple of years ago where I was due to meet a very iconic rock star – you may know him, he’s awesome on a piano – and you feel totally inferior.
Your meeting may have been with a potential in-law, a CEO of a multi-national or a celebrity. Either way, it’s pretty scary and it’s difficult not to feel inferior… or is it? There are all kinds of reasons we feel inferior, most of them unjustified; the person you’re meeting with is more famous, more wealthy, more experienced, older, funnier, more popular… dot dot dot… (and the list goes on)
How we deal with these situations seems to go one of two ways; either you clam up and say as little as possible ensuring you don’t put your foot in it, or you put your foot in it (possibly several times).
The ‘Clam Up Types’ tend to leave the meeting kicking themselves that they didn’t share that great idea / knowledge / anecdote. The ‘Put Your Foot In It’ types (like me) tend to leave the meeting wondering how they managed to divulge all that scandalous information / make such a wally of themselves / be so outrageous!
So if you’re gearing up for one of those meetings, here’s a couple of tips to help you prepare and help you feel a little more confident:
2. Focus on helping them.
When you focus on helping and connecting with someone else, you stop worrying about your own agenda.
3. Get them talking
As part of focusing on them, asking questions is a great way to take the pressure off yourself. Who, what, why, where, when questions help make them feel great and give you time to think.
4. Dress to suit the situation
Ok, we’re told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but we do. If you’re a gentleman then a decent suit jacket with no tie means that you look funky, but if you need to you can very easily take the jacket off to match the person you’re meeting with. If you’re a girl, you need to judge your audience. Trousers can be viewed as more relaxed, a skirt more formal, depending on who you’re meeting. Personally, I find a nice funky shirt or blouse gets more respect than the full suited and booted double breasted suit version.
5. Body language
There are a lot of books on body language so I’ll keep it brief – how you use your eyes has a big effect on how over confident you’re perceived. Don’t look them up and down and preferably only look between someone’s eyes and mouth if you want to make them feel comfortable. Take your queues from them – especially if you’re a chap meeting with a woman.
Your voice is one of the most powerful tools you can use to easily build rapport and respect with absolutely anyone. Generally the key is to talk from your diaphragm (aka your tummy) therefore making your voice slightly lower but still in a comfortable range. Matching speed with your audience is also a great way to gain more authority.
7. Remember you know your stuff
I have coached some hugely knowledgeable people who all seem to believe they aren’t qualified in some way. Trust me, you are great. Concentrate on encouraging them to talk about your key speciality and you’ll shine.
8. Confidence is in the eye of the beholder
If you want to appear more confident there is a really simple technique – put your shoulders back and stand up straight. However, use this stance with caution. You’re often better off appearing more humble when meeting someone for the first time.
Generally people use more than 5 senses to build a first impression but smell is one of those be all and end all ones. Adrenaline can kick in and mess with everything so here’s two hints… if you’re the nervous type (or like me the hyperactive type) put your suit jacket on at the last minute, have a good deodorant available at all times and spritz once with perfume or aftershave. Remember, subtlety is more effective than overkill…
You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but you probably know the types of questions you’re likely to be asked to show your worthiness. However you answer them, be confident, be proud and be pleased they took the time to take an interest – trust me it’s a good sign…
11. Command respect, not authority
There is a difference between commanding respect and commanding authority. Authority is about demands and control (never a good thing). Respect is about “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person”. So generally it’s attached to knowledge. If you’re feeling a little dubious about your knowledge, then just list all the things you have experience in and can talk about… trust me you’ll surprise yourself!
A smile is a wonderful thing. Smiling can help you feel great and the person you’re talking to warm to you, plus it shows you’re a nice person – so why wouldn’t you?!
13. Have some fun
Don’t take this to the extreme, but you can get further by being a little cheeky and having a little fun. Personally I always find an excuse to laugh ‘with’ people, either about their holiday, their customers, their managers… etc etc.
People talk a lot about visualising how a meeting will go. Firstly, don’t visualise all those things that could go wrong. Secondly, make sure you visualise yourself getting on well and how you’re going to connect with them.
15. Choice of where to sit
This is an oldie, but a goodie. If you’re meeting somewhere public like a restaurant or a nice coffee shop, make sure you get there early so you can pick a seat that faces the door and gives you a good view of the land. It’s primeval.
If you go to their office or home, notice what’s around you. A lovely way to build rapport is to notice things you have in common – be it sports, awards or even cartoon characters – noticing other people who love Tigger is still one of my favourite ways to win a contract!
17. Spread yourself out
A lovely way to stake your claim on an area is to spread yourself out. I met a lady at Mums the Boss who talked about a lovely technique she uses in a meeting where she spreads all her brochures and information out before a board meeting to stop people encroaching on her comfort zone.
As a rule, jokes are a bad thing to use when you’re trying to impress. End of.
19. What do we admire most?
The underdog. Be proud of where you come from, your age, your gender… we respect people who have tried a little harder so don’t be ashamed of it for an instance!
20. Be yourself
And on that note, airs and graces are never appreciated. Be you, love you, you’re great.
21. Your body is a temple
Caffeine may be great for helping you meet deadlines, but it’s rarely going to do you any favours if you’re already nervous. You’re much better with some extra vitamin B and C which will help give you a nice glowy feeling without making you gittery… and yes even tea might be worth missing out on. Whether you consider yourself too old, too young, too lower class, too middle class, too upper class or whatever it is that stops you from feeling like you deserve the best – trust me you’re worth it. People respond to people who are nice, who listen, who are more interested in others and don’t talk about themselves constantly. You are awesome, don’t let anyone tell you different…
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