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14 Ways to Conquer Your Next Business Meeting

No one likes meetings. But with these helpful tips and tactics, you'll always use them to your advantage.

Every worker knows that a meeting can be a miserable, ineffective time-suck. But that doesn't mean you can't use them to your advantage. With the right preparation, mindset, tactics, and execution, you can turn any yawn-inducing corporate pow-pow into the "You Show," all but guaranteeing that you're first in line for that promotion over your more lackluster colleagues.

With that in mind, we caught up with William Arruda, the founder of Reach Personal Branding and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do!: 3D Personal Branding for Executives, to glean 14 easy, actionable tips that will help you conquer your boardroom while not coming off like an insufferable prick. And if you're hot on the job hunt, don't miss these 15 Answers That Will Tank Any Job Interview.

Be More Prepared Than Your Coworkers

Perform the simplest due diligence for even the most routine meetings, and then come with at least three talking points you wish to discuss. Now, don't try to hijack the meeting—that's lame—but be prepared to jump in if your boss asks a question to the room or if there is an awkward silence. "The best way to stand out in a meeting is to demonstrate that there's nothing more important going on in the world than that meeting," says Arruda. And if you're the boss, don't miss these ways to boost your managerial skills.

Try "Branded Standing Out"

You never want to be that guy who loves the sound of his own voice and won't stop talking. Instead, figure out what you want people to know about you, and continually stand out in that way. "It's not just standing out, but branded standing out," says Arruda. "What is the one unique ingredient that you can offer your organization?" Are you strategic? Corner the market for strategy topics. Are you creative? Be the on-the-spot brainstormer. And if you're looking for other ways to excel, be sure to check out 25 ways the smartest men get ahead in their careers.

Dress to Kill

"If people see that every element of who you are is well put-together, it sends a message that you're serious about what you do and who you are," says Arruda.

He tells the story of a former colleague of his. This guy worked in a casual environment, where t-shirts and shorts were the norm. But he didn't like that, so he started dressing better. "People started treating him like he was more senior," says Arruda. "Nothing about his job changed, but he gained a whole lot of respect." And if you're looking for tips on how to dress for the modern office, be sure to check out the 25 New Rules of Office Style.

Repeat After Me: "Slides Are Not Evil"

PowerPoints get a bum rap. The truth is that a little visual assistance goes a long way, especially if you're not a natural public speaker. Arruda always suggests a set of slides if the occasion would permit it. Something the whole room can see does two things: it makes your presentation more engaging and it makes everyone feel included. Just remember the cardinal rule of PowerPoint decks: as few words as possible on each slide.

Interrupt Others' Slideshows

If someone else is presenting a slideshow, you may feel tempted to keep quiet in the corner of the room. Don't. Make it a point to interrupt by saying things like, "Hey, can we go back a slide?"

Not only do you make your presence known, but you will also show off a deep and vested interest in the matter at hand. "The people who don't ask are the people who don't care," says Arruda.

Be Bigger in the Room

As Arruda mentioned, it's all about "branded standing out." A big part of that is making your physical presence as big as possible. "If you're the physically fit and active person who can't sit still for five minutes and needs to move around, that's great," says Arruda. Stand up. Pace. Look wistfully out a window. And if you want to become the guy who's fit enough to get away with this behavior, check out the easiest ways to make the gym part of your life.

Know Everyone in Attendance

You know Sherry from marketing and Jim from finance, but who the hell is that in the corner? Instead of asking and making a fool of yourself, refer back to the first tip and be prepared. That means acquiring an attendee list before the meeting. Look up everyone you don't know on Google or LinkedIn. (But if you do the latter, make sure it's on an incognito tab. Leave no evidence of your ignorance.) And don't miss the 25 ways that smart men get ahead at work.

Show Off How Collaborative You Are

Unless you work in the White House, chances are your boss wants his employees to get along. With that in mind, Arruda says you should publicly play nice with your colleagues. Remember: leaders forge connections. Say things like, "Thank you for sharing, because we really loved hearing that." And mean it. Be gracious and appreciative. "It also demonstrates your leadership skills," says Arruda. "It's the leaders who call out the great performers." At the end of the day, complimenting Steve for his "great idea" when you take the floor will only enhance your own profile.

Facilitate Conversation

"In meetings, a great technique is to become the facilitator," says Arruda. "Even if you're not the leader of the meeting." Bust out a, "You know what? I don't know the answer. What does everyone else think?" or a, "Jerry, we haven't heard from you in a while. What are your thoughts on that?"

But Back Off the Quiet Guy

Sam is really quiet, and you know that. He hasn't said a thing the whole meeting. But he still might want to be included. To that end, you could say something along the lines of, "Hey, Josh, you look like you had something to say. Or are you still thinking?"

"You've given them an easy option, an easy out," says Arruda. And as an added bonus, you show off that rarest and most valuable of qualities: empathy.

Ask Show-Stopping Questions

We're not talking menial questions with definitive answers, like "What's our target demo?" No, you want to ask something that makes people to stop and think. Here's one classic: "What is the absolute worst thing that could happen in this scenario?"

Come Ready With Quotes

It's easy to make fun of inspirational quotes. But there's a reason guys at the top have those silly motivational posters in their offices. If your boss loves Steve Jobs, for instance, whip out the famous, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." Again: be prepared. Do your research. If you're looking to get in extra prep time over the weekend, here's the smart man's guide to working seven days-a-week while keeping a thriving social life.

Or Surpising Facts

Facts and figures stick in people's heads—that's a fact. "Whether it's a fraction or a percentage, people remember things like that," says Arruda. Bring some relevant, quantifiable, interesting, and, most importantly, exciting trivia to the table and you'll be a star.

Be On Time!

Come on, guys. This one's a no-brainer.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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