How to conduct yourself professionally
When you are in a meeting, you will have thoughts, ideas, and opinions to contribute to the discussion. When you do so, it's important to ensure that you are conducting yourself in a professional way that will earn you the respect from your fellow attendees. Professional meetings will have unwritten expectations around how the participants should behave and interact with others, and especially in your first formal meeting, you may be unfamiliar with some.
We've put together some tips to help you conduct yourself in a professional manner to increase your productivity, to build relationships with your colleagues and peers in meetings, and to develop your communication skills.
Top tips for professional conduct:
This might be the most obvious point, but it's a sign of respect and professionalism to attend meetings on time, showing you are punctual and ready to begin. Good time management is a key skill important in the workplace, and is a basic sign of respect to the other members of the meeting. If you're running late due to unaviodable complications or other obligations, message ahead to the Chair of the meeting with your apologies and let them know when you will be arriving.
2) Prepare properly
It can be a sign of poor professionalism if someone attends a meeting unprepared, unaware of the purpose or aims of the meeting, and what is expected of them. This can often lead to unproductive meetings where time is taken up explaining those points, whereas a meeting in which everyone is prepared can run much more smoothly and can achieve its aims more effectively. Prepare by reading any relevant paperwork for the meeting in advance, such as the agenda, and refresh your memory of the topics of discussion by reading the minutes from the last meeting. If you are expected to present anything or want to discuss a certain point on the agenda, make some notes or jot down your questions in advance so you are prepared when it's your turn to speak.
3) Appropriate body language
Again, this may be an obvious point, but using appropriate body language is important in formal meetings. Sitting up properly, nodding to show you are engaged and listening, and keeping your body language neutral and professional will always help to show that you are a productive and polite member of the group.
4) Appropriate verbal communication
Similarly, your verbal communication choices are important. Avoid interrupting others, and avoid rude or explicit language. Speaking in a polite and confident manner will help you build relationships and gain respect from other members in the meeting, which is hugely important if you want your contributions to be taken seriously.
5) Contribute and stay engaged
If you have appropriate ideas, thoughts, or comments to share, share them! When you have an opportunity to speak, utilise it to contribute and show you are engaged and considering the matters that are being discussed.
6) Phones away
If you are attending a meeting, a way to easily show you are paying attention is to avoid looking at your phone during the meeting, and avoiding other distractions. This will show you are taking the discussions seriously.
7) Ask questions
If you're uncertain about any terms that are used, or need a little more information about something you're unfamiliar with, don't be afraid to ask questions. It is always important to ensure you understand what is being discussed, so that you can contribute in a meaningful way.
8) Let others speak
You may attend meetings where you have a lot of ideas and comments to contribute, which is fantastic. It's important to remember, however, that there will be multiple members of the meeting who will also have contributions to make. It's a sign of professionalism to get the balance right between sharing your ideas, and ensuring there are opportunities for everyone to contribute. This can be especially helpful if you are leading or "Chairing" a meeting, as you'll want to keep an eye on this to ensure no-one's voice is being lost.
9) Emotional regulation
Sometimes, even in formal meetings, you may discuss topics or have conversations which might frustrate or even anger you. It's important to always try to keep these emotions well-regulated, and to not let them impact your communication and body language. It's never appropriate or professional to let that happen. If you feel strongly emotionally impacted, the best thing to do is to ask for a break in the meeting, and allow a pause for all participants to calm down. If, in the worst case scenario, you don't think you or the meeting can continue, privately let the Chair know your concerns, and ask to discuss your thoughts with them separately another time, and raise your concerns about what caused the meeting to become emotional. Thankfully, this should be extremely rare, but it's always good to be prepared with a professional way to handle the situation just in case.
10) Listen carefully!
Finally, be attentive, listen carefully, and make notes if needed to keep track of what is discussed. This can also help you keep note of any actions that you need to take after the meeting, and you can easily refresh your memory before the next meeting in regards to what was discussed at the previous one. Listening carefully is a great sign of professionalism, as it shows you are engaged and that you are a worthwhile participant in the meeting.