Leaving another boardroom meeting feeling flustered and unheard?
Where you stumbled over your answers and your mind went blank when faced with questioning from the CEO?
You are not alone. Even the most confident and assertive people can feel tongue-tied and anxious during that all-important board meeting.
Anxiety can leave us feeling passive, so the key is to take control of the situation in your head in ADVANCE of the meeting. Here are a few tips to help you own that boardroom space, so you remain calm and clear, and demonstrate just how much of an asset you truly are.
Get your story straight
Make sure you’ve done your homework. If you’re preparing facts or figures, get them well in advance so you memorise them and really understand the story behind them. Write down a list of potential questions you may be asked by various stakeholders, do the research to prepare your answers and practice your responses out loud.
Own the space
Being really familiar with your environment can put you at ease. If possible, get yourself into the meeting room when it’s empty, walk around it and try sitting in the different seats around the table to get different viewpoints. Notice the details in the room – the flooring, the chairs. Spend time rigging up the projector if you need it and make sure you are familiar with how it works. Nothing worse than fiddling around with cables in front of the CEO! Get comfy there. A new surrounding can make us feel on edge, so get yourself into the mindset that this is a space you feel comfortable in. Even better, ask a colleague to come in with you to practice your responses.
Identify your objective
What is it you need to get out of this meeting? What is the minimum you are prepared to walk away with? Make a pact with yourself not to leave the meeting until you have it, whether it be a decision, a mandate, or an agreement. What will you be flexible on? Be very clear what your objective is and your desired outcome.
Build connections before the meeting
Make sure you’ve warmed up your stakeholders and you’ve a feel for where they stand on any issues. You don’t want any surprises in that meeting, so find out where they are at, and what their objectives or concerns are. If you can, have a coffee with them beforehand to get them onside.
Who do you need to be?
What part of your personality will be the most effective in this scenario? Your ‘ambitious leader’? Your ‘assertive mediator’? or ‘gentle maternal lion’? Think about who you need to be and channel that characteristic. Take some time to jot down who this persona is, how they would ‘be’, and what actions they would take to get their outcome.
An incredibly powerful technique. Find a quiet spot and spend 10 minutes visualising the meeting. Really delve deep in your mind – who is there, what are they wearing, how are they behaving? Imagine yourself being the persona you’ve identified above.
Ask yourself the question: “What would make me more comfortable in this situation?” Is it forming an ally with someone else in the room, taking an active role in structuring or facilitating the meeting, having one of your team present the more technical aspects? What would make you feel at ease and in control?
Write down 3-5 affirmations which really connect and resonate with you such as, “I enjoy bringing my insight and knowledge to the boardroom sessions,” “I am excited to be an active and engaged member of the senior management team.” Whatever it is, make sure it resonates. Then find a space, and walk around saying it out loud. You may feel silly at first but it’ll be worth it! And ensure you have a few minutes before the meeting to connect back in with these mantras. You don’t want to be running into the meeting after a morning of back-to-backs, feeling frazzled and stressed.
After your next boardroom meeting, make a note of what worked well and what didn’t. When did you feel most confident and what was it that caused you to feel on edge? Then you’ll know what to work on for next time.
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About the author
Ex-management consultant turned no-nonsense business coach, Julie Morgan is founder of Another Mother. Julie helps ambitious businesswomen thrive; whether that’s dealing with the self-doubt of running a business, helping achieve a promotion or switching careers. www.another-mother.co.uk