Your first work meeting can be a nerve-racking experience. Whether you're trying to sell a new product or idea to another company, or simply presenting information internally, it can be hard to fight that nervous feeling deep in the pit of your stomach.
1. Prepare your research in advance.
The days of staying up all night and cramming before your big midterm are behind you. When you're talking facts and figures, it's best not to fly by the seat of your pants and wing it in front of your new boss. Instead, begin researching the topic, and start putting your presentation together immediately.
Immersing yourself in all this information early on will help you answer any follow-up questions with ease. It will also demonstrate that you have thorough knowledge of the topic, and that you can be trusted to present reliable and accurate information.
Resist the temptation to only learn the information you'll be presenting during the meeting. You can't try to get away with faking it. It's important to take the time to actually learn and understand what you'll be talking about. This will not only improve your performance at the meeting in the short-term, but it will also help you grow as a professional in the long term.
2. Dress to impress.
When you put your best face forward, you feel more confident. One of the easiest things you can do to prepare for your first work meeting is plan out your outfit beforehand. Don't wait until the last minute to figure out what to wear. By having an outfit planned ahead of time, you'll be less likely to show up late or appear rushed or unkempt.
There's an added benefit to dressing to impress. Even if they aren't consciously doing so, the people around you will hold you to a higher standard when you appear neat, clean and organized.
If you're male, make sure your shirt and jacket are clean and pressed. Pick a tie that coordinates with the rest of your outfit, and be sure to wear appropriate shoes and formal socks. If you're female, pay attention to the way your female supervisors dress for work. There are often unspoken prejudices and workplace norms that employees who are seeking to advance should take note of.
Men and women should stick to dark or subdued colors. As awesome as your Looney Tunes tie or fishnet stockings might be, it's probably not the appropriate time or place to wear it.
Of course, the atmosphere varies depending on the company you're working for. Some companies try to foster a more youthful, casual atmosphere. Here, employees aren't necessarily expected to dress formally. You should still pay attention to the rest of your grooming, however, and show up neat and clean to project the appearance of being well-organized.
3. Be friendly and sociable with your co-workers.
Making small talk will put others at ease before your work meeting starts. Be sure to introduce yourself to everyone in the room.
Ask appropriate personal questions about pets, hobbies or anything that will let you get to know the person and build a positive relationship with him or her over time.
4. Be conversational, even when you're speaking to the entire room.
Public speaking is often cited as one of people's biggest fears. But once you understand the conversational techniques of public speaking, you'll feel less nervous, even when you talk to a room full of your colleagues and supervisors.
While there are too many techniques to cover here, here's one that can make a huge impact on your delivery: eye contact. Numerous studies show that eye contact – when not used too excessively – increases trust and builds interpersonal bonds.
But how can you make eye contact with an entire roomful of people? When faced with this dilemma, most of us tend to look off into space or gaze at our shoes. We speak to no one in particular. This leads to a stilted delivery style that will bore your listeners. That's the last thing you want to do during your first meeting.
Instead, try saying a sentence to everybody in the room, one person at a time. If you have trouble making direct eye contact, try looking at a person's eyebrows. But, avoid making eye contact with any one person for too long. Switching between different people in the room will make all of them feel included. They'll be more inclined to listen to what you have to say. It will also help you feel at ease once you start speaking.