How to Nail a Business Meeting as a New Employee

If you’ve been to business meetings, you know they can be dry, lengthy and confusing, but you’re probably still glad you were invited. Attending a meeting is a reward, or at least an acknowledgement that you’re not a rank amateur anymore. So what do you do when you get there?

Make sure you say something. It doesn’t have to be much, and it doesn’t have to be brilliant, but if it’s a traditional business meeting with fewer than 10 people, you should try to contribute at least once during the session. As someone less experienced than the coffee dispenser, and certainly less in demand, you may wonder how you can offer any valuable thoughts at a meeting. A safe strategy in those situations is to ask questions; but they have to be good questions.

Contrary to what your third grade teacher told you, there are Stupid Questions. The stupidest questions are the ones that have already been answered in the meeting when you weren’t listening. A corollary to the Stupid Question is the Unhelpful Question. Unhelpful Questions are those that help you understand something that everyone else already understands. Ideally, you want to ask a Perceptive Question. Such a question might be “How do you think your projections will change if the recession lasts a year longer than expected?” These monkey-wrench-based questions (someone throws a monkey wrench into your plan), or the softer, future-based questions (How do expect your new Blotto product to perform relative to the competition?) generally sound astute and everyone learns from the response. Just make sure, especially as a junior professional, that you adopt an inquisitive, supportive tone, rather than an aggressive one.

Why is it so important to contribute even when you are as green as they get at your company? Because you are confident, you are thoughtful, and you are a good addition to the team. Start letting everyone else see these characteristics as soon as possible.