How to Be the Star of the Meeting

By Heather Baldwin

Your boss has just asked you to give a short presentation at your next weekly sales meeting, but your motto is: The only thing worse than attending a meeting is speaking at one! To make matters worse the boss will be there, which means you could finally impress him or her enough to get that promotion you’ve been wanting – or fall on your face with no hope of ever moving up in the world. “How you present yourself at meetings can make a big difference in your career, your sales, your professional status and – believe it or not – your self-esteem,” says Roseann Sullivan, president of San Francisco-based Sullivan Communications. She offers the following tips for delivering an effective presentation at your next meeting.

Speak up ahead of time. Before it’s your turn to speak, make sure you contribute something to the meeting. The feeling of having all eyes on you can be overwhelming. Get that sensation out of the way fast by asking a question or commenting on another issue. Everyone will look at you, says Sullivan, and you won’t be such a curiosity when you get up to speak.

Stand and deliver. Even if the presentation is to a group of peers who don’t normally stand up, do it anyway. The formality suggests you are serious about your message and you consider it worthy of their attention. If you’re the only presenter to stand up you’ll have the advantage of being different and, therefore, more memorable. It may feel awkward at first, but the increased attention you command makes a little trailblazing worth the effort.

Mind the gap. When you’re nervous there’s a natural tendency to step back away from the group or hide behind a table or podium. Don’t do it. Physical barriers only put distance between you and your audience. If you want to have maximum impact, stand as close to your audience as you might if you were talking one on one – 20 to 24 inches away.

Keep it short. Every good meeting has an agenda and a timeline. Find out how much time has been put aside for you and aim to be finished well within that limit.

Show and tell. Remember how fun it was to see what the other kids brought to show and tell in kindergarten? That’s because the visual element of a presentation usually is the most memorable. Whether you use props, slides, or a slick PowerPoint package, people will remember things they see. So don’t just stand up and talk about your subject – show it!

Hold onto handouts. One of Sullivan’s clients recently started his presentation by handing everyone in the group a fat stack of paper. He then proceeded to walk them through the material. Guess what happened? All eyes went to the paper and audience members started reading ahead and tuning out the presenter. Two minutes into the talk, only one person was following along with him. Remember, participants can read for themselves. Present the highlights of your subject and distribute your paperwork when you finish. You want to be the center of attention during the meeting.

Sullivan teaches business owners, salespeople and professional groups how to speak effectively and become savvy self-promoters. For more ideas and information, visit