How to Own a Room and Command Respect

How do you walk into a room with the confidence that makes people trust and listen to you? How do you ensure that meetings are not wastes of time, but are instead valuable interactions with a dialog that proves whether two parties can work together?

Preparation is the key. We’ll talk about how to be truly prepared and what “preparation” really means. We’ll go over the key social cues that must be followed, and how to ensure that once the real conversation begins, you are the expert in the room who is there to solve a problem.

Meetings are notoriously unproductive. You can change this by cutting to the meat of the matter with a thought-out game plan involving research, an understanding of priorities, and plans for the exchange that will happen between you and the prospective company.

Most corporate-world meetings have no real agenda, fail to establish a dialog for gauging relationships, and therefore never cement a good “summary” of you and your character, which must all happen in that brief 45 minutes for a meeting to be successful. Things don’t have to be this way!

Let's talk about how to own a room.

How to Take Control of Your Prospect Meetings

Be prepared” as advice sounds too obvious to be useful, but let's break down what “prepared” means. There's a reason why this meeting is happening. They want something from you. You want something from them.  Sit down for a second and write this out so you can see it in print. What specifically can the two of you get done that another pair of people cannot get done? Now, that answer may not be obvious, but there is an answer. Do some thinking to consider what unique opportunity is present because the two of you are working together.

Then, remember these points:

  1. You don't have to do anything. Just because they invited you to a room, just because you accepted the invitation does not obligate you, or them, to anything, In fact, you don't know what you might do until you have this interaction. It's really important to get your head clear about this upfront. What do they want from you? What do you want from them? And no matter how that math shakes out, you don't have to do anything.
  2. Walking into a room with confidence. Where does confidence come from? That's one of those things we all think is mystery or magic. But really, confidence is the outward expression of your preparation. You cannot fake or manufacture confidence. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be in that space. So when you walk in the room, you're just playing out a scenario you've already prepared for.
  3. Dress for the occasion. This is classic Professional 101, but sometimes we forget how important those initial moments are. You want to look like someone who's prepared to do business. When in doubt, overdress. If you look around and realize that you're overdressed, there are things you can do to tone down your look: take off your jacket, remove your tie, things like that. But if you're underdressed, it's really hard to turn up the professionalism. Your dress says that you have actively prepared for the occasion..
  4. Shake hands, make eye contact, begin pleasantries. This is the human moment that you’re having, so it's really important that you show up like a human. Keep the pleasantries simple and brief. "Hello. How was the drive in? Did you see the game last night? How was your family?" You're just looking for a positive moment to share with the other person. If you need to, prepare short, brief, tight answers. When you get these micro moments right, it creates momentum in your conversation. When you get these micro moments wrong, you find the conversation derailing and going off track. So take the time to just settle yourself and prepare yourself for the best conversation possible.
  5. Take control of the conversation.  There will be a point where the energy shifts and the real conversation begins. You must take control of it, but there is a wrong way and a right way to do so.
    1. The wrong way: too big or too small. There are two classic routes that people take in this moment, and both of them are bad.
      1. Peacocking.  Some people think that they need to walk into the room and tell the other person how phenomenal their experience is, how long they've been in business, how amazing they are. This is what male peacocks do in order to impress female peacocks, making themselves appear bigger than they are. I know you want to be impressive, but people can tell when you're peacocking. Please do not do this.
      2. Shrinking. For those of us who do not want to be seen as a peacock, we do the exact opposite. We shrink ourselves. We don't want to impose, to be confrontational, ruffle feathers or interrupt the status quo. So we shrink our skills, we shrink our ability, we shrink the power of what we're able to do. Don’t do this either!
    2. The right way: have a game plan. So let's talk about what that game plan should look like. What's a more appropriate way of having a high level conversation without offending everybody in the room? Here's what you need to emphasize:
      1. Begin the conversation with the research you've already done. "Hey, I've been doing some research about this situation, and here's what I understand." Then you should stop and confirm. "Do I have that right? Do I understand that correctly? Is this really who you are? Are these the things that are most important to you? Is this the goal you're trying to get done? Can we better understand that together?"
      2. Priority. What's most important? Which element of what we just discussed is the most important thing you were trying to get done in the short term? 
      3. What do you need from me?  How can I make this happen for you? What do you expect me to do? What expertise do you expect that I bring?
      4. What does your organization provide to make that happen? What are you going to provide so that I can do what needs to be done? This is that conversation around salary, compensation, structure, team, vacation days, all that money stuff that we want to talk about, that's where that finally lands. But notice we didn't get to anything about money until we better understood what was at stake..

When Do You "Start" Owning The Room?

Now, if you're like my client, you're still feeling a little uncomfortable. You see the framework, yet the idea of confronting another professional is still a bit weird. So the follow-up question he asked me was,

"Alzay, when do I start this? When do I start? Just from the very beginning?" 

You begin this framework the moment the two of you sit down. So you're having this conversation and you are going to probably start it standing. You meet him, he meets you, and you shake hands, exchange pleasantries. Then, there's a moment where he will offer you a seat. The moment you are seated is when real conversation begins.

The next question you are asked is the beginning of the real conversation. No matter what that person asks you, your response is the same. Whether they ask about the weather, your background, or if they want you to tell about yourself. It doesn't matter what they ask you. The moment you sit down and they ask you a question, you directly answer what they've asked, because you don't want to be rude, and then you begin with the research you've done. You begin the appropriate framework. Take control of the dialogue that happens in this room. You're not trying to tell them what to say or tell them what to think. You're trying to get this dialogue to leverage his time and yours.

Why Is It So Important to Own The Room?

This method of functioning is so important because: 

  • Most professional meetings have no agenda. And even if there is an agenda, people are too willing to throw that agenda out of the window. So what you have are these misdirected meetings. We never actually get around to talking about what we're supposed to talk about. 

    Have you ever been in a meeting where it took 45 minutes to get to the point? When you finally got to the point, the meeting's over. Get to the point in the first five minutes, and you can spend the next 40 minutes really getting some detail, and some understanding.The meeting must have an agenda and you cannot depend on the other person to have it. Good news for you, the agenda is more or less the same every single time. So be assertive, be aggressive, be professional, be confident in that agenda because you're trying to get the most ROI on both people's time.

  • The real you can't be understood in 45 minutes. If they’re trying to make this major economic transaction, spend a lot of money, dedicate a lot of time, to do something important, they want to understand who you are, but they're not going to get all of you understood in 45 minutes. So help them curate your experience, knowledge and expertise. Synthesize how great you are for them, prepare accordingly, so not only what you say, but also what goes unsaid, holds you to the highest level of professionalism possible. They may not know everything about you, but how they feel about you will be fundamentally different. 
  • If there's no dialog, then there's no relationship. Professionals who work together have to be able to talk to one another. The outline that I gave you in this video gives you a framework to actually have some dialogue. You talk, they talk, you understand, they understand. This gives both of you a snapshot of what it would feel like to actually work together.  This is not the same as them throwing questions at you and you answering.Are you really learning about them? Are they really learning about you? You need dialog in order to understand or appreciate the possibility of a good working relationship.

If you prepare accordingly, you can represent the most powerful elements of your professional expertise and own the room in every meeting. It's worth your time to do it the right way.

Leave a Comment