Taking Control of the Meeting Space

Recently a conversation took place at a round table conference I attended where the topic of discussion was how to appear as an authority in the office.

I was later asked by a young female professional how I attempt to command a room. I told her that authority is not a title given, but a level of respect that must be earned.

You must pick the right time to speak.

Speaking too often or with an abundance of words with little meaning or value is the fastest way to destroy your credibility. Instead, pick and choose carefully when to engage during a meeting.

Advice for New Engineers

She asked how that can be accomplished if you are the meeting’s moderator. After all, the leader of the meeting does most of the talking. I corrected her and advised that her role in such a case is  to facilitate the discussion to reach the best possible outcome.


Often, you speak less when you are leading a conversation. Instead you listen to the engagement of the team. You ask questions of those being more reserved because often their contemplative silence results in great ideas.

Most importantly, you prevent two strong personalities from going back and forth with each other, trying to persuade the other why their idea is the best. Sadly, this often happens in engineering meetings.

Appear as an Authority

She thanked me and asked if there were one thing I would recommend to her going forward. I told her that when she wants to be seen as a subject-matter expert, she should refrain from wearing four-inch heels and short skirts.

Free-Falling Into Entrepreneurship

I recommended she buy a nice fitting suit and some conservative heels to wear to work on the days she wanted to assert her authority over a topic. She was offended. She said that she should be able to dress the way she feels most comfortable.

If men objectify her, that is their problem she believed. She had no interest in continuing the conversation with me after that, but appearance does go a long way in others deciding if you appear as an authority in the office.

What do you think? Was I absolutely off base? Should you dress conservatively on days you want to feel powerful at the office? Should you take into account how you come across in meetings?

Feel free to leave a comment below!