Q: I’m going to be attending a series of workshops across several cities. It’s the first time I’ll be in such a high-profile role with this much travel. What should I keep in mind to be successful and make a good impression?
Gina, 32, marketing associate
A: Go in calm and confident, anchored in authenticity, and don’t overpack!
First of all, remember that you have been invited to participate because of the capabilities you bring. Keep this in mind when you feel anxious or stressed. This is no time to let impostor syndrome kick in.
Assuming that you have a formal role in the workshop, spend a lot of time in advance preparing.
Be sure you have a crystal clear understanding of your accountability. If you will be doing a presentation or leading a session, work with the organizers to align on the key messages and content. Craft your materials well in advance, and practice them so that you feel smooth but not overly rehearsed.
If you are a background expert, know exactly what topics you should focus on. Then gather more materials than you think you might need. To prepare, anticipate questions that people may ask and know how you will approach your response. Focus on being concise and clear. This prep will also help you with questions you didn’t predict.
Consult others to get feedback. Additional sets of eyes, an audience for a run through or a mock questioner can really help you put a shine on your materials.
The social side of these events is a fun but potentially daunting one. You may be in casual conversation with people who are much higher up in the organization, and you will want to try to be at ease. Again, preparation is key. Plan some questions that you could ask them, staying with safe topics like family, vacations, career, etc. Also plan a few things you could say about yourself if asked, so that you don’t stammer around for a response.
Spend time with people you already know, too, but be sure you use this opportunity to get to know others in your company.
Watch out for the trap of letting a few drinks get you more relaxed than you want to be. Faux pas can follow and can be hard to live down.
Work through the logistics. Plan for enough travel time, especially if you need to change planes. Have some nutritious snacks along in case your energy flags. Plan for any other self-care steps you can take to help make the travel less grueling.
Then there’s packing. If at all possible, stick to a carry-on sized roller bag so that you are not the one person who needs to check a bag. Bring mix-and-match clothes, and talk to others about appropriate attire so that you feel comfortable.
At the end of it all, be yourself. Wear clothes that suit you, trust that you are there because you are valued, and be willing to ask questions and learn rather than pretending you know more than you do. That authenticity will show and will help you gain credibility and respect.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.