Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Copy of Four Ingredients of a Successful Meeting


When preparing for a meeting with a potential mentor, it’s important to consider four different domains of managing a meeting or interview skillfully. Click through each of the sections below to learn more.

1. First Impression

First Impression

A first impression is the first thing a person observes about another person and can involve the person’s approach, attitude, or appearance. It’s important to consider first impressions any time you’re meeting with someone early on in your relationship–even if it’s not the very first time, it might be the first time they are paying attention, and remember!

Here are some ideas for making a good first impression:

  • Communicate effectively about all details of the meeting beforehand (e.g., meeting location, videoconference links, meeting time, etc.)
  • Arrive on time and communicate if you must be late
  • Make eye contact upon meeting someone
  • Smile and introduce yourself

To make a good first impression, you might also want to consider your appearance.

2. Appearance

Have you ever heard of the saying, “dress for the job you want?” This saying is highlighting how important appearance can be in the success of a business interaction. The same is true of any meeting where you’re trying to build your social network and grow your social capital!

Before any meeting, think about the setting—will this be a casual meeting for coffee? Or a meeting at a potential mentor’s workplace where you will be walking around an office and meeting others who are dressed in formal business clothing? Or maybe a video-conference call on Zoom, WebEx, or Skype?

Try to think through how to make a good impression based on your appearance for that particular setting. Here are some common examples for settings in the U.S. But it’s important to remember that these are only examples based on what you’d commonly see in work or school settings in the U.S. — traditional clothing or accessories common in many cultures (e.g., hijab, turban, sari) are also appropriate and acceptable within most business casual and business formal settings in the U.S.

Business Formal / Business Professional

  • Wear for job interviews, or when meeting with adults in a business formal workplace
  • Suit attire: dress slacks or skirt, collared shirt, blazer/suit jacket, tie for male-identifying individuals
  • Close-toed dress shoes
  • Neutral colors like black, brown, white, grey, and navy blue
  • Small, simple accessories (if any)

Business Casual

  • Wear day-to-day work attire in many offices (check your workplace’s dress code)
  • Collared shirt with a sweater, slacks or skirt, and tie optional
  • Close-toed dress shoes
  • More range in colors, such as an accented shirt with neutral-colored pants

Informal, but Professional

  • Wear for meetings with professors or mentors you already know, or for more informal “drop-in” settings like office hours
  • Can include jeans or khakis
  • Avoid joggers/athletic wear, shorts, and unnecessary hats/beanies
  • When possible, choose a blouse or collared shirt instead of t-shirt

3. Effective Behavior

Effective Behavior

This is one of the biggest components of professionalism—what do you actually do in your meeting? Professional behavior can show up in lots of ways during a meeting, from your facial expressions (e.g., smiling, laughing) and body language (e.g., sitting up straight, leaning forward) to your level of engagement (e.g., asking questions).

Here are some common examples of effective meeting or interview behaviors. Think about how these may look in the interview you will do after this lesson.

  • Put away your phone before meeting someone
  • Give full attention to someone who is speaking to you, and appear focused
  • Make eye contact. If you’re on a video conference call, set it up so you can look directly into the camera when the other person is speaking.
  • Avoid interrupting
  • Smile and show you are excited to be there
  • Prepare! Think ahead of time about what you might say, including questions for the other person and information you may be asked to share about yourself.
  • Ask questions about the topic of discussion
  • Speak clearly and enunciate, particularly if you’re on a video conference or phone call
  • Say thank you as you leave or end the call

4. Follow-Through


Finally, a big part of how you come across in meetings involves following through on any promises or commitmentsBefore your meeting, think through any tasks required of you for this meeting. Were you asked to bring a resumé with you? Did you promise to email a list of the courses you’ve taken before a meeting with an academic advisor or potential academic mentor? Do you need to send out an email invitation with a video conference link?

What about after your meeting—did you commit to following up on anything during your meeting? Perhaps you agreed to email additional information to the other person, or perhaps they shared a contact’s name, and you agreed to reach out and network with that person. Make a note for yourself during the meeting, and be sure to follow through promptly after the meeting, asking for help if needed!


You can find these examples, and more, in the Dressing for Meetings document in your Materials Tab. If you don’t already have a business wardrobe, it might be helpful to borrow or purchase some examples of “business casual” and “business formal” clothing items that you can have on hand for networking and other meetings. Remember that even if you’re meeting through a video conference call, it’s important to dress and present yourself as if you were meeting in person. Try to follow the guidelines of the particular workplace you’re in, and when you’re unsure, it’s always safer to overdress rather than underdress.