How to ace a meeting with your CEO

You might not have a meeting with your CEO very often – which is why it’s important to impress when you do.

For employees of large companies, being face-to-face with the CEO can come as a surprise, since almost a quarter of staff don’t even know who they are!

Research shows communication between executives and employees in companies with 500 staff or more could be better. When it comes to younger employees aged between 18 and 24, a massive 34% of them say they “aren’t familiar” with their CEO, according to studies by Apprise Mobile.

© Branislav Nenin /

A survey of 1,000 employees revealed 23% didn’t think they could even identify their CEO if they saw them in a line-up. Among younger employees, only 54% said they would recognise their faces. With statistics like this, suddenly being called to a meeting with the faceless and nameless head of your company might be a daunting prospect.

How can you prepare for your meeting?

The work starts before the meeting as you prepare. The first step is to do your homework thoroughly, as if your job depends on it. In many ways, it does.

Becoming an expert on everything related to the company can help your future prospects. In particular, look for information that might help form a natural relationship with your chief executive. For example, did you grow up during the same era? Perhaps you went to the same school or university, or maybe you worked for the same companies in the past?

You’re looking for any pieces of information that can help you to start the relationship in a positive way. Check your CEO’s LinkedIn account or their profile on the company website.

Next, build on the fact you’re an expert in all things to do with the company – the impression you need to give your CEO. You may understand your own role, but make sure you know more about the company as a whole too.

Calming your pre-meeting nerves

On the day of the meeting, it’s important to keep calm and avoid letting nerves get the better of you. Try to have an early night the night before, so you sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed. Eat a good breakfast to keep you feeling energised and to stop your tummy from rumbling.

Avoid too much sugar, as it can make you feel tired later on. Drink plenty of water to feel fresh and hydrated. Avoid a lot of coffee, as you may have caffeine overload and start feeling anxious.

As you set off for the meeting, practice steady breathing, inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose and exhaling through the mouth – a well-known relaxation technique.

Be confident and positive

During the meeting, be confident and positive. When meeting with an executive, some people have a tendency to be almost apologetic for being there. Never start off by saying, “I know you’re very busy, so thank you for your time.”

This translates to, “My time isn’t valuable and I’m not busy,” and this is the exact opposite of the impression you want to achieve. You want the CEO to see you’re the best at what you do, so you won’t come across as dynamic or confident by suggesting they’re doing you a favour just by being there.

Start with a little small talk based on the research you carried out beforehand to find a common interest and establish a rapport. Don’t think of the meeting as a kind of sales pitch to the CEO – think of it as a conversation between two people who are figuring out the best solution to help the business move forward.

Do you need to take notes?

Taking notes in a one-to-one meeting with your CEO can feel a little awkward. What you’re discussing can dictate the level of notes you need. For example, if you’re receiving constructive feedback, you may need to take only a minimal amount of notes. Chances are, your CEO will have a written record for you if it’s an appraisal.

However, if you’re having a high-level discussion about your own career objectives and how they fit in with the company culture and shared goals, taking notes is a must. The CEO will probably be taking notes as well, so there’s no need to feel uncomfortable.

Should you leave time for questions?

Don’t talk so much that you don’t have enough time for questions and a call to action towards the end of the meeting. The best option is to leave ten minutes of the allotted time to clarify any points made earlier. Voice a polite reminder, such as, “We’ve got ten minutes left, so I hope we’ve met the objectives that we set out together.”

If the conversation has drifted, this can get it back on track and it opens up the floor for questions. The most important part is getting the results you’re looking for. Giving the CEO a clear idea of what you need makes it easier for them to say “yes”.

The takeaway from any meeting with a CEO is that they are just a person, like you. When you meet them, try not to get nervous, as this makes you treat them differently, and this undermines your own position.

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