I’m not quite sure why I’ve been so lucky but in my last three roles I have sat near the company boardroom, in the last two offices in fact I’ve sat directly outside the boardroom. Like I said, I don’t know why I was so lucky!

I would see the comings and goings of all of the board members and senior directors and would get to chat with colleagues waiting outside the room for the meetings to finish or just hanging around trying to overhear or find out what was going on (I was at my most tight lipped with these folk!)

I would also be asked by my colleagues on quite a few occasions if so and so was in the meeting and if they should interrupt to speak to them. Mostly it would be another assistant trying to get their director into the next meeting on time or have to update them on a client or pass on an urgent message. Having witnessed this on a daily basis I began to notice that most people were a bit nervous before they knocked on the solid oak door. I had other assistants asking me to interrupt the meetings on their behalf and once I had another director confess to me they hated walking into the board room because they felt like they were back at school walking into the headmaster’s office.

Keeping our managers on time and on schedule is a fundamental part of the assistant role so we must be able to interrupt meetings, including board meetings and drag our guys out of the room when they are needed elsewhere. How do we get the confidence required to walk into a boardroom when top level directors struggle and how do we keep our boss on time without annoying the rest of the meeting attendees?

Believe that you belong

A lot of my confidence comes from a deep rooted belief in ‘fake it till ya make it’! You might not be a board director yet but you have every right to be there doing your job. Just remember they are in the room doing their work and ensuring your boss is update to date on urgent matters and on time is your job.

Be polite

Knock on the door and say sorry for interrupting. You will encounter a hostile room if you just barge in and demand to see your manager.

Be decisive

Once you are in the room either ask to speak to your manager outside or pass them a note. This is slightly awkward if they are sitting all the way over the overside of the board table but worth doing if you are just passing on a message.

What is the worst that can happen?

I once fell over a chair when walking into a board room to tell my boss something. This is the worse thing that can happen. Anything else is fine, no one is going to shout at you or tell you to get out. These people should be professional and not laugh when you fall over a chair…

Have a plan

Speak to your boss about these types of situations. Ask them how strict they want you to be with time keeping, if they are okay with you interrupting board meetings or if they prefer to be in there for the entirety of the meeting. If this is the case do not plan any meetings after the board meeting in case it does run over, which they often do. Finally ask if your director would prefer you to email or text them if anything urgent comes up. Just ensure they have their phone on them during the meeting!

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3 comments

  • Mosa June 21, 2013   Reply →

    Now that you mention it, I realize how hesitant or anxious people (colleagues, assistants, the tea lady and other attendees) often get when they have to interrupt boardroom meetings, thankfully technology has made our lives bearable because of the use of bbm, whatsup or phone text messages. I have found these very helpful indeed for the purpose of alerting my Director for urgent messages that I need to pass to him or information that I may need from him and it also reduces my chances of falling over a chair.

  • Silvina June 25, 2013   Reply →

    When I walk into the room I am usually so nervous that everyone except my boss is invisible. I’m very shy so these kind of situations make me nervous, but over the years I’ve realised that they are focused on the meeting/presentation and not on me (or whoever opens the door).

  • Brenda Hess September 19, 2013   Reply →

    Another tip is that you might have a code phrase set-up with your supervisor. You may text the person with a code phrase which means that they would like to be rescued and excused for the next meeting. You get to be the pre-planned scapegoat.

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