My work as an executive leadership coach often has me shadowing the people I'm coaching. And that means sitting in a lot of meetings--as many as seven or eight a day. And I've come to realize that there's always one person who stands out, who seems to be the smartest person in the room, whether or not they actually are.
Here are some of the things I've come to see about these people, things you can emulate if you want to look like the smartest person in the room:
1. Make eye contact with everyone.
Numerous studies show that people who make more eye contact are perceived as being more qualified, skilled, and competent--basically, the smart one.
2. Put your chin on your fist.
This pose gives the impression of interest and engagement in what's being said, and it makes you look smart.
3. Nod in agreement.
Nodding is another way to signal engagement, agreement, and intelligence
4. Always be encouraging.
Especially if they're not accustomed to speaking up, people often become distressed about discussing their point of view or expressing their ideas. Be the person who says "Thanks for that insight," or "I'm going to have to think about that some more," or "That's very interesting." Even if you're not familiar with the subject matter, it makes you sound knowledgeable and supportive.
5. If someone is speaking unclearly, act as their translator.
When someone expresses a truly complicated concept or they don't communicate well, take a moment to translate what was just said, repeating it in language everyone understands.
6. Ask lots of open-ended questions.
Most people come into meetings with an agenda and proposals they want to get across. But the best way to show how smart you are is to ask open-ended questions that begin with how, what, where, when, and why.
7. Always be objective.
Try to keep your statements unbiased, neutral, detached. Especially when others around you are peddling their agenda and responding emotionally, objectivity is a standout strategy.
Be sparing in the use of these techniques--a little goes a long way, and you don't want to be perceived as obnoxious. But if you're strategic and genuinely engaged, you'll soon find that your reputation as someone smart and effective will precede you.