AS you begin to build your career and reach your goals, your professional conduct will play a crucial role in the success you achieve. You should always be mindful of your professional image, particularly at times when you are most in view.

You may not be aware that meetings are a time when your professional conduct is most open to scrutiny from others around the boardroom table. Here are some do's and don'ts in the boardroom to help you manage your own professional image.

Dos

* Go prepared. Read the agenda prior to the meeting and bring along a notepad. If you are the meeting organiser, make sure you issue an agenda beforehand.

* Focus on the meeting's objectives. We all know what it is like to sit in meetings that go on and on, yet never achieve anything. Try to stick to the meeting agenda and keep others on track if you are chairing.

* Be punctual. Arriving late is rude and inconvenient for others. Don't assume the meeting will wait for you or that you will be given an update on what you have missed. Everyone's time is important and keeping people waiting is highly disrespectful.

* Pay attention and listen to what others have to say. It is often apparent to others when people begin to let their minds wander. By not paying attention, you may also miss some important information or an action point and may have to admit to not having listened later on.

* Be aware of your body language. Sit up straight and keep your arms on the table. This will also help you to remain alert. Never slouch or spin in your chair as this does not project a professional image.

* Stand up to shake hands when you are introduced to someone you have not met before. Remaining seated when introduced sends the message that you don't consider the other person important enough.

* Switch your mobile phone to "silent" mode - always! And refrain from sending text messages. Such behaviour says your mind is elsewhere.

Don'ts

* Don't interrupt others, either to cut them off or to ask questions. Interrupting is always rude and displays self-importance. If you are unsure of whether or not questions should be held until the end, it is acceptable to politely ask whether or not this is the case.

* Don't criticise others ideas. This is especially true for creative meetings or brainstorm sessions. If you need to disagree with a point someone has made, do so diplomatically and without criticism.

* Don't whisper or speak to the person beside you while someone else is speaking. This is very distracting, not to mention rude. If you have something to say that you can't discuss with everyone present, leave it till later.

* Don't let the meeting run over time. Everyone has work they need to get back to and it is disconcerting for people to have to excuse themselves to get to another commitment.

Meetings are a perfect time to show your managers that you have what it takes to make a good impression and conduct yourself professionally.

By showing you are able to behave with respect and courtesy while remaining focused on meeting objectives, you give your managers the confidence to put you in higher profile situations.