Written by Jacqueline Whitmore | Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach
Congratulations, you’ve started your own business. Now it’s time to go out and find some clients. This means that you will plan and attend myriad business meetings in order to make connections and generate some income.
Time is money, so don’t fritter it away or lose focus because you haven’t properly prepared. Make the most of your meeting time and use it as an opportunity for growth and prosperity.
As inventor and businessman Thomas Edison reminds us, “We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”
With these words in mind, here are some useful tips on how to plan and prepare for your next big meeting.
1. Identify the purpose and objective of the meeting.
Ask yourself what you want to achieve with each meeting. Do you want to become more visible in your community, become better known within your industry, or solve a client’s burning problem? Clarifying your goal helps you to steer the meeting in the right direction.
Do your research. Read all pertinent documents, trade journals and emails. Determine how long the meeting will last and plan for how to set the pace and tone. Think of potential questions you might get asked and have answers ready. And always go into a meeting with your own set of questions.
2. Have a positive attitude.
How you approach a meeting is as equally important as the message, and sets the tone for what follows. “Always go into meetings or negotiations with a positive attitude. Tell yourself you're going to make this the best deal for all parties,’’ said Natalie Massenet, founder of fashion portal Net-a-Porter. If you think you will fail, you probably will. Try using positive affirmations like “This meeting is going to go well,” and “I’m going to do the best job possible.” Remember to smile and take a deep breath before entering the room.
3. Gather and organize materials and equipment.
To keep a meeting flowing smoothly and successfully, arrange in advance for necessary supplies and equipment. Print out materials and an agenda so everyone in attendance can follow along and fully participate, and inform other participants if they need to bring materials as well. Don’t leave people guessing as to why they are meeting with you. State your purpose and be as prepared as possible.
Ensure that the computer and projector work properly, and if you will be using your laptop, be sure you know how to connect it to the projector. And don’t forget to bring the power source and a wireless remote. You want to avoid stress by eliminating any technical problems. If you are hosting a meeting, arrive early to check the room temperature, lighting and the seating arrangements. And while it may seem insignificant, make sure you provide refreshments for everyone.
4. Practice public speaking.
“Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life,’’ said Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and author of The Psychology of Achievement.
Many people don’t think about their public speaking skills until the time comes for them to actually speak in public. Even if you have prepared the best presentation ever, if your rhetorical skills are far from perfect, the meeting could suffer.
Practice your public speaking whenever possible, especially if you aren’t too confident in your skills. Join Toastmasters or take a course at your local college or university. It will boost your confidence in meetings, and help you feel more comfortable around others, which will ultimately lead to a more successful meeting.
5. Set the next goal.
Before you leave your meeting, set action items, assign responsibility and be sure to follow up. If you are meeting with a new or existing client, set the time and place for your next meeting, and thank them for inviting you. And it never hurts to write a thank-you note after an important meeting so you leave the client with a positive first impression.
Whether your meeting involves just your team members and co-workers, or extends to investors, industry leaders or clients, following these simple yet crucial steps will allow you to reach, and perhaps exceed, your meeting goals.