Four Ways to Prepare for Meetings that Deliver Real Value
There are many things to consider when preparing for a meeting, particularly if you want to set yourself up for success. The underlying theme is to not allow yourself to get in a situation where you feel like you are guessing or winging it… there’s too much risk involved in making unconfirmed assumptions about your listener and what they want to hear from you, and ultimately setting up a meeting that doesn’t deliver real value. You simply can’t afford to undercut your credibility and damage important relationships. Once you have the date set – you are ready to think about what you’ll say when given the opportunity.
Here are a few ideas that will help you prepare effectively:
- Determine your goal for the conversation
It’s paramount that you stay focused on what you want to achieve in the conversation. Think strategically about what the outcome you ultimately want. This requires combining what you know about the other person and their situation and how that overlaps with your goals. In a perfect world, you might have something they need and connecting the dots is a no brainer. However, you might need to work a little harder… doing a some advance work to determine if there are achievable, mutually beneficial results you might agree on.
- Know your audience
Make sure you’re prepared to discuss the issues from the point of view of your listeners. Check this out by doing some homework on LinkedIn or Googling their company. Even better, call a mutual connection and ask if they know what’s going on in so and so’s world. For example, a two-for-one special on oil changes doesn’t help someone who uses the Metro to get to work. A little research can go a long way!
- Be ready for questions and be ready to listen
While you should be going in with a plan, a big part of being effective is knowing when to sit back and listen. The most productive meetings are full of exchanges, interactive dialogue and questions between both parties. Anticipate their questions – and have answers, but having a few questions in your back pocket to engage your listener can help if things get a little stuck. Ideally asking big open ended questions and answering the same way by avoiding simple “yes and no” will get both parties thinking and talking.
- Be mindful of your set-up logistics
After you’ve checked those dots and ensured your plan is on target, think about the details that can greatly affect the atmosphere and success of a meeting. Are you meeting in a place conducive to the topic at hand? With a Starbucks on every corner, it sure can be convenient (which is important!) but the close proximity to your neighbors might be seen as a negative. If you are inviting them to your office because seeing the facilities is an important part of the conversation, avoiding prime rush hour can lift everyone’s moods. Even what you wear… if you are in a casual dress environment but are meeting at client’s professional attire office, you might feel a bit out of place.
These things sound simple, but they take some work. The pay-off, though can be huge. Set yourself up for success in your communications and to make your meetings effective and enjoyable!