If you were to follow me around for a day you’d find that I have a lot of meetings. When I’m home in LA, most of these meetings happen on the phone or over Skype (video and voice), when I am out charting the globe my meetings are in person at just about every place you could imagine from a restaurant to a concert venue, a boardroom to a boat. I find that face-to-face meetings is where the real business gets done. You can move things forward over the phone but to really do business and build a relationship you need to be in-person.
Sometimes you can’t control this and you end-up on the phone, that’s okay, what I am talking about in this article applies to both in-person and virtual meetings. One of the places where this is absolutely critical is trade shows where many of your meetings are no longer than 15 minutes. The idea is really taking the time to map-out all the things you want to accomplish in your meeting, and making sure they get done.
I know plenty of people who have gone to trade shows with calendars booked full of meetings, when they get home only a few things materialize into deals. Often they got carried away and spent the whole meeting talking about one thing, when they wanted to cover three or four. If there are opportunities for both you and the person you are meeting with to do even bigger things together, don’t throw that away. The idea is simple yet so often overlooked, maximize your opportunities in every meeting.
Before I go any further I want to make one point clear. By making the most of every meeting I don’t mean taking advantage of anyone, if you’re doing this it will catch-up with you, I’m a big believer in karma! What I am talking about is making the most of every situation and putting the time and energy into really thinking about everything you want to cover during your meeting. You never know when something you think is small, turns into something big, that’s just the wonderful randomness of life.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you some of the ways that I make the most out of every meeting. Oh, and for the record, like most humans, every meeting I have doesn’t go perfectly, this will happen, stand up, dust yourself off, and move forward. The point is I learn from every mistake, and every success and use this to drive my behavior, and hopefully help a few of you reading this!
- Do Background Research – this should be an obvious one but many people walk-into meetings without taking this critical step. Do your research and make sure you know exactly who you are talking to, what they do, and what market they are in. There’s no better way to screw-up a meeting than to have no idea what you’re talking about or who you are talking to.
- Make A List – write on a sheet of paper, on your iPhone, it doesn’t matter where you do it but have a list of things you want to cover in the meeting. If you don’t do this you could leave the meeting and then realize you forgot to cover an important topic. You also want to really look at this list thoroughly and make sure everything is important and pertinent to this meeting.
- Know How Much Time You Have. I’ve seen people prepare an hour’s worth of material for a 15 minute meeting, it just doesn’t work. Don’t let that be you, it’s no fun. Know how long your meeting is and if it starts to go off topic, take control and drive it back, in short meetings staying on-topic is critical.
- Break Bread Together – if you’re meeting with someone you plan on doing business with more than a few times, then you really need to have lunch or dinner together. This will help break you out of the confines of a meeting and let you actually get to know the other person. You will be amazed by the things you might have in common and you’ll probably come-up with some very cool ideas you might not have had during a normal all-business meeting.
- Send Follow-Up – After the meeting send a follow-up email and make sure to cover all the most relevant points that were covered. Of course only send follow-up if you’re the person in the email that is supposed to send follow-up. At the end of a meeting there should be no reason why both people send the other a summary of the meeting, one person should be doing this, and you should know if it’s you.
- Have Fun – this is last but certainly not least. Nobody likes to meet with an unhappy or ridiculously stressed person. You want people to actually enjoy the meeting, hopefully you’re doing something cool together, either way, have fun, life is short and people like doing business with people they like. As I’ve heard time and time again, businesses don’t do business with businesses, people do business with people.
So next time you’re at a conference or heading to your next big meeting, make sure you take the time to do it right and make the most of every meeting. Oh, and if you decide to ignore all of the bullet points I have above, just make sure to leave the last one in there because that truly is the most important one.