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Seven Tips for a First Business Meeting

Helping hand shakes another in an agreementLet’s say you have an important meeting with someone you have never met before.  Maybe it is a job interview, a call with a potential client or a meeting with the head of a department in your organization.  Whatever it is there are some important steps you can take ahead of the meeting to increase your chances of a successful outcome.  For our purposes let’s say the person you will meet is called John Brook.  Here are the steps:

1.  Make a written plan.  Many people make the mistake of going into a meeting with no clear objectives.  Just a few notes will help you.  What would be an ideal outcome of the meeting for you?  What are the key topics you want to discuss?  What do you want John Brook to do?  To give you information, to agree to some action plan, to support your proposal?  If you know what you want then you have a better chance of getting it.  What is you fall back plan?  If you cannot get agreement to plan A maybe you should have a lesser objective i.e. plan B.

2.  Confirm the appointment by email.  Send a short note confirming the meeting and the topic.  ‘I look forward to our meeting next Tuesday at 10 am in your office.  I would like to discuss the proposal for a new warehouse facility in France.’

3.  Do some research.  Research the topic and research John Brook.  Google his name and see what you can find out about him.  Talk to someone who has worked for him and can tell you what he is like and what his motivations are.  Prepare your pitch but be ready to change it in the light of what happens at the meeting.

4.  Link with him on Linkedin.  Send a short note requesting a link.  At the same time ensure that your Linkedin profile is up to date.

5.  Study his Linkedin profile.  Read his resume on linkedin.  Where did he work before, what did he study, what has he done, which groups does he belong to?  This will help you to understand him better and to find points of common interest.  In particular look at his contacts and see if you have any shared contacts.  Shared contacts can be a good source of information about him and also you can refer to them early in the conversation.  ‘I see that you know Philippa Jones at IBM.  I worked with her on our Cloud Computing project.’

6.  Plan your first few questions.  Have a plan for the broad structure of the meeting.  For example at the beginning of the meeting you want to establish some rapport before plunging into the business issues.  The topics and people you have gleaned from your research will help you with some icebreaker questions.  Then you might want to get him talking about the key issues before introducing your proposals.  Good questions are the way to shape the direction of the conversation.

7.  Anticipate his point of view.  Try to step into his shoes in advance.  What will his likely view of the issue be?  What objections or concerns might he raise?  What questions will he ask?  What evidence or data might he request?  Prepare your responses and if appropriate take some supporting material in case he asks for it.

Finally I would recommend finding out the dress code at his office.  Often his assistant will tell you this.  You should dress just as smartly as he does.  If he normally wears a suit and tie then it would be a mistake to go in tee shirt and jeans.  The first impression you create is very important so dress appropriately and meet him with a confident smile and a firm handshake.

Good luck with the meeting!

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