Whether you are an experienced professional, or a first timer, many people feel pressured when hosting meetings with influential people and perspective clients. Making an impact during business meetings can be a difficult thing to do. Creating presentations, printing reports, and memorizing data are just some of the ways you prepare for a meeting. Regurgitating what you know about the company you work for and how well you know the products is not the only thing that stands out in a business meeting. How you prepare and present yourself could make or break the impact you have while talking to prospective clients.
A successful business meeting is one where all attendees feel like something has been accomplished and each person knows what is expected of him or her. Here are five suggestions on how to prepare for your next meeting so everyone walks away knowing their time was well spent and productive.
- Be prepared and arrive early.
Make sure you have all the materials and relevant documents for the meeting. If you are giving a presentation, be sure to have your laptop and projector set up. Have your presentation saved on a jump drive, or email it to yourself so it can easily be accessed if you are using someone else’s computer. Being prepared means nobody can catch you off guard, and you’ll be able to shine and take your meeting performance to the next level. If you start a business meeting by arriving early and prepared, you have already started to make the right impact.
- Know what you want to accomplish. Stay on topic.
It’s important to know why you scheduled the business meeting. Write down a list of goals you want accomplished before your meeting and then decide how you will accomplish those goals. It can be difficult to stay on topic. Know what you bring to the table and what your role will be as you carry out topics discussed in the meeting. If you find the meeting has gotten off topic, or someone is off on a tangent, politely circle back to the important topic that needs to be addressed. Regaining control of the meeting and keeping everyone focused projects the kind of confidence that could help you close a deal.
- Speak up, but don’t interrupt.
One of the most difficult parts of being part of a meeting is knowing when to talk and share your ideas. Often times, people sit quietly in the background of important business discussions. Stop that! If you feel you can provide positive input, don’t let the opportunity pass! Stay confident in your own ideas and others will be confident about them as well. Speaking up in meetings and sharing your ideas in a strong and clear voice can help you greatly. It will show your peers you are not afraid of providing input. Just be sure you are not interrupting anyone when you do speak up. Once you have made your point, allow others to chime in with their input and ideas. This way, you show you are willing to let other people provide their own opinion regarding your ideas even if it is a criticism in order to improve the business.
- Listen and ask questions.
Listening is just as important as sharing your own input. If you want people in a meeting to believe you are invested in what they are saying, show it. Make sure you are always sitting up straight and be sure to always maintain eye contact with people when you are speaking and when you’re not- maintain eye contact with the person who is. If someone says something you do not understand or you need clarification, ask! Asking questions keeps everyone involved in the meeting and ensures that the information is exchanged and is equally understood.
- Accept criticism and learn from others.
When sharing your ideas in a business meeting, it is likely others will not always agree with you. They may have input on how to improve on your ideas. When this happens, don’t be afraid to let them speak. Constructive criticism not only helps to improve the ideas being presented, but can be a learning experience. Hearing what others have to say can help you learn more about their abilities and talents they bring to the table. Accepting criticism and speaking up when you have your own makes you a team player who is interested in what is best for the business overall.
At times, you may become nervous when meeting with influential people or new clients. Showing up prepared, ready to share your ideas, and ready to listen to others shows everyone at the meeting that you are serious about your business and have a lot to offer. Being confident and knowing what you want to accomplish during the meeting not only increases your chances of having a productive meeting, but also ensures you have a positive impact on the meeting attendees. When everyone walks away from the table feeling informed and ready to take action, that’s when you know you’ve made the most out of your meeting.