One of the major objectives of any meeting – with prospects, customers, partners, or mentors – is learning. There are four simple techniques that can help the entrepreneur learn about the other party:
- Where you meet. I’ve had dozens of meetings at Starbucks, Panera, hotel lobbies, airports and other public places. This can be convenient for both parties and certainly if you are so early stage you don’t even have an office, it’s an option, but not a very good one. Whenever you have a chance, meet at the other parties’ office. That will give you an opportunity to see their company in action, to observe the corporate culture and perhaps even get introduced to staff or executives you would not have have the opportunity to meet had the meeting been held at your office or a “neutral” site, like a hotel lobby.
- Bring a colleague. While one of you is speaking or presenting it’s the other’s job to observe the audience, and if necessary give you subtle clues that you may be running off topic or going overtime. Work out this non-verbal signaling ahead of time, so you don’t have to interrupt your colleague. Taking notes is important at most meetings. It’s hard to do while you are in a conversation and you lose valuable eye contact with the other person. With two of at the meeting, one can take notes while the other speaks and vice versa. Afterwords you can combine your notes.
- Get there early. There’s two reasons for this. Getting there early gives you more of an opportunity to observe the company and how it operates. Secondly, it will give you plenty of time to set up your laptop or tablet with a projector or large screen
TV and make sure everything, including sound, Internet connection, and video, is working properly. So much time is wasted at the beginning of meetings with entrepreneurs as they struggle to find the right cable, to get on the company’s Wi-Fi network, etc. Time is the most valuable commodity. Don’t waste your host’s time getting set up for the meeting. Check in ear;u and get to know the admin for the office. That person usually knows the ins and outs of using the projection system, video conferencing system or other office technology and if you’ve extended yourself to them they are more likely to help you out when you need it.
- Leave before your time is up. It’s often a good technique to leave a few minutes before your allotted time expires. You never want to over stay your welcome and leaving just slightly sooner may leave your audience wanting more – they may even ask you to stay longer. Or at the least they will appreciate getting a few minute break between meetings.
Keep in mind whether it’s a buy meeting, a sell meeting, a mentor meeting, a media interview, you are there to learn. Entrepreneurs always need to be learning. Managing where and when to meet can help that process. Lots more to say about running a meeting or even when to call one, in other posts to come.