“I tend to feel self-conscious and unorganized during meetings with prospective and current clients. I prefer to go back and forth through email. Maybe it’s just my nerves or that I’m not prepared enough? I’m not sure. The conversation always goes in a bunch of different directions and the goodbye feels weird and too open-ended. How can I feel more confident and lead productive meetings?” – Sara
Using email and social media messaging as your primary forms of communication with clients is very limiting. Typing out responses doesn’t give you the opportunity to be as impactful and unforgettable like face to face meetings do. This is because technology allows you to hide. To hide behind your laptop, dodging any social discomfort. But if your goal is to reach your full potential and build the business of your dreams, then it’s time to quit hiding.
What is your mindset like before a meeting? Are your thoughts going in a million different directions? Do you feel deflated and overwhelmed at the mere thought of getting in front of someone and talking business? This disorganized and pessimistic thinking can throw you completely off track prior to even walking into your meeting. Negative thoughts will force you to feel uncomfortable in your own skin, at a loss for words and embarrassed.
It’s time to create a new approach to meetings that will help you feel encouraged, confident and in control as you sit across the table and represent the business you’ve worked so hard to build!
1 // Follow a meeting preparation routine
One of the best ways to collect yourself and regain focus is to get into the habit of following a strict preparation routine before each and every meeting. Feelings of comfort come along with routine, and when you’re comfortable, you’ll be more likely to lead with confidence!
Think about all of the reasons WHY you’ve felt unprepared in past meetings. What information were you missing? What specifically made you feel discouraged?
Once you have this list, be proactive and create a preparation checklist that confronts these issues. Then, complete the checklist before each and every future meeting, so that you can place yourself in a position to feel ready and self-assured!
Here are some common tasks that you may want to include on your checklist:
It’s this kind of thorough preparation that will also increase meeting productivity and prevent embarrassing misunderstandings.
2 // Be aware of your client’s comfort zone
Every meeting should not be treated the same. This is because every person you meet with will be unique, with their own personalities, needs, wants, discomforts and comforts. It’s your job to recognize these parts to their whole and then adjust your approach accordingly so that they feel welcome. Why is this important? Because if they don’t feel comfortable, then neither will you, and the meeting will quickly spiral to an awkward place.
From the moment you see your client, start paying close attention to their body language, tone of voice, energy level, etc. What mood are they in? Do they seem in a rush or more laid back? Being super aware like this will help you do a better job of setting a tone for the meeting that is aligned with your client’s comfort zone.
3 // Bring along a meeting agenda
It’s easy to get lost in conversation and derail meeting goals. Bring along a meeting agenda that will help you stay on track and spend your time together wisely. Occasionally refer back to the agenda to make sure the discussion is headed in the right direction. Remember to prioritize establishing a nice flow of conversation before paying much attention to your agenda. A great way to go about doing this is by pumping the productivity breaks for a few minutes and simply chatting life; family, vacations, exciting news, etc.
Don’t be afraid to take some notes as you tackle each topic. Relying solely on your memory during follow up might be very difficult. This practice of jotting down important meeting takeaways is widely accepted and further demonstrates your professionalism.
4 // End on a positive note and with a follow-up plan
Sometimes ending a meeting can be as nerve-racking as beginning one. It’s time to wrap it up and move on with your day but instead, you’re rambling well past the point of productivity, and things are starting to feel pretty drawn out.
The solution? First, conclude your meeting by expressing gratitude for their time and then reference something specific from your chat under a positive light. I.e. “It’s been so wonderful to spend this time with you. Your wedding day plans sound so beautiful. Especially the thoughtful details you’re going to incorporate into your ceremony script.” This set of specific and complimentary statements will nudge the meeting towards a close while also demonstrating how present you were throughout your conversation, along with your excitement to work together!
Then, control the meeting’s conclusion with next steps. What must happen in order for your relationship to continue? Do not let the momentum end at goodbye. If this meeting was with someone who was interested in your services but has yet to sign a contract, then end with a note about next steps. You’ll be able to gauge if they’re committed by their reaction to your words. If they seem reluctant to see a contract, for example, then it might be a good time to ask if they have any hesitations or additional questions that you can answer. If they are an existing client, and for example, this was a meeting to confirm final wedding day details, then end the meeting by mentioning that you’ll be sending over the information you’ve collected for final approval. Again, you’re simply looking for a way to encourage an ongoing relationship.