Meetings, meetings and more meetings. As a PR professional our lives are filled with it. Whether it is with clients (briefing, crisis, updates, interviews…etc, etc…), media (pitches, networking, events, parties, interviews…etc, etc, ), team (briefings, updates, reviews, brainstorming…etc…etc). These are just the basic ones. After a point, meeting people and networking with them becomes second nature. However, there are some points that hold true for every meeting which when planned out ensure the meeting is more effective. So look them up and make sure that every meeting gives you more. Have zeroed in on a few that I feel are really effective and can actually help you have a great meeting and gain more out of it.
If the meeting is planned then it doesn’t hurt doing a little research. A quick online search about the team or individual that you are meeting will throw up their LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter and blog pages at the least if not more. Enough content for you to guess-timate a personality, likes and dislikes. You will have enough information to figure out which topics the person is passionate about and which ones you would like to avoid. Background on education and work history will also give you good conversation starters.
Prepare for the context of the meeting. No matter which side of the table you are on, be prepared. Anticipate questions, scenarios and possible outcomes and prepare for it. This will make sure you are not caught off guard. This helps especially if you are walking into a meeting you dread. Since you have already anticipated and rehearsed the answers then you can focus on keeping your cool and manage the flow of the meeting.
If you are meeting at someone else’s office or home, or in another place they frequently inhabit, look around. One can find some keys or clues to the likes of the person you are meeting. Pay attention to everything around you: books, works of art, furniture, small decorations, or even photos. This can be a good conversation filler and will also endear you to the person for being observant and appreciative.
‘Fake it till you make it’ holds true here. Take a deep breath and put on your most confident face. Wear that comfortable sock or have your lucky purse with you. Whatever gives you confidence and gets you comfortable.
Focus on the person in front of you. Though remember that the person in front could be as big or even bigger nervous wreck. Make the person comfortable and give them a chance to talk. Humanize the situation and treat the other person as you would want to be treated and you will sail through the meeting. Give them your full attention and listen to what they have to say. Nothing is more pleasing than the feeling of having been heard in a meeting.
Being sincere at a meeting is always appreciated. Whether it is a client, journalist or colleague…sincerity always shines through. The more senior the person the more meetings s/he has attended and hence by default they have more experience dealing with people. Most people used to networking can sniff a fake a mile away. If you are unsure about the subject or the meeting your sincerity will work in your favor. Ask questions and let them know you are sincere and eager enough to learn.
When you dress well and feel good about yourself it automatically raises your confidence along with giving a great first impression to the person you are meeting.
Good manners never go out of style. Greet the person in front of you, smile, make polite conversation before you start the meeting, offer tea/coffee/water and say thank you and please.
Smiling when meeting people for the first time is old advice. But not all smiles are alike. A broad and insincere smile can have a negative impact on your interaction with others, giving someone the sense that you’re getting ready to sell them useless stuff. Have a polite smile on your face when you meet someone and throughout the meeting smile when you find something really amusing. Sincerity in smiles also counts.
It is always a good idea to take a notebook and pen or your digital notepad with you to a meeting. It serves a dual purpose of representing official business and your intention to take notes which indicates you are paying attention in the meeting. Run a checklist before the meeting and take adequate prints for all the people present in the meeting or better still reach a little in advance and get your laptop set up. Go digital. Go green. Have all your presentation charts and notes ready on the desktop that can be showcased at the click of a button.
Your time is important. Have an agenda for the meeting and end the meeting on time. Once you are through with all the elements on the agenda you can spend the rest of the time to discuss pending or more on issues on the list. Everyone present will appreciate you sticking to an agenda that makes full use of their time and getting as much from the meeting.
Payal Dasgupta | Nucleus PR