How to prepare for a business meeting

Business meetings, especially in the field of services, are an entrepreneur’s daily bread. Whether or not we receive a lucrative assignment or engage in cooperation with a client or a contractor highly depends on how well we handle such meetings…

Business meetings, especially in the field of services, are an entrepreneur’s daily bread. Whether or not we receive a lucrative assignment or engage in cooperation with a client or a contractor highly depends on how well we handle such meetings. Because it is very important to make a good impression during a business meeting, we should prepare ourselves for it thoroughly. A small mistake on our part or our innate carelessness can lead to wasted opportunities and broken relations with clients and this, in consequence, results in our company’s financial losses. If you deal with clients and contractors, or if you are an enterprise owner and you participate in business meetings very often, you will surely be interested in this quick guide on how to prepare for this kind of events.

Partner relations

Proper management of relations with clients is of significant importance to every business meeting. First we have to find a client, and then we have to make an appointment. Acquiring new contacts is a difficult skill to master; it takes years for some managers to learn it. Some people might possess some innate qualities that make them ideal for this kind of task. When contacting our business partner we always have to show that we pay him maximum attention. At the same time, we have to thoroughly present our offer, list the conditions surrounding our assignment, and agree on the date and place of our gathering. Some contractors may not want to participate in a meeting with us because they might think that such a meeting is not necessary. In such a case, we have to make our client feel interested in meeting us personally. It is much easier to convince a person to certain things in direct contact than by means of email or telephone conversations. Our business partner must never have the impression that meeting with us is simply a waste of time. He should be excited in his anticipation and leave the meeting place fully satisfied. It is all about telling a client what he wishes to hear or convincing him that our offer is the best on the market.

An optimal business meeting

As organizers of a business meeting we have to undertake a maximum effort to make our partners feel fully satisfied. It is worth noting at this point that such things as the organization of a meeting, our behavior, the way we speak, or even such a seemingly simple matter as our clothing – all contribute to the creation of our company’s image. Therefore, we should show our best side not to become an embarrassment to our enterprise.

Before we begin the physical part of organizing, e.g., the reservation of a place or the employment of a catering company, we should create a detailed plan of the whole meeting. Such a plan should describe the basic aims of the gathering in relation to us and the invited guests. A well-prepared plan is the key to an ideal business meeting. Thanks to it we will not forget about even the smallest of matters. Moreover, if we act according to plan during a meeting, we help prevent situations in which something goes wrong. We have to bear in mind that even very tiny details can lead to a meeting’s failure. It is best to prepare ourselves for several possible scenarios. There should be an optimistic option that would follow the idea that everything is going to happen according to plan, and there should be a pessimistic variant that would anticipate some difficulties. If we represent such a careful approach, we will surely know how to react to changing situations.

The organization of a meeting in a few steps

Step one – The character of a meeting

We have to establish the aim of a meeting. Are we to establish firm and positive relations with our clients, or are we to simply present our offer? Meeting can be of strictly formal or purely informal character. Usually, in the latter case, business conversations are connected with the opportunity to participate in some additional attractions, e.g., concerts, sport competitions, or art exhibitions. These are just some of the ideas on how to combine business meetings with entertainment and to create an informal atmosphere during such gatherings. However, we will not achieve everything that we wish to achieve in every single case. Sometimes we will not be able to acquire a new client or partner for our company.

The decision as to the character of our business meeting (formal or informal) determines all other elements related to its organization, namely: the choice of a meeting room, the arrangement of tables, types of dishes, the forms of entertainment, the kinds music, the date and the hour of the meeting, and the like.

Step two – The choice of the meeting’s coordinator

It is good to assign one person to the task of organizing a meeting. He or she will be responsible for the fulfillment of all the points listed in the gathering’s plan. If the business meeting is to be on a large scale, it may be good to employ a whole team of coordinators. They will divide all the tasks and competences among themselves.

Step three – The list of guests

It will not be necessary to formulate such a list in cases of small meetings – information about the number of guests will be enough. Knowing the numbers, we will be able to reserve a proper number of tables in a restaurant or any other place that we consider suitable for our meeting. However, if our business meeting is to resemble something of a conference, it is advisable to create a full list of guests. Every participant should be sent an invitation with his or her name. Once an addressee receives the message, we have to wait for his response.

Step four – The choice of a meeting place

In order to be able to speak comfortably, we should choose a relatively silent place for our business meeting. If it is a small gathering, a cafe or a restaurant will prove to be suitable. When we organize a large meeting, we should think about renting an appropriate place with equipment suitable for this kind of event; it can be, e.g., a conference hall. We must not organize business meetings at a private house or a fast food diner. Such an attitude could hardly be called courteous and would create an unfavorable image of our company.

When choosing a place for a business meeting we should consider the following factors:

The price
The atmosphere
The aesthetics of the interior
The quality of the services
The possibility to customize the interior
The technical equipment
Access to wireless Internet connection
The possibility to arrange food at the place

Step five – Reserve time

The date of a business meeting should be settled even a few weeks in advance. Furthermore, if we wish to organize such a gathering in a popular time period, we should make a reservation even a few months earlier. What do we mean by saying a popular time period? Large business meetings are organized between March and June and between September and December. Restaurants and similar places organize the smallest number of meetings during summer and between holidays. What is more, there is a huge probability that a given place will be unavailable to us if we choose to organize a meeting in the period just before Easter or Christmas. The reason for such a situation is that employees often organize holiday meetings in that time. It is best to reserve a place as early as possible because we buy ourselves time to properly plan the whole event and prepare the materials related to it.

Step 6 – Information for our partner

If we already know where and when the meeting will take place, and who will participate in it, we should send invitations, or, in case of small meetings, we should make a call to every person and pass on all the necessary information. If we send invitations, it would be good to do it by means of traditional mail services as this method is more elegant than, e.g., email invitations (though many people do not make such a distinction anymore). A few days after the invitations were sent, just before the meeting, it is worth to make a call to contractors and clients in order to make sure that they will arrive. If we do so, we will know how many people we should expect. In consequence, we will be able to save some money, e.g., we could order smaller amounts of food from a catering company.

The plan of a business meeting

A plan should include the stages of a meeting and the aims we want to achieve. It may also consist of a kind of scenario of a conversation – we can list the most important matters that we would like to discuss with our client or contractor. From simple matters like courteous how are you? and questions regarding tea or coffee preferences, we should turn towards serious issues which require lengthy discussions. It is good to eat something during the course of a business meeting. People with empty stomachs are unable to focus and strive to end discussions as quickly as possible. If we plan a dinner during a meeting and, in consequence, make a short break, we will give everyone time to regenerate mentally and physically. After that, we will be able to continue with our discussions.

Materials for participants

After a business meeting, our client or partner should receive some materials, e.g., a written offer, or a company presentation. It is worth to give our business partner a small gift; it can be an item with our company’s logo. By doing this, we will leave a pleasant memory in his or her mind. Such a small act can turn out to be a key factor determining our client’s decisions.

Summary

A successful business meeting is something very important to the whole company. It brings profit – we can receive an assignment or acquire a new business partner. A well-prepared meeting with well-analyzed ideas is a key to success. We must not neglect the importance of our own psychological approach to a business meeting. We should carefully think about all the important subjects we want to discuss. The points we make must not raise any doubts. Any questions coming from our clients should be answered wisely.