Preparing and presenting at Small Meetings
This is the sixth seminar in the Winning Business 2014 series. Following on from our last seminar on preparing for Big Meetings, how does preparing for small meetings change your approach? In this tutorial we take a look at how best to prepare for a smaller meeting.
Preparing for a small meeting is in some ways very similar to preparing for a larger meeting. You also need to identify the key points you want to make; think about how best to structure the speech; and plan how you will tell your story in a way that will be clearly understood by the audience. Therefore, if you haven’t had the chance, please read Tutorial 5, where we cover some of these points in greater detail.
Smaller meetings have slightly different dynamics from larger meetings. Inevitably, with fewer people and a smaller meeting room, there is the opportunity to turn the meeting from a more formal presentation into a more meaningful and deeper conversation; and it is a chance to build more personal relationships on both sides.
Recognising these differences is important when planning the agenda and your presentation.
First steps are basic. Has the client you are meeting invited anyone else to attend? And if so, do you know who they are, what their role might be either in the selection process or further down the line if they engage you, and whether this changes the focus of the meeting from what you thought when you arranged it?
Who is going to be there should determine the content of your presentation and any other information you take with you.
Making the most of the time available is crucial. There is nothing wrong with a general chat, unless in the process you miss an opportunity to pitch for a specific piece of work.
If you are meeting senior executives it is worthwhile asking their personal assistant what time has been allocated to your meeting, and whether your client has meetings immediately after yours. Knowing in advance that your time is limited, and there can be no wriggle-room, really helps to focus the conversation from the beginning.
Engaging in small talk or chitchat helps build more personal relationships, but you should also be prepared to get stuck in immediately. Having your own agenda is no bad thing. However, how the meeting will be run is entirely up to the client, so being prepared and flexible is important. It is good practice to start by asking the client to confirm what they are most interested in, and how much time they have to talk to you. This should dictate how you best use available time, what slides you ditch, and which points you cover first.
Clients may ask you to justify the meeting, even though they have been happy to agree to meet you. They may have forgotten what led to the meeting, and you might be asked to explain why they should be interested in your business in the first place. You need to be ready to respond to these kind of challenges, and make sure you put forward compelling reasons that justify the client spending time listening to what you have to say.
Smaller meetings are inevitably more intimate. They create opportunities to have proper conversations that encourage feedback and questions. But they also can result in the conversation going off on a tangent. If you are given the freedom to use the meeting time however you choose, you should make sure you don’t use up all the time talking about you. Allow time for questions and discussion, and take the opportunity to ask as many questions as you can about the client.
Although there will only be a small number of people in a room it is important you engage with everyone, not just your host. There is nothing worse than being in a small group where you feel excluded. It is always worth remembering that everyone can make a contribution. Don’t assume you understand seniority in the client’s organisation either. You may find out afterwards (or worse still in the meeting) that your assumptions were wrong. The person you have inadvertently ignored could turn out to be a key player in taking the decision to hire you!
It’s also important not to overload the meeting by bringing too many colleagues with you. However, everyone needs a good reason for being there, and you should set this out at the beginning, to avoid the client wondering what your other colleagues are doing there.
Smaller meetings can sometimes allow you to use visual aids more easily. Product samples are tactile and can stimulate a lot of conversation. But if your business doesn’t have products, don’t worry. As well as displaying slides on a laptop or tablet, you can bring diagrams, charts and drawings that explain what you do, or how you do it. These all help enhance the conversation and make for a more interactive meeting.
The big downside to the smaller meeting is that you may need to cover a lot more ground. So be prepared! You may have to provide a lot of detailed information.
To make the most of any meeting, you need to know what you want out of it. So be clear in your own mind from the start, and make sure you achieve your objective. Given it is not always easy to get time in front of your client, you need to be focused, thoroughly prepared and alert.
Finally, the end of the meeting should never be the end of the conversation! So make sure you discuss actions and next steps, and make sure, whatever you do, that you make those follow-up actions happen!
Points to remember:
- Always plan out the key points you want to make – write the story you want to tell
- Prepare for a conversation rather than a presentation
- Be ready to adjust your messages to cater to the interests of the attendees. Pay attention to everyone
- Plan your time to allow you to answer questions and discuss points in greater depth
- Do not overload the meeting with colleagues and make sure everyone has a reason for being there
- Consider what visual aids to bring that will help you better explain your products and services
- Make sure you are thinking about what the follow up will be and don’t be afraid to ask for another meeting