Social media platforms aside, the one-on-one, face-to-face business meeting remains an integral part of the professional landscape and presents a singular opportunity to personally connect and ultimately advance critical interpersonal relationships.
Think of business meetings as fertile judgment grounds where others almost relentlessly judge behavior because business opportunity is on the table, so to speak. Preparation should be both tactical and strategic.
Let me invite you on a preparation journey from the parking lot to the boardroom:
Reconfirm meeting the previous day and prepare an agenda to include them! Learn their company's dress culture and dress a notch above. You want to "fit in" yet present yourself so others look up to you as the consummate professional in your field. Remember, Professional Attire is "never wrong."
Think: quality ... from attire, business cards and hand-outs to briefcases and yes, even pens. Select briefcase size to match your mission. Carrying a large, full briefcase to a 20-minute meeting suggests they are one of many. Your goal is to make them feel like your "one and only." Arrive 15 minutes early, but no more than 15-minutes ... they are not literally your only client! Upon arrival, cell phones, pagers: Off! No one else is more important.
Introduce yourself to the receptionist and offer your card. Visit restroom for a final visual and wash and dry hands thoroughly to help eliminate clammy hands - the "kiss of death!" Pop a breath mint. Stand in the reception, briefcase in your left hand, leaving your right hand free to shake hands. In The Meeting Room, exchange business cards before the meeting and strategically align them around your portfolio to use (perfectly pronounced) names when speaking. Your attention detail is noticed. Engage in small talk placing others at ease and make personal client notes. This information can be used in subsequent communication to further relationships.
Remember, the host, always seated first, sits at the 'head of the table' - facing the doors. The most important person is seated to host's right. The second most important person: host's left. Co-presenters sit opposite the host to gesture/exchange silent signals and together, control the meeting. Sit (focused) forward and consume much "space." The perception is powerful. Good posture and eye-contact are imperative. Remember, hands belong on the table; you are not "under handed" or going to draw a sword/weapon! (origin.) Refrain from fidgeting, inattentiveness and touching face/hair. Hosts should stand to introduce versus announce, those present. Guests should stand for self-introductions.
Hosts walk guests to door/elevator/car, referring to the "meeting after the meeting" when it all comes together. Remember to send email and hand-written "thank you" notes within 24-48 hours. You are now prepped, and properly positioned to personally connect, counter and close at the table.
Judith Bowman, speaker and business protocol coach, is president and founder of Judith Bowman Enterprises and Author of "Don't Take the Last Donut and "How to Stand Apart @ work." She may be reached at Judith@protocolconsultants.com.