5 Key Tips to Plan Well for Business Meetings

  • Posted on: 27 July 2014
  • By: Leonard Shostak

Business meetings at the workplace are not the most desired working engagements. When it comes to business meetings with potential new clients or partners, however, such meetings present new business and career opportunities, as well as the potential to establish exciting new business relationships. Therefore, it’s important not to take such business meetings for granted and to prepare for them in advance. Here are some key tips for preparing for an important business meeting.

1. Learn more about the person/people you plan to have a business meeting with

Do your research to find out details about their background, expertise, experience and skill set. Go beyond the research on the surface to find information about their accomplishments, interesting discoveries they might have made, etc. Learning about their interests outside of their work could be an extra bonus for you to show genuine curiosity about the person. It might also help you to develop a more authentic relationship from the first meeting. Success in business is closely related to relationship building.

2. Learn about the industry

If your business meeting is with someone who needs your expertise or skills in a specific area, but this person works in an industry you are not familiar with, take the time to learn more about the overall trends and recent tendencies in that specific industry. It’s important to show that you care about understanding the industry better. For example, as a business consultant who helps early-stage entrepreneurs launch their ideas, what you bring to the table is your knowledge and experience in launching businesses regardless of their specific industry. However, learning more about a specific business niche (social entrepreneurs in the education sector who focus on technology, for example) would set you apart from other consultants by showing your interest in and understanding of the potential client's industry.

3. Find 3 key challenges about this person’s business and prepare solutions for each that you can offer during the meeting

Business meetings should not focus simply on selling your services or proving how valuable your expertise and skills are. More powerful and meaningful business meetings are the ones during which you offer specific solutions, you show that you understand the person’s business challenges and you are prepared to create value for that person with specific, tangible solutions. Remember that it’s not about you, it’s about them!

4. Schedule the meeting in advance and be flexible to accommodate the other person’s schedule

People running businesses juggle multiple priorities. Time is important to them (surely to you as well!) and your ability to understand and accommodate their time constraints, to show flexibility and to use time effectively will make a great first impression. This will also help them and you to use time more effectively.

5. Find a meeting location that works for the busy person’s schedule and learn in advance what their dress code might be

Being flexible and accommodating is about serving well without jeopardizing your effective time management. Flexibility is important not only for the meeting time, but also for the meeting location, to show that you want to make it easy for your potential client to meet. Being aware of the appropriate dress code is important too. You don’t want to show up over-dressed or under-dressed. If your potential client is an early-stage entrepreneur, it’s very likely that they would not expect you to be wearing a suit with a tie. Business casual attire in this case might be more appropriate. However, if your potential new client is the Founder and CEO of a well-known and established large business who is looking to scale operations and needs your expertise, more formal business attire might be more appropriate. Use your best judgement for each situation. Understanding the industry better could be particularly helpful for this decision.

There are certainly more aspects to think about when it comes to preparing for a business meeting. However, following the 5 tips outlines above would give you a good foundation to prepare well for your meeting and make a better first impression. There is a lot of truth behind the saying that success is 90% preparation.