Most of us spend time – a lot of time – in meetings. Whether it’s a focused and formal meeting with a potential customer, or a more casual get-together over lunch, we all invest our time and energy into meeting with others. With strategic planning and proper etiquette you can help ensure a good use of time for both you and your companion.

There are four things to keep in mind when attending any kind of meeting:

  1. Be prepared
  2. Be respectful
  3. Be attentive
  4. Be focused

Here are some tips for conducting successful meetings:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Do your research so you can speak intelligently about the company or the person you are meeting. The Internet makes it easy to do basic research, and your knowledge will make a good impression.
  • Meet according to their schedule and offer to go to their location. Make the meeting as convenient for the other person as possible. If you are the one requesting the meeting, this is proper etiquette. If a person tells you that a certain time is best for them, make it work for you.
  • Arrive on time and leave on schedule. Time is a precious commodity. The best way to demonstrate your appreciation for the appointment is to arrive and depart on time. Always pre-determine the length of the meeting and confirm it when you arrive.
  • Be respectful of their priorities, requests, and comfort zone. People tend to talk first about the things that are on their mind the most. Let them dwell on that topic, even if it is not what you most want to discuss. Conversely, if they make a request such as, “I’d prefer not to discuss budgets at this point,” then honor that.
  • Do more listening than talking. This can be hard, especially for extroverts. In general, you will get further by listening. Ask open-ended questions to draw people out; this is how you will learn about their priorities and concerns. Asking them questions not only gives you critical information, but also it demonstrates your interest in them and makes them feel important.
  • Ask for what you want. Be sure you get what you came for. Your goal for the meeting might be to brainstorm on new client sources. It might be to voice your interest in joining the board of an organization. Whatever it is, think about it ahead of time and make sure you do not leave the meeting without making the ask!
  • Confirm next steps. It is common for two people to leave an upbeat, enjoyable meeting with no idea of what comes next. Sometimes the next step is obvious, such as providing a referral to a colleague or sending a proposal. In more general “get to know you” meetings, the next step may be unclear, so take the initiative to suggest one, even if it’s just to get together again in a month or two.

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