As an Entrepreneur, there are many times that you will either arrange or be invited to meetings with sales prospects, customers, investors or suppliers. Follow these quick tips to make sure you are well prepared, ready for the meeting and how to conduct yourself when there!
- Do remember these three things throughout your meeting and you won’t go wrong: Honesty. Ethics.Character.
- Do prepare a slide deck (Microsoft or Apple version) for your audience explaining the subject matter of your meeting, but check ahead of time with your meeting organizer that he/she is in agreement that a slide deck makes sense. If so, request the meeting organizer confirm that there will be somewhere to present the slides either via projector or laptop. 15 slides maximum; less if you can get away with it. Bring the slide deck on a thumb drive as well as a laptop. Make sure you have all the connectors you will need to hook up the laptop to the screen. Carry an extra extension cord. Don’t assume your meeting hosts will have these things – be prepared! If you want to present from a slide deck, arrive at the meeting 15 minutes early so you can get set up. TIP: Bring along some printed and bound copies of the presentation to leave behind with your audience. When printing, use heavy stock (28lb or 32lb printer paper) and try and print double sided. Staples will usually do a decent job.
- Do capture the attention of your audience at the start the meeting. I like to first thank everyone for taking the time and attending. As you are doing this, hand out your business cards to everyone in the room. Then give a quick summary of who you are. You would be surprised how this breaks the ice and relaxes the audience. It doesn’t have to be long, either. 5 – 10 minutes is ample time. TIP: Look at people squarely in the eye. Mentally ask yourself to check the eye color of a person when talking to them. This way you’ll be looking directly at the person.
- Do start the presentation by covering these major points: Who are you? Where do you come from? How did you end up doing what you’re doing? What about college or military service? Any other interesting facts to share? TIP: Light humor can go down well.
- Do describe the history and purpose of your company and what the meeting is about. Are you selling a product or service? Tell the audience what you have to offer. Asking for investment? Identify the opportunity and what you are looking for and at the same time demonstrate how you will make money. Meeting a supplier? Tell him/her what you need and why you have chosen to meet with them. Discuss their products or service. TIP: People like passion. Show your meeting audience that you are excited about your company
- Do present information to the best of your knowledge. Being wrong is not the same thing as lying, although honest mistakes can still damage trust and you’ll end up having to explain the mistake. Not always a deal killer, but embarrassing all the same. TIP: Research everything you are going to say. Be prepared to provide sources of reference, if asked.
- Do show sincerity. It shows you are genuine. Its adds believability to your meeting. So be natural; talk slowly and evenly. Avoid overstating the position and show a certain amount of humility. TIP: No one likes a loud, ill-mannered person, especially if you’re selling – which as Entrepreneurs we invariably are!
- Do show forthrightness and frankness. Volunteer information that the meeting participant(s) needs to know. TIP: Don’t wait for the meeting participants to ask. Invite questions.
- Do dress right. Ahead of your meeting, find out the dress code from the meeting organizer. What will everyone be wearing? Wall Street is probably more formal than California or Florida. Advertising Agencies will be less formal than Venture Capital or Investment Bankers. Investor meetings can go either way, but you’ll gain points for turning up smartly dressed. If in doubt, stick to a jacket and slacks. TIP: Don’t wear jeans unless you are completely sure how your meeting attendees will be dressed.
- Do research the audience. Google the company/organization and the people you are meeting with. Your audience will appreciate you took the time to check out their companies. TIP: LinkedIn is a great way to check out companies and the individuals behind them.
- Don’t be late for the meeting unless there is a perfectly good excuse. Ever. Flight delays, traffic problems are OK. TIP: Phone the meeting organizer as soon as you know you will be late.
- Don’t consume alcohol or eat spicy/garlic-laden type foods before a meeting. TIP: Breath sprays and mints generally don’t work. You can go for curry, tacos, and a beer or two later.
- Don’t assume you can ‘wing it’. Rehearse! TIP: Doing a dry run or two is especially important if you are bring colleagues/co-presenters.
- Don’t pretend or guess at an answer to a question you are asked. Be specific. If you don’t know the answer, say so. It will not be the end of the meeting. TIP: Quickly promise the meeting participants that you will find the answer and provide it as soon as possible.
- Don’t be shy in asking what you need from the meeting. TIP: At the very end of the meeting, politely ask for references if necessary.
- Don’t get too friendly with participants at the meeting unless you know them. TIP: Act professionally, yet appear easy going and affable.
- Don’t answer your mobile phone, check messages, texts unless you have a family emergency going on. Everything else can wait. No exceptions! TIP: If you are waiting for a text or email that is family related, explain the issue and ask permission from the meeting organizer. Apologize at the same time.
- Don’t snack during the meeting or carry a cup of coffee, sandwich or any other food or drink related item into the meeting. TIP: There is nothing wrong with asking the meeting organizer for a drink of water if you are thirsty.
- Don’t take control but allow the meeting organizer to do that. Remain assertive, polite and engaged so you can make sure all your points are covered, heard and discussed. TIP: Repeat key points if you feel they were not understood.
- Don’t leave without asking for the order and/or a follow up meeting/telephone call! TIP: Make sure you have everyone’s contact details, business cards etc