Whether you see them as an opportunity to make progress or a colossal waste of time, client meetings will play a part in your independent contracting career. I have spoken to many independents that dread attending client meetings and see them as ineffective, uncomfortable, and a total time drain. If you fit into this group, I’m writing this blog to let you know that meetings don’t have to be the necessary evil you may see them as. Below are some helpful tips from members who have learned how to turn client meetings into motivating events that open up opportunities to collaborate and make progress.
Define the Objective – We’ve all been there; no one likes unnecessary meetings. Tip number one is to have a clearly defined objective for the meeting. You may have a main purpose for the meeting, but also try to determine what the single most important thing your client wants to achieve as well. Before scheduling the meeting, be sure that both you and the client are clear on the objective.
Outline an Agenda – With the objective defined, it’s now time to create a guide to keep the meeting on track, making sure all important items are discussed. Outline the agenda. Depending on your client, you may or may not be responsible for creating the agenda. Even if you’re not the author you should still contribute by suggesting agenda points and questions to be answered. For maximum success, make sure all parties attending receive a copy of the agenda prior to the meeting and have time to review and prepare.
Arrive Prepared – As the hired expert, you need to come to the meeting prepared to present the services you’ve provided or will provide, brainstorm solutions, answer questions and gather information. Once you know the objective and agenda, gather as much knowledge on the subjects to be covered. Make a list of everything you’ll need to bring and try to anticipate some things that may become useful. Write down items that your client will need to be informed of and perhaps some questions you may have about the client’s needs. Lastly, it may be good to bring along a few business cards in case you are introduced to someone new at the meeting.
Know When to Listen – Use each client meeting as an opportunity to understand the client’s needs. Ask intelligent questions to not only gain knowledge, but also to show you are interested in their work and are receptive to their input regarding the project. Unless expected otherwise, try to listen more than you talk. The more information you have from the client the better you can respond to their needs.
Remember the Objective – Stay focused! Losing sight of the true purpose of the meeting can lead to nothing being accomplished. Even with a set agenda, a simple distraction can easily and quickly derail the plan. Don’t forget the desired end result and work to steer discussions toward the bigger picture. If the small details of a topic are consuming too much time, one way to effectively move forward is to ask the participants to write down any additional questions or comments on the topic that can be addressed later. Then move on to the next talking point.
Summarize and Establish the Next Steps – Don’t just disband after all the talking points have been discussed. Make sure the meeting is closed in an effective way. Summarizing the main points is a great way to confirm that all parties are on the same page. Before closing, establish the next steps by assigning tasks that need to be accomplished and develop a follow-up plan. It’s now time to take action.
What steps do you take to ensure client meetings are productive?