There are so many things that no one told me when I first started working. I really wished that someone had given me the inside tips on how to be effective in preparing for a meeting. Not the proposal, not the ask - what I was looking for was a break down on the logistics of meeting preparation. Here is my own list of how I get ready for a meeting.
One day before
Send confirmation email
Send a confirming email to the person confirming all details - time, place and location. If you are meeting in a common place, like a Starbucks, include the street address. Also include your cell number. If you are meeting at a coffee shop, ask the person for their coffee or tea order.
Pack your bag
I always pack my proposal, notebook, pen, directions to the place, shoes (if I am going to change shoes when I get there), and a spare bag. I always have a small mirror to double check my appearance. I also stick in a granola bar in case I get hungry so I don't have to waste time looking for food. Stick some change in your bag in case you have to park at a meter or unexpectedly need to take a bus. With all this ready to go, I am prepared for changes at the last minute.
Dress to match where you are going
More than once I have shown up to a meeting at an IT company and been completely overdressed.
Run off a hard copy of the directions to the place
What if your GPS or cell battery dies? It's worth having the address and directions in hard copy as backup. It is also a good idea to check out the parking situation, including whether you will need change for a meter.
Plan what time you need to leave for your visit
Always include 15 minutes for getting lost + 5 minutes to figure out the elevators/checking in with security/finding parking. Plus plan to arrive 10 minutes early. You can always sit in your car and stop off along the way if you are too early.
Draft your thank you
Whether you get a "yes" or "no" (or "maybe"), you will want to thank the person for taking time to meet you. If you are a handwritten letter person, address the envelope. If you are an email person, have an email drafted.
Before you arrive
Check your appearance
That mirror in your bag can help you make sure you don't have spinach in your teeth.
Change your shoes at least 2 blocks before you get to the location (except in winter).
It is not a good look to have the person you are meeting with catch you changing your shoes in the building lobby. It is just awkward.
Get settled before you arrive
Before I head onto an elevator, or enter a restaurant, I have taken off my coat, I have changed out of my boots and stuck them in a bag. The goal for me is to arrive looking calm. Not arrive looking flustered and looking like I have bags and coats and shoes everywhere.
Order both coffees
If you are meeting at a coffee shop, order both when you arrive. It is a nice way to greet your guest and also means that you can spend the full time allotted for the meeting talking instead of spending 10 minutes in a line adding cream and sugar.
Get settled in
Before they arrive, have your pad of paper and pen out. If you are meeting at an office, turn off your phone. If you are meeting at a coffee shop, home or restaurant, turn it off as they arrive.
If they are a no show
If, after 10 minutes, they are not there, call to make sure that you have the right place, the right time. Something may have come up.
Relax and go from there
With this preparation, the meeting can unfold. You may still get a "no," but by arriving calm and well prepared, you can feel confident that you put your best foot forward.
After the meeting
Send your thank you note. The other person took the time to meet and you will make a positive impression by expressing your gratitude.
Debrief with your colleague if someone was with you and be sure you have a shared understanding of next steps and who is doing what actions.
Record any follow-up actions.
What are your pro tips? What are your secrets to meeting success? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
Ann Rosenfield tends to always run late which is why she needs a check list for meetings. She once had a donor refuse to speak to her when she was 5 minutes late. She learned from that lesson.