Business Meeting Etiquette

We are now on the other side of Memorial Day Weekend.  For many Freelance consultants,  the start of Summer means that work assignments wrap up and one wonders not only how to make good use of time,  but also how to create the conditions for a profitable September and fourth quarter.  Over the years,  I’ve found that a surprising number of decision-makers are also less busy in Summer and are therefore more amenable to scheduling a meeting with me.

On the other hand,  you may be very busy working with a client who must have a certain initiative up and running right after Labor Day.  You may be leading a team and thus responsible for achieving milestones,  disseminating information and maintaining team member enthusiasm and focus during steamy Summer days,  all of which will cause you to occasionally schedule meetings.

Regardless of your motive,  take steps to ensure that your meetings are perceived as worthwhile by those who attend.  Define a clear purpose and use that to create an agenda.  If you are a project leader,  you must identify questions that need answers,  confront current or potential roadblocks,  or possibly evaluate the need to make adjustments to the project scope or its time-table.  Next,  decide who should attend and begin the scheduling process.  Invite only the stakeholders: those who are carrying out the project,  the project sponsor and those who will be directly impacted by its outcomes.

To win a client meeting,  your agenda is to articulate the value of what you propose and convince the prospect to meet with you and ultimately,  offer you a contract.  A telephone call in which you propose a meeting is the simplest approach,  unless you can arrange to  “accidentally” encounter him/her at some location and  make an in-person request.

When bringing together your team,  a group email is the preferred method of contact and within it state the purpose of the meeting;  who will be asked to present;  any materials that team members should bring along;  and the expected length of the meeting.  In both scenarios,  offer two or three possible date/time options.  When a date has been chosen,  immediately send a confirmation email and reconfirm 24-48 hours before the meeting date,  with an agenda and relevant reports attached for the team meeting.

Set a good tone by opening your meeting no more than 5 minutes after the official start-time and by warmly greeting participants and thanking them for attending.  Remember at the start to properly introduce any guests or anyone who is new to the team,  stating proper names,  job titles and role on the project.  Have hard copies of the agenda and any meeting materials available for each attendee,  no matter that those were sent with the confirmation email.

Move through the agenda items and get resolution on each one,  even if that means follow-up is needed.  Encourage attendees to participate and enforce good manners.   Make certain that no one gets shouted down and that everyone who would like to contribute gets a respectful hearing.  Ask that only one person speak at a time and that those who would like to speak first raise their hand to be recognized by you,  the presider.   End the meeting on time,  unless participants agree to stay longer to complete unfinished items.

If the meeting is held in a restaurant,   you called the meeting and you pay the bill.  If you are a consulting project team leader,  confirm reimbursement procedures with your company contact in advance.  If you meet with a client,  arrive at the restaurant 15 minutes early and arrange a discreet payment protocol with the host,  so that an awkward moment is avoided.

Enlist a meeting note taker,  or take them yourself.   Within 72 hours after the meeting,  send to all participants a draft copy of the notes and invite corrections.  When corrections have been made,  send the final copy to all who attended and also to the project sponsor,   whether or not s/he attended.  If meeting with a client,  send a thank you letter that is hard copy or an email,   in which you document any agreements and action items.  Make sure that all meeting participants carry through with their follow-up commitments in a timely fashion.

Happy Summer and thanks for reading,



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