Your Technology Recovery Plan

We’ve been tethered to our tech devices over the past few weeks and they enabled our productivity in many ways. However, now that several states are in the process of cautiously discontinuing quarantine protocols, I think it’s time for us to rethink our heavy tech dependency. Too much of a good thing can lead to unfortunate consequences.

Unzip Zoom

I suspect that those who shifted from going to the office to working from home were particularly entangled in videoconference technology, which can eventually send team members into diminished productivity (or maybe just annoyance) if overdone. Well meaning managers inexperienced in the mechanics of leading an entirely remote team are known to hold many meetings and because videoconferencing technology exists, some managers will hold a (probably Zoom hosted) meeting every morning at 9:00 AM, for example, so everyone will be in the loop and, especially, the big bosses will know that your boss is getting the work done (or doing a good job at making it look that way!).

Despite the technology’s surging popularity, there is no need for every meeting to be a videoconference call. Audio only conference calls remain useful, especially when they are of less than 30 minutes duration. Furthermore, the matter at hand might be resolved in a two paragraph email. Resist the temptation to use video calls as your default communication tool because that’s not what it was designed to be.

Moreover, no one who is working from home should on a regular basis feel the need to assess the Home & Garden Magazine readiness of their home/ office space whenever they need to talk business. Not only that but your home may not have the best WiFi service. Your neighbors are also working from home, participating in videoconference meetings while their children are home schooling lessons on Skype or Google Hangout. Your internet signal could slow down or freeze up. Videoconferences are pressure and one does not always need to take it on to get the job done.

Physical over digital

As was discussed in the last post, suggest a face2face meeting with your VIP and arrange to have at least a beverage on the table when you meet. Oh, it’s been so long since we’ve been able to grab a coffee or whatever and sit down at a table and talk. Oh, how powerful that simple ritual is and how we took it for granted until it was gone!

Now that it is, or soon will be, within our grasp again, why not pay homage and invite a client you’re reconnecting with to meet you for ice cream now that warmer days are here? Surprise and delight!

Daily tech break

Rest your eyes and hunched shoulders and schedule two 30 minute tech tool breaks every day (unless you’re on project deadline). Believe it or not, taking a couple of short breaks during your work day is a time management technique that boosts energy, concentration power, creativity and productivity. We all need to periodically unplug and refresh ourselves physically, psychologically and emotionally because resting is necessary.

Pencil and paper

It’s also possible to walk one’s use of technology all the way back and periodically remind yourself of the charms of paper and pencil. The next time you (and your team or client, for that matter) need to brainstorm ideas or make a list, pull out a sheet of paper and a pen and write in longhand. Whether you’re in a face2face or videoconference meeting, don’t be afraid to go low tech old school every once in a while. You can use the white board in your office and plot a timeline in longhand. When you’ve completed it, take a picture with your phone and send it around. The raw, in the moment look of your notes will be the soul of creativity and authenticity.

Finally, you can cut back your screen time and reclaim the lost art of reading a physical book or newspaper. Every Sunday I buy the paper and read it in sections throughout the week. My eyes and brain appreciate the break; I enjoy it and find it relaxing.

Whenever I grab something to eat, I almost always also grab something to read as well. If I want to share an article with someone, I go online to find the link and copy/ paste, reminding myself that technology maintains its advantages.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Kim Clark May 19, 2020. Office at Chase Bank 800 Boylston Street Boston, MA.

Meeting Maestro

The ability to run a good meeting is widely regarded as a hallmark of a competent leader.  Meetings are important forums for communication and the development of goals and strategies that will move an organization forward.  When designed and conducted correctly, they promote understanding, cooperation and bonding and lay the groundwork for productive and satisfying teamwork.  Yet unfortunately, many meetings are useless time-wasters that result less in action and more in frustration.

I facilitate meetings for a living (mostly strategy planning, at for-profit and not-for-profit organizations) and I think the reason I’ve chosen this path is because I’ve been forced to attend so many meetings that have been a complete insult, such a huge waste of time that years later, the bad memories continue to haunt me.

Respectfully, I offer readers suggestions on how to run a meeting that will make you look good, from pre-meeting preparation, to your opening remarks and the conclusion.

I.      Create an agenda

People want to know what to expect and understand why they’ve been asked to attend.

II.     Invite stakeholders only

People want to feel that their presence at the meeting is crucial to the development of a resolution.  Be selective in who you include; most meetings should not be open forums.  Invite those who care about the outcome of the subject under discussion and are willing and able to contribute to its resolution.

III.    Arrange a convenient date, place and time

Send an email and propose two or three possible meeting dates and times.  If there are any on your invite list who must be in attendance, clear the dates with them first, then invite a wider circle.

IV.     Send a meeting reminder, attach the agenda and hand-outs

Two or three days before the meeting, send out a reminder and attach the agenda and meeting hand-outs.

V.      Confirm the meeting room and A/V equipment

It is advisable to first check the availability of the preferred meeting location and once specifics are confirmed, quickly reserve the room and audiovisual equipment that you will use (sreen, microphone, podium, LCD for Power Point, etc.). Just before you send out your meeting reminder, confirm that what you’ll need will be in the room.

VI.     Verify that A/V equipment works

Audiovisual equipment loves to malfunction.  Do a test run and de-bug the system if necessary.  Your mission is to make the transition from participant arrival to the meeting’s start seamless.

VII.    Bring hard copies of the agenda and hand-outs

Precious few people will print out the meeting materials and bring them along.

VIII.   Start on time

Be respectful of participant’s time.  Starting 5 minutes late is OK, start sooner if all have arrived.

IX.     Welcome and purpose statement

Thank everyone for making the time to attend and then state what the meeting will help to achieve.  Keep the purpose statement simple, ideally something that can be stated in two or three sentences, tops.

X.      Encourage participation

Bringing out good ideas is what meetings are all about: capitalizing on the creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity that group synergy can produce.

XI.     De-fuse agitators and hijackers

Meeting hogs are to be discouraged. There may be someone in the room (alas, perhaps an ally) who is genius at pulling the meeting off-agenda and dragging it into the weeds on subjects that may be worthwhile, but would be best discussed in another venue.  Should such a statement be made, thank the person for bringing it up, since it’s probably related to the topic, but simply state that time must be devoted to the agenda and other off-shoots will benefit from discussion at another time and forum.

XII.   Sum up and end on time

Whenever possible, end the meeting on time and early is even better.  Most of all, achieve the meeting objectives.  Review and confirm all action items and individual or team responsibilities.  Within a week, send the meeting minutes to all who attended (and maybe a higher-up who should be kept in the loop), taking care to put all agreements and time tables in writing.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

Smart Questions for the Client Interview

A Freelance consultant’s first project specs meeting with a client or prospect is the time to start building the foundation for a successful working relationship.  A major element of a positive and productive relationship is your understanding of the client’s priorities,  which will allow you to assess what will be required to meet or exceed expectations.

Are you capable of doing the job alone, or must you subcontract some portion to a Freelance colleague ? Can you successfully complete the project within the client’s preferred time frame?  What will be your project fee or hourly rate?

Asking the right questions guarantees that you will receive the information that you’ll need.  As the meeting proceeds,  be sure to ask these three questions.  Your client will be happy that you did.

  1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?

Freelance consultants must hit the ground running. Unlike salaried employees,  there is no training or orientation period.  Often,  there are certain components of a project that organization leaders deem more critical than others. These components could be the most time-sensitive,  or simply the most urgent problems. If there are any front-burner issues,  you want to be prepared to take them on straight away.

     2.  What do you see as driving results for this project?

Getting your arms around these matters can make your project work easier and ensure that you achieve all milestones within the preferred time frame.

      3.  How does this project fit into the organization’s highest priorities?

Seeing the big picture is always helpful.  How important is your project to the company’s long-term strategy and mission-critical goals?  Your pricing will also be impacted by this knowledge. If the project is pivotal,  the smart Freelancer charges a premium.

Within 24 hours after the meeting,  send an email to confirm all major issues and agreements requested by the client and yourself  (think scope of duties,  milestones,  deadlines and your payment schedule). Your email can constitute the project contract and it has legal standing.

If your client would like you to perform additional tasks along the way, confirm that request, including the completion timetable, in writing and specify the additional fee and the payment due date.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

“Sorry, I Really Don’t Have Time To Meet…”

Although Summer officially ends on September 22 this year,  by custom the season ends on the day after Labor Day and this year we are back to work early on September 2.   If you were a smart and ambitious cookie,   you met with a good prospective client or two during Summer and you have plans in motion that will improve your chances of having a profitable 4th Quarter.  But maybe there are still a couple of people you’d like to connect with?

We all have someone on our prospect list whom we have been unable to reach.  This prospective client is often prestigious and holds the promise of green-lighting a big payday.  It is frustrating when we can’t get added to this person’s calendar.  Yet there are sometimes ways to capture lightning in a bottle and schedule that much-desired prospect meeting.  Good luck and timing will be involved,  but these will be aided by your ingenuity.

If you have not yet met your prospect,  then try to arrange a personal introduction.  Personal introductions are more effective than self-introductions and an introduction made by someone who is trusted by the prospect will be the most effective.  Tap into your LinkedIn connections and scroll through the connections of your connections.  It is a tedious process,  but you may discover a shared connection who could arrange to introduce you to your prospect.

Second,   conduct an internet search to find out what has been written about the prospect.   You may learn that this individual sits on a board where you have a friend who can facilitate an introduction.  You may learn that your prospect will present or moderate at a conference.  If that is the case,  then you should attend,  if possible.  Take notes at the presentation and ask a good question.   After the talk,  follow-up and speak with the prospect.  Your question will make your self-introduction easy to do and your good question will give you credibility.

Once you’ve met your prospect,  you will ask for a meeting.  Your prospect is a C Suite dweller who has many demands on his/her time.   In order to earn a sliver of that person’s time,   you must demonstrate that you will bring value,  that your meeting request is not all about you.   Find out what subjects may resonate with your prospect by searching for news about the prospect’s company;  for articles that your prospect may have authored;  for articles in which he/she was quoted;  and read postings on the company’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.  In addition,  visit the company website and find out if any interesting news has been posted.

Information gleaned from your research will be used to devise and present your value.   If you can teach your prospect something that he/she would like to know about,  then you are sharing  knowledge and insight and not just attempting to extract  a favor or a contract.  If you found that the prospect has authored an article or book,  or that he/she has been quoted,  then offer compliments and comment.  Because you will have made it known that there will be something in it for the prospect,  he/she will be more likely to agree to meet with you,  however briefly.

Offer to buy your prospect coffee or a quick breakfast and state what you’d like to discuss.   Additionally,  state that perhaps he/she would appreciate information on the subject that you’ve identified as potentially relevant.   Ask for 30 minutes of time.  If you learn that the prospect is on the way to another meeting,   offer a ride if you have a car and get another chance to not just talk,  but build a relationship.

24 hours after the meeting,  send written thanks.  An email may suffice,  but if the meeting was especially productive,  then send a short hand-written note on your company stationery or in a small note card that appears business-like.  Reconfirm any agreed-up actions and the time-table.  No matter the outcome of the meeting,   use the encounter to build the foundation for a lasting business relationship.

Thanks for reading and happy Labor Day weekend,

Kim

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,

Kim

Achieve Business Objectives With Facilitated Strategy Meetings

Attracting and retaining customers and ensuring that an organization remains competitive in the marketplace are the primary responsibilities of for-profit and not-for-profit organization leaders.  Organizations run on revenue,  regardless of tax classification.  Every three to five years,  savvy leaders review their organization’s current state and the environment in which it operates,  the organizations’ customers,  the delivery of products and services,  the competitive landscape,  obstacles and threats to success and apparent opportunities and use that information to identify and prioritize goals that will set the organization on a path to a sustainable future.

It is imperative to create the conditions for a successful strategy planning or process improvement retreat/meeting.  The world has changed and there is no time to waste on possibly unproductive  “brainstorming sessions”  that may have sufficed in the past.  More than likely,  the results of the planning retreat are vital to the organization and it would be unwise to allow the winds of fortune or internal politics to control outcomes.

Engaging a professional meeting facilitator to guide your strategy planning or process improvement retreat will guarantee that participants will identify goals and objectives that are SMART  (specific,  measurable,  attainable,  relevant and timely)  and earn the support of mid-level managers and other key staff.   A facilitator allows all stakeholders to fully participate in the meeting,  rather than confining a key decision-maker to the role of meeting overseer and time-keeper.

The facilitator creates a positive meeting environment for the participants and lays the groundwork for teamwork and productivity.  He/she  keeps participants focused on the topic and momentum flowing.  Should a strong personality attempt to high-jack the agenda,  or if  the meeting somehow drifts off topic,  the facilitator employs techniques to re-establish focus without offending or squelching participant engagement and creativity.

A skilled facilitator knows how to bring forth the wisdom in the room.   He/she knows that most leaders already have the answers to the challenges their organization faces because they are its leaders.  They only need the right flow of energy to bring wisdom and good ideas to the surface.  If the group gets stuck,  the facilitator will help participants to consider the questions that should be asked,  which is another way to access the right answers.

One competency at which your meeting facilitator will be particularly adept is building consensus around a common vision and  priorities,  even if interpretations of these matters are divergent.  Helping opposing camps to listen to the reasoning behind the concerns and choices of the other side can lead to the discovery of a  “third way”,  alternatives that incorporate the key strengths of each viewpoint,  address what is important to each camp and allow the group to coalesce around this new hybrid approach.

Identifying long- and short-term goals that when implemented will grow market share;  overcoming business challenges;  improving service delivery and other process systems;  creating or more effectively utilizing competitive advantages;  and improving  bottom line profitability over the approaching 3 – 5 years is how organization leaders fulfill their responsibilities and behave like good stewards.  Contracting with a professional meeting and strategy planning facilitator ensures that leaders will meet these obligations and dispatch them appropriately.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Face-to-Face Client Meeting Primer

When you run a good meeting,  you show prospective clients that you can be trusted.  The project will be in good hands because you are a pro.   In your meeting you will show that you are prepared: you understand the clients’ needs and the needs of the clients’ customers.  You demonstrate your value-added and ability to meet or exceed expectations.  You know how to land the plane and they will  look like a genius for hiring you.

Here is the continuation of the meeting primer developed by Geoffrey James,  author of  “How to Say it: Business to Business Selling” (2011).   James  suggests that you follow these rules to make sure that you make a good impression in your next meeting and I totally agree.  I’ve edited and condensed his list.

8.   Don’t start the meeting with a SALES PITCH.  If you are meeting with a prospective client who would like to get to know you better,  respect that wish and be grateful for the chance to build a business relationship.  Do not be crass and push a selfish agenda.   Rather, encourage the prospect to talk about him/herself and the business and what’s gone on in the past, what the preferred future will look like and the role you can play in bringing the business to that point.

9.   RESEARCH the client’s organization,  so that you’ll have a good understanding of what business priorities and concerns are likely to be before you walk into the meeting.   Have ideas of how your services can benefit the organization.  Visit the company website and read the mission statement,   familiarize yourself with the organization’s primary products and services and get to know its clients.  In other words,  do your homework.

10.   Remember the NAMES of everyone at the meeting.   After the introductions,  make a note of the names of all participants.  Offer your business card to all and try your best to likewise get a card from everyone present,  so that you can confirm titles and have contact info.

11.   Take NOTES,  so that you’ll have a record of what everyone has agreed to,  especially you.  Remember to bring a nice note pad or your notebook computer.  It can be very useful to send a confirmation email to everyone,  as a way to confirm any agreements and time tables.

12.   Keep the meeting on FOCUS,  so that you don’t lose control of the agenda and fail to get your questions answered.  It will be up to you to bring the meeting back to the main topic if the client  tends to meander into sidebars.  Make sure the meeting is productive and not a waste of time.

13.   End the meeting on TIME.  Respect the client’s schedule and do what you can to follow the agenda.  The only exception would be if the client is anxious to push forward ASAP and creates space in his/her calendar to spend more time discussing the project.

14.   FOLLOW UP on whatever you agree to do,  within the expected time frame.

15.   Write a THANK YOU LETTER.  If you were invited to meet with a prospective client or reconnect with a previous one,  demonstrate your appreciation in writing.  Get some nice stationery  (time to get your own personalized business stationery printed up fast if you haven’t done so already)  and write a three or four sentence letter.   Drop it in the mail maximum 48- 72 hours after the meeting.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Face-to-Face Sales Meeting Primer

Lucky you,  at last you scored a meeting with the dream client you’ve been pursuing for months.   Or did you get back in the door of a former client and sign on for repeat business?  A meeting to discuss specifics has been called and you can taste the contract.  To make sure that you don’t inadvertently put your foot in it and screw up your good fortune,   herewith is a sales meeting primer that will help your face-to-face meetings produce the outcome you want.  These pointers were developed by Geoffrey James,  author of  “How to Say It: Business to Business Selling”  (2011).  I’ve condensed and edited.

1.    Have a specific GOAL, or list of OBJECTIVES,  that will define the purpose of the meeting.  When the meeting is called to discuss a specific project,  then your goal is to get the information you need to determine how you will meet the client’s expectations and the project  time-table.  You must also determine whether you can do the job on your own,  or if will you need to subcontract some part of it.  A few days before the meeting,  start jotting down questions that will bring out the necessary info.

2.   Create a meeting AGENDA,  which can be that list of questions you’ve come up with.   

3.    Arrive EARLY to the meeting,  15 minutes ahead of time.   Go to the restroom and check your appearance.

4.    Turn off your PHONE.  

5.    Do not TALK TOO MUCH.  Remember that the meeting’s purpose is for you to gather information and for the client to communicate project needs and timetable,  confirm that you are qualified to do the job and get a sense of how it will be to work with you.  By all means,  greet your client with some friendly banter that reveals your authentic self.  A minute or two of social lubricant is necessary to relax everyone.  Just don’t let the chit-chat go on and on.  You are the one who must gracefully segue  into the business conversation.

6.    Don’t be PASSIVE.  Remember that you’ve been invited into the meeting to make a contribution,  to add your expert insights and opinions.  Speak up when necessary.  Ask questions,  provide answers.

7.    Don’t ARGUE with the client.  If your client has a business practice or opinion that seems unusual to say the least,  diplomatically ask what has brought him/her to that conclusion.  There may be a compelling reason that you haven’t thought of.  Be careful not to make the client feel as though he/she is out in left field,  or behind the times  (especially if that is exactly the case!).  

Social media gets all the hype and we all love the convenience of email.  Still,  there’s no way to underestimate the value  of human interaction.  For many conversations,  the telephone is better than email and a face-to-face meeting is the best of all.  Learn how to make the most of your meetings.  I’ll be back next week with more on how to run good meetings.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Power Lunch Etiquette

When establishing a relationship with a new or prospective client,  or sorting through a big and important project,  stepping away from electronic forms of communication and choosing to arrange an old-school  face to face meeting is the the most practical route.  So many vibes and nuances require that the parties be in the room together.   Inviting a client to leave the office for an hour or so,  away from various distractions,  is a smart move that will pay many dividends.  Lunch with a current or prospective client,  or with a colleague you’d like to know better  is invariably more productive and pleasurable than an office meeting.

I use here the example of  lunch,  but your client’s schedule may indicate that a breakfast meeting or afternoon coffee will be preferable.  If getting the client out of the office proves impossible,  offer to bring breakfast or lunch to the office.  It ‘s not ideal,  but I’ve found that a little food makes for a more relaxed meeting that sets the stage for candid conversations and relationship building.

Power lunch etiquette begins before the two of you sit down to eat.  It starts with the invitation.  When it is extended,  suggest two or three restaurants with good reputations that are convenient to the client’s office.  Welcome suggestions from your guest.  You’ll select the client’s choice of restaurant,  of course,  and remember to compliment his/her choice.  Visit the website,  peruse the menu and make a reservation if required.

Be sensitive to your client’s dietary requirements and preferences.  Whether or not there is a medical reason,  many people  (especially in the Northeast and the West Coast)  are following vegetarian,  gluten-free, vegan,  raw, etc. diets.  “As the host,  it is your responsibility to ensure that your client’s experience is pleasurable”, says etiquette expert Tina Hayes.  “Pay attention to details”.

Confirm the meeting time and place with your client/guest and the reservation with the restaurant the day before.  Exchange cell phone numbers in case one of you is delayed.  You will arrive at the restaurant 10-15 minutes early and give your credit card info to the host and request a quiet table that is suitable for talking business. Then wait in the reception area.  When your guest arrives, turn off your phone so that you won’t be interrupted.

As a general rule,  it is inadvisable to immediately plunge into a business discussion as soon as your guest arrives.  Be prepared to make small-talk and have a couple of non-business topic sready,  to allow both of you to relax and get to know each other in a different context  (avoid politics or any other potentially controversial topics).  Let your guest know that it’s OK to order a drink if he/she likes and if you’re meeting on a Friday,  that just may happen.  If your guest orders a drink,  you may also order one.  If your guest abstains,  you do the same.

Wait until the meal has been ordered and beverages have been served before easing into the business talk.  Focus the conversation around your guest and give him/her a chance to open up.  Do that by asking about business,  projects that are in progress,  what’s on the drawingboard for the future.  then inquire as to how you can help and what needs must be urgently met.

Be mindful that you must pace the discussion and be respectful of your guest’s time.  Plan on 75-90 minutes for the average business lunch and 45-60 minutes for breakfast or coffee meetings.  When finished, express your appreciation for the client’s time.  Send a written thank you note (not an email).

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Get Your First Impression Right the First Time

Congratulate yourself.  You were lucky enough to get a good referral from one of your clients and you’ve been invited to meet with your newest prospect.  Because you’re smart enough to know that first impressions set the stage for success in any relationship,  you want to get this right. 

Allegedly,  there is research that shows a prospect will decide whether he/she might be willing to work with a Freelance consultant within five seconds of their initial encounter.   To get the most of those precious few seconds,  why not do some preparation to make sure that your first impressions do the job for you—and not on you!

Keep fit

Good health gives you a glow that makes you appear more attractive and competent.   It’s not necessary to emulate a runway model or ironman triathlete.   Just follow some sort of fitness regimen that suits you,  whether it’s 3-4 hours/week at the gym,  biking or walking to work,  or maybe playing in a softball or volleyball league.  Regular exercise brings many benefits,  including more restful sleep,  decreased levels of stress and higher self-esteem.  

A diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and modest amounts of protein and carbohydrates,  about 60-100 ounces of water each day and limited alcoholic beverages  is the other half of a good fitness regimen and will make you look alert and capable.  Top it off by getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night and abstaining from nicotine.

Visual signals

Like it or not,  everyone makes snap judgments based factors such as looks,  weight,  hair,  jewelry,  make-up,  facial expression and more.   Be sure your visual signals  communicate that you are the type of person your prospect will want to do business with.  Always look sleek and professional,  neither too casual nor overly formal.  If possible,  find out what the company dress code norms are before  your meeting.  However,  even if the company dress code is jeans and polo shirt,  you must do a little better  (think business casual in that instance).

Good greeting

Your greeting consists of your smile,  your words and your handshake  (or bow, as appropriate).   A smile conveys that you are pleasant and approachable.   The words you choose for your greeting should be appropriately formal and never too informal.   Your handshake should be firm and neither limp nor crushing.   Lastly,  make sure that you use the appropriate honorific:  Mr.,  Ms.,  Admiral,  Captain, etc.,   to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and know how to address your prospect.

Smart agenda

A huge part of  first impressions hinge on whether you seem confident in yourself and what you have to offer.  Your prospect will sense whether you are prepared for the meeting,  or if you’re just winging it.   Therefore,  it’s important to know what you’d like to accomplish in the meeting.   A few days before the appointment,  start jotting down possibilities and come up with three or four reasonable meeting objectives.   Preparation radiates a poise that communicates credibility and competence.

Rehearse entrance

Now that you have all the components for creating a winning first impression,  give yourself the benefit of a dress rehearsal.   Practice how you’ll enter the room  (or if the prospect comes to you,   how you will stand and greet him/her),  how you will express your greeting and how you will shake hands or bow.   Rehearse it until you are comfortable with all aspects,  including the goals of your meeting agenda.  If possible,  videotape it and critique.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading,

Kim