The Perfect Plan to Properly Prepare for an Important Meeting

Preparation is not always fun, but the time you spend getting ready for a meeting can make for a more positive experience.

learn more about Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jacqueline Whitmore • May 5, 2016 Originally published May 5, 2016

Shutterstock

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whoever said, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," was absolutely right. In business and in private life, judgments about your professionalism, your character and your competence are often based on first impressions. Being polite isn't the only important tool you can use.

Dr. P.M. Forni, author of "Choosing Civility" and founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, says one of the reasons we experience stress in business encounters is due to lack of preparation. "It's like an exam. If you have studied for the exam, you may be tense, but if you know the rules of engagement, you will be less nervous and project an aura of poise and charisma," says Forni. He believes when you are prepared, you think more clearly. Instead of investing nervous energy in anticipating the situation, you invest that energy in thinking about the problems and the issues at hand.

Related: Prepare for That Big Meeting by Studying the Hints Your Prospect Leaves Online

Pre-meeting preparation prevents poor performance and gives you an enormous advantage over someone else who shows up without having done their homework. Learn everything you can about your clients. Each one is uniquely different and each has their own special needs. Do not try to use a "one-size-fits-all approach."

During one of my etiquette seminars, an attorney told me he prepares for a business meeting the same way he prepares for a trial. Before a trial, he researches the evidence, interviews suspects or witnesses and finds out as much as possible before presenting his case. Before meeting with a client or his law partners, his preparation is similar. Very few people spend the time it takes to glean important background information, but you can be better prepared for your next client meeting by doing the following:

  • Find out whom you will be meeting. Memorize the names and titles of those you don't know. During the meeting, use the person's name several times in conversation.
  • Visit your client's website to view their company's history, mission statement, staff biographies, articles, news releases and more. Take notes and review them just before the meeting. This research is good fodder for conversation.
  • Break the ice by discussing topics that interest those who will be attending the meeting. Aside from the weather and traffic, most people feel comfortable talking about their alma mater, hobbies, special interests and vacations. If you don't know what interests your client outside of work, ask someone who knows him or her well.
  • Familiarize yourself with the industry in which you'll be working. Read trade publications and get acquainted with the acronyms, buzz words, trends and industry problems or issues.
  • Brush up on current events by reading weekly news websites and one or two major daily newspapers. You'll appear more interesting and knowledgeable if you're apprised of what's going on in the world.

Related: Remarkable Ways to Prepare for a Business Presentation

A pre-meeting strategy is equally important when meeting with your co-workers.

  • Read over the meeting agenda and familiarize yourself with the topics to be discussed.
  • Know who will be attending.
  • Find out if there will be any guests present from outside the company.
  • Jot down any pertinent questions or issues you want to address.
  • Compile any reports you want others to review before or during the meeting.

Related: 7 Tips for Making a Success of That Crucial First Meeting With a Prospect

Preparation is not always fun. In fact, sometimes the hours may seem long and it might not feel like you're making any progress. Yet, success comes from preparation. The hours you spend preparing will give you more confidence and make for a more positive experience.

Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This Co-Founder Was Kicked Out of Retailers for Pitching a 'Taboo' Beauty Product. Now, Her Multi-Million-Dollar Company Sells It for More Than $20 an Ounce.
Have You Ever Obsessed Over 'What If'? According to Scientists, You Don't Actually Know What Would Have Fixed Everything.
Most People Don't Know These 2 Things Are Resume Red Flags. A Career Expert Reveals How to Work Around Them.
Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Business Solutions

5 Procurement Trends To Keep on Your Radar for 2023

Procurement professionals must adapt to inflation and a shortage of skilled labor in the face of an economic recession. Investing in a workforce paired with retraining and development strategies will put your company on top amid economic uncertainty.

Business News

Out With the Kibble and In With the Steak. The World's Richest Dog Has a Net Worth of $400 Million – And a New Netflix Docuseries Too

'Gunther's Millions' is set to unpack the pooch's mysterious fortune and what those around him have done with his inheritance.

Business News

'This Just Can't Be for Real': Fyre Festival Fraudster Billy McFarland is Now Hiring For His New Tech Company -- And He's Already Selling Merch

McFarland was released from house arrest last September and is currently being ordered to pay $26 million in restitution to fraud victims.

Living

Here's Why You Stop Expecting Support from Others and Become Your Own Cheerleader

Learning to be our own cheerleaders is good for our mental health. Here's why.