Client meetings are an essential part of your business as an independent professional. While some independents view client meetings as a motivating event that provides an opportunity to brainstorm, collaborate, and make progress, others may find them stressful, uncomfortable, or intimidating.
These 5 tips will help you overcome the dread of client meetings by making sure your next gathering is efficient, effective, and productive.
One of the biggest keys to effective and efficient meetings is coming prepared. Searching for a particular file or trying to recreate a misplaced document on the spot can be a big waste of time and energy.
Before meeting with your client, double check to ensure you have everything you need and try to anticipate other things that may be useful such as examples of previous work, or your personal resume. You don’t need to bring along your entire office, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, it’s often wise to anticipate forgetfulness or lack of preparation on the part of others. Bring extra copies of materials or items your client may forget to help ensure efficiency, particularly when meeting in your own office or at a neutral location.
Chances are good that at some point in your professional career, either as an independent contractor or as an employee, you’ve encountered a person who feels that meetings are a sign of productivity and will call a meeting simply for the sake of having one. However, as an independent contractor your time is incredibly valuable, so make it a policy to clearly define an objective and have a specific reason for calling a meeting.
Beforehand, determine the overarching purpose of the meeting and outline what you plan to accomplish. Check in with your client to make sure you both agree on this objective before scheduling anything.
With your principal objective in mind, create an agenda to help provide a guide to keep your meeting on track, running smoothly, and ensure you cover necessary subjects. Either you or your client can create the meeting agenda, but you both should have the opportunity to review contribute suggestions to the agenda before the meeting takes place.
For maximum efficiency and optimal time management, agendas should include a defined start and end time and should be distributed to everyone attending ahead of time so they have the opportunity to review the meeting plan.
Even with an agenda in place, distractions can quickly derail a meeting. Unfortunately, this can lead to running out of time before important topics are covered, or may result in a meeting dragging on far past scheduled times. To prevent against this, schedule your meetings in locations that provide minimal distractions. If you find that participants are spending too much time focusing on the minutia of a single topic, or if conversation is going off topic, take a moment to get your meeting back on track. Record any questions or comments participants have, and offer to follow up with answers to their questions. Then, move on to the next topic on your agenda.
A particularly friendly relationship with your client can result in another type of distraction. Personal and social chatting can quickly sidetrack a serious meeting. If you anticipate that this may happen, build some time to catch up into your agenda after project topics have been discussed. This will allow you to steer any deviations in conversation back to work matters until the end.
People too often underestimate the importance of effectively closing a meeting. Instead of simply disbanding after all points on the agenda have been discussed, have a wrap-up plan in place to ensure all attendees get as much out of the meeting as possible.
This wrap-up period is a great opportunity for you and for your client to address any lingering questions or comments. Take time to reiterate or summarize main points of the meeting and check for clarity and understanding. As a final step before closing, make sure any tasks are officially assigned and establish a follow-up plan to make sure your meeting results in action.