Whether in a face-to-face gathering or a Zoom video meeting, we've all been there. You're sitting in your meeting and the person you're speaking with is doing something that makes you feel like they're not paying attention, and all you want to do is end the meeting and get out of there.
Would you believe me if I told you that I had a virtual meeting a few weeks ago and the person I was meeting starting clipping their nails during the meeting? Truly, I can't make this stuff up.
That said, here are five things to avoid doing during a business meeting.
1. Don't check your phone unless you think it's more interesting than me.
Even when someone takes out their phone to take notes, I tell them that there's no need for notes and to just leave the phone aside. Now, don't get me wrong, I've been guilty of this too. The thought of turning on my phone after an hourlong meeting and finding hundreds of unread messages gives me massive anxiety, so I have also slipped in a glance at my phone on occasion.
But if you check your phone during a meeting, what you're in essence saying to the person across from you is that these messages, emails, Facebook comments, or tweets are more important than them and what they're saying. That's not exactly the message that you want to communicate during a meeting, so fight the urge and focus on the person you are meeting.
2. Stop selling. I'm already here.
Over the years, I've met thousands of tech founders and tried to offer my help with anything I can. Most of them were super appreciative and didn't take advantage of my offer to help beyond one or two small favors. Then there was this one CEO, who asks me for a meeting about once a year. By now, I know to reject his request, because every time I met him in the past, after he asked me for my help, he spent most of the meeting selling me on how amazing he is and how successful his company is.
It always left me confused. If you're asking me for help, maybe focus on the issue you need help with and not on how amazing you are. If you find yourself in sales mode during a meeting, stop and recalculate. No one likes to feel like they're being sold to, especially when they came to a meeting for something else altogether.
3. No, I don't want to see your product right now. How about you tell me about it first?
This is slightly controversial. Live demos in general have their time and place, but if we're in a meeting about brainstorming or about validating your idea, I absolutely do not need to see your product right off the bat. Let's start on a conceptual level. Talk to me.
One of the reasons I don't want to see your product right away is because if it's not designed well, now my opinion is biased, and if it's a beautiful, well-designed product, I'm also biased. Let me remain objective and tell me about your product. I'll look at it later.
4. Take a breath and stop rambling so much.
I see this one way too much. A dialogue means two people or more are talking. I didn't come to a meeting with you for a monologue. So, please, stop every few minutes and take a breather. Let me ask questions and direct the conversation instead of having me sit here nodding my head while you go on and on about your product.
There is no justification for you to speak for 10 minutes straight unless you're being paid to give a keynote presentation. Force yourself to be conscious of how long you are speaking, and try to train yourself to stop every few minutes and ask if the person you're sitting with has any questions.
5. Don't assume I remember the context. Start with the goal of the meeting.
As you probably know by now, the context in business is everything. Who introduced us? Why? What are we meeting about? What is the goal? How do you define the success of this meeting?
Those are some of the questions you should ask yourself at the beginning of every meeting. You might remember all this stuff because you asked for the meeting, but don't assume that other people in the room do.
For example, reminding me who originally connected us and why is crucial information to start with. It changes the whole dynamic of the meeting. Besides, it's always good to establish some common ground, and what better way to do that than to talk about mutual contacts?
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to start the meeting talking about their product, demoing it, and then selling it hard. After all, this is their baby and they are very passionate about it.
The thing is, just because you're passionate about it, that doesn't mean I am. Not yet, at least. So provide context; talk to me about your vision, the stage of your company, your investors, your traction, your challenges, and then, we can jump into the granular details.
In summary, don't make any assumptions, and during every meeting, always think about the other side and put yourself in their shoes. Said differently, follow these three words in every meeting: Know your audience.