As many of us go back to face-to-face meetings, at least partially, a reminder of how to maximize those meetings is in order. Many of these apply to virtual meetings as well, but their importance is amplified when meeting offline.
Here are five tips to get the most out of business meetings.
Clarify the context of the meeting before scheduling it
As someone wise once said, "Context is everything." In today's day and age, with all the noise in our feeds, context is even more important. The one thing no one has enough of is time. Your time is precious, so before taking a meeting, make sure to understand the context of the meeting. At the risk of sounding slightly pretentious, ask the other person why they want to meet.
For example, if someone tells me they want introductions to investors, no problem. Happy to help. There is no need to meet for that. Do they want to meet so they can pitch me in the hopes that I will write about them? Then no meeting is necessary because I rarely cover specific startups, and if I do, I find them, and don't really take pitches.
So before you waste your time and the time of the person you're meeting, ask about the context. There is nothing more awkward and annoying than showing up to a meeting only to realize that the context is totally irrelevant.
Add that context to the actual calendar invite
The only way to keep track of our busy schedules today is to use a calendar app. There are of course hundreds of options to choose from, but it's important that you choose one and use it to manage your time.
When scheduling a meeting, make sure to put it on your calendar, and whoever is sending the calendar invite should include the context of the meeting.
This will save you time when the day of the meeting comes and you are trying to prepare for it but can't recall what the topic was.
Along with the time, the location, and the participants of the event, make sure to add the context. It takes a few seconds and can save immeasurable time and frustration.
Start the meeting by clearly defining the goals
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are so proud of their product (as they should be!) that they want to start the meeting by jumping right in, whether it's pitching, showing the deck, or demoing the product.
If that happens, ask the person to pause and to define the goals of the meeting. I regularly ask, "What is the end game of this meeting? How would you define success?"
It is crucial to ask that question, because it frames the rest of the meeting. When the part of the meeting comes for the person to demo their product, you know why they're demoing it and you can adjust your perspective accordingly.
Before jumping in, ask the other person about themself and their background
A great way to break the ice and make the meeting more enjoyable is to start by asking the other person about their story. Anyone who has ever met me was met with the question, "So, what's your story? Tell me your spiel."
Here is a window into human psychology. Everyone, even the most humble person, likes to talk about themself. Some like it more than others, but people like to share their journey, and by asking the person to do so, you are making the rest of the meeting more enjoyable.
It doesn't take much to ask, and it doesn't waste much time to let the person tell you their story. Try it and watch the other person's face light up.
Show interest in the other person's challenges
Another question I ask in 100 percent of my meetings is "What are your primary challenges?"
I cannot tell you how many times, upon asking, that the other person expressed such delight and said, "Wow. No one has ever asked me that before."
Again, this requires little to no effort and the return on that investment is infinite. When the person tells you about their challenges, chances are you might be able to help them with at least one of them.
When you focus on helping other people, you accomplish so many things, including the ability to solve diverse problems, the strengthening of that relationship, the ability to become indispensable to that person, and so much more.
The general principle here is to respect a person's time, including your own, and to focus not on yourself but on the person you are meeting.