Would you like to nail job interviews, close new clients, and maximize every meeting? It’s simple with a little preparation. “Can’t I just wing it?,” I hear you asking. No. It’s easy to think you don’t need to prepare because you’ve been in 100 meetings/interviews/presentations just like it, but if you don’t spend some time planning, someone else will control it.
To control a meeting doesn’t mean you must dominate the discussion. Controlling the meeting means you know the purpose of the meeting and what you want to accomplish. It means knowing what you want to say before the meeting begins and how to carefully navigate the discussion to make sure your key points are addressed.
How did I become a meeting “expert?” By failing a lot. I recently blew a big opportunity because I didn’t prepare for a meeting. It was such a unique opportunity that I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Sadly, I came to the conclusion that I’ve been blowing meetings for a long time. It’s easy to dismiss the small ones, but let me tell you, it’s much harder to forget he big ones — they will haunt you.
Here are seven tips you can use to get the most from your next meeting:
1. Determine the “one thing.” Never go into a meeting without a crystal clear purpose. Answer this question to determine the purpose: “After the meeting is over, what has to happen for me to feel happy with the result?” This “one thing” will be your destination to which everything else should lead.
2. Focus on three talking points. You want to avoid “diarrhea of the mouth” as one of my teachers used to say. In other words, don’t blather on and on about every single idea or thought you have. Go into the meeting with just three ideas, thoughts, or points that support your “one thing” and focus the entire meeting around these.
3. Create an agenda. If possible, create a physical agenda that is centered around your “one thing” and supports your talking points. She who creates the agenda almost always controls the meeting. Starting out in my career, I’d always create the agenda — even if I didn’t call the meeting. I was always surprised when executives much more senior than me would strictly follow the agenda. By creating the agenda, I controlled the meeting.
4. Nail the intro and the close. I can’t stress this enough. Go in with a strong opening and you’ll feel more confident throughout. Make sure it covers your main talking points. Also make sure you have a strong close that reiterates your main talking points. Don’t wing this.
5. Call to action. What are the actions you want your meeting attendees to take for you to consider this a success? Most meetings end and nobody is sure how to proceed. Make sure everyone knows exactly what their next steps should be.
6. After the meeting. Just because the meeting ends doesn’t mean your job is over. Often it is just getting started. Make sure you follow up with key attendees. Send an email or write a note. And of course, make sure you subtly reinforce your “one thing” and talking points.
7. Listen. Lastly, but arguably most importantly, listen. Don’t be so wired to your talking points that you turn into a robot spewing forth canned lines. It’s a meeting, not a presentation. It needs to be dynamic.
It doesn’t matter if you are on an interview, auditioning for a TV show, meeting a prospect for your business, or trying to get your kid into a swanky private school. Invest some time preparing so you’ll nail your next big meeting. I know I will.
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