A client meeting doesn’t start the minute you walk in the door. It’s starts way before, before you even say hello. It starts with a little bit of preparation, and then some more, because the perfect client meeting is a winning science fair project that took hours of toil and research (and in my case lots of glitter and glue).
Did I get you shaking? Don’t fret, it’s not rocket science, this is something that you can conquer with the right tips and tools, and that’s what I’m about to do.
Sorry to have to say this, but you will never grow out of having to prepare. Whether you’re a housewife planning her weekly meal menu or an engineer taking dimensions and client preferences, you will always have to plan before you execute. In PR – that means knowing what you will talk about and recognising the need to meet in the first place. If it’s the first time you ever meet, well, that means even more homework – because you need to know as much as you possibly can about their business and goals before you step into that room. Check any collateral that you can get your hands on including their website and any information available online.
Do you speak your client’s language? If you don’t, it’s never too late to learn to elaborate in a foreign tongue. Even if you’ve been working with your client for the past five years, there’s always room for improvement. Make sure you speak your client’s speak (or as best as you can without having to lug around a dual-language dictionary). Know their products, know their competitors and above all, know them. Start thinking like the client, and prepare a list of possible questions (that you know your client will ask next time you meet). Make sure you have ready the right answers or at least be able to convince them why your wrong might be their right.
When you were in high school, I’m sure you had an agenda: a book report due in November, a project in February and a final in May. Why did they put you through all of that? To prepare you for the real world. Life is full of priorities and deadlines, and it’s the same for your client. Know what’s coming up and be sure to discuss it in the meetings. You should also anticipate things that your client may not have even thought of, and that way, they’ll remember why they hired you in the first place.
Note taking and bullet points will never be a thing of the past. It reminds you of the key points brought up and allows you to record and assess your progress with the client. This can include important information like topics brought up and reminders for future discussions. Keep the names of the attendees, where and when you met, things that need to be prepared for next time and above all, don’t forget to share your notes (don’t worry you won’t get in trouble like you did for doing this in high school). If someone else is in charge of preparing the minutes, make sure you share any information you think is important and want documented.
If it feels like you’ve never graduated high school, think of it this way: All that work was meant to prepare you, not torture you, and maybe now you can make peace with your 10th grade science teacher – because, turns out, she meant well. Being a great PR professional requires the same qualities that it takes to be a great student: discipline, foresight and organisation.
We’ve all been there when someone’s obviously not prepared – be it a job interview or a presentation. What would have made the difference from stressed to impressed?