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Advanced B2B Meeting Prep, Part I

By Bridget McCrea

With the NAED national meeting right around the corner (May 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago), now is the time to start shoring up your company’s business-to-business meeting strategy and prepping for some productive interactions at the event. In this 2-part series, tED Magazine looks at the value of prepping in advance for these meetings and shares expert tips on how to extract the biggest benefit from this face-time – both at the national meeting and on a year-round basis.

 

Let’s face it – no one has time to waste these days. With the national economic recovery in full swing and companies still operating on strict budgets and with minimal manpower, precious work hours can get eaten up pretty quickly. These time constraints can thwart the B2B meeting, where getting face-time with the right individuals isn’t always easy. “It’s astonishing how much time is completely wasted during meetings,” says Barry Maher, a speaker and consultant in Corona, Calif.  “Doing them on the fly, for example, is really just a big waste of time and money.”

To avoid that trap and ensure the most productive interactions – either in NAED national meeting sessions or in the pow-wows that take place throughout the year –salespeople and executives who are involved should prepare well in advance for the events. If you’re not sure where to start, here are five advanced planning techniques that you can start using today to get more out of your meetings:

 

  1. Make sure the right people are involved. Don’t wait until you’re face-to-face to figure out whether the right individuals are in the room or not, says Maher. “Take the time to make sure the right people are onboard and that they are actually going to be present,” says Maher, “and that no one misses it because they ‘didn’t get the memo’ or something.” In some cases, achieving this goal may require some relationship building in advance of the meeting. Focus on forming those alliances ahead of time, says Maher, rather than leaving things up to chance. That includes figuring out who is handling which product lines, who is actually slated to be at the national meeting, and then using email, social media, and/or phone calls to start making contacts with those key people.
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  3. Take the time to develop a solid meeting agenda. What is the meeting about? What are you trying to accomplish with it? What is the desired outcome? “These questions may sound ridiculously simple,” says Maher, “but you’d be surprised at how many individuals show up not ready to talk about anything of relevance.” To avoid this problem, he suggests drawing up a meeting agenda and distributing it to the involved parties a couple of weeks before the event. That way, everyone can chime in with revisions and suggestions (from there, make up a “final” agenda to send out a few days before the meeting). “This will ensure that everyone comes to the table ready to contribute,” says Maher, “and that no one is caught off guard by the content and direction of the meeting.”
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  5. Establish ground rules for the meeting. The best way to get the most out of every meeting minute is to establish ground rules well in advance of the event, says Maher. That way, no one is surprised or sidelined with the way the short interaction progresses. Key questions to address include:  Who will run/moderate the meeting? Will we all take turns talking? Can we interrupt one another? Do we have the right physical space, visual aids, audiovisual equipment, food, and drink arranged for the meeting? How are issues going to be decided (i.e., majority rule or consensus)? “If everyone knows that they can talk for 3-4 minutes and then move the floor along to the next person,” says Maher, “then there won’t be any surprises at the actual event. All of these issues should be addressed well in advance to ensure the most productive interactions.”
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  7. Put someone in charge of recording and following up. It sounds simple enough, but someone really needs to take notes at the meetings and then ensure that the action points are followed up on. Even though attendees may jot down their own notes in shorthand, Maher suggests making someone the “secretary” and then having that person record the key points of the meeting plus any decisions that have been made or action steps that need to take place over the coming weeks. This step is best taken well in advance of the meeting so that the person in charge of the task can plan ahead for the job. “It should be someone who can not only oversee what’s going on at the meeting itself,” says Maher, “but also follow up via email or phone to make sure the key points discussed are actually put into action – and not just forgotten about.”
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  9. Learn that in some cases, it’s best to just say “no.” As mentioned earlier in this article, work time is precious and people simply don’t have the time to spin their wheels in hopes that their efforts produce results. In some cases, a business meeting may be best tabled for another time, or forgotten about altogether. If you get the sense that your potential meeting partner isn’t interested in having a productive interaction – or, that he or she doesn’t want to make the time for a face-to-face – then it could be time to cut the ties and move on. “If all you’re going to do is waste your time, then that time could definitely be put to better use elsewhere,” Maher cautions. “No one wants to ‘give up’ on a potential sale or business alliance, but at some point you have to put it to someone point blank and say, ‘How likely is this to happen?’ If the answer is, ‘Yeah, it will happen at some point,’ then it’s time to hold that individual’s feet to the fire and figure out if you’re just wasting your time.”

 

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net

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