I’ve never been ocean racing before, but when I heard seasoned yachtsman Phil Sharp describe the activity as being akin to “standing under a cold shower tearing up £10 notes”, it made me realise just how much I don’t want to partake in such a thing.
It also made me think about a meeting I had that day. A meeting I really, really didn’t want to attend. It involved a disgruntled customer, a seemingly endless agenda and several points at which I was expected to stand up and present another boring Powerpoint presentation.
Ripping up £10 notes in a cold shower? This meeting was going to be far worse than that, in my book. So, I set about preparing as best I could for that meeting and, in doing so, I stumbled across six techniques I will forever hold dear. I think they’ll help you, too, if you’re due to attend a difficult meeting.
1. Identify The Purpose
This may sound obvious, but don’t take the title of the meeting as a solid indication of what it is likely to be about. All meetings (ok, most meetings) are called for a specific purpose. Find out what that is before you step foot in the room. This may require talking to the other attendees, and you’ll likely find they’ll want to nail down the purpose, too.
Make it a collaborative effort beforehand, and no one in attendance will have conflicting ideas about the reason you’ve all got together.
2. Make Pre-Meeting Notes
Never turn up to a meeting with a blank notepad. Come prepared by making notes against each agenda item. You don’t need to go to town on this – just write down the salient points you’d like to make.
3. Connect With Attendees And Introduce Yourself
If the people you’re meeting don’t work for the same company as you, connect with them on LinkedIn prior to the meeting and send a brief ‘Hi’ that expresses your delight in being given the opportunity to meet up and how much you’re looking forward to discussing the purpose of the get together (see point 1). An ice breaker prior to the big day will allay a lot of the fear associated with meeting people for the first time.
4. Get Your Facts Straight
If the meeting is likely to cover some contentious issues, make sure you have all the facts to hand. Speak to employees involved in whatever it is you’ll be discussing and take with you the stats and figures that backup any points you’re likely to make.
5. Do Some Detective Work
This isn’t about snooping on those attending the meeting, more preparing yourself for the types of personality that are likely to be on display. Often, the fear of attending a big meeting stems from not knowing what the people are going to be like. Are they friendly? Abrasive? Confrontational? Plain nasty?
LinkedIn becomes your friend once more, here. If the attendees are on the social networking site and you’ve already connected (see point 3), take a look at their posts, shares and interactions with others. You can tell an awful lot about a person based on their activity online.
6. Take Deep Breaths, Get Up Early And Exercise
Prior to the meeting, make sure you have risen early, eaten well, performed some kind of physical activity (a swift walk around the block will do) and practice deep breathing before entering the room. You’ll feel refreshed as a result and your brain will be ready to take on anything.
Meetings are a necessary part of business, love them or hate them. The above techniques worked brilliantly for me and made the aforementioned meeting not just bearable but mildly enjoyable. Try them out next time you look at your diary and wince at one of the entries.