How to prepare for a new business meeting

There are times in life where you sink or you swim. You can be presented with the chance of a lifetime, which you can grasp, or let fall through your fingers like a handful of sand. In the life of a startup, these opportunities come at you thick and fast, or at least they present themselves as such. Startup life is intrinsically reliant on agility. So, we move on and treat each new lead as if it can be the next big thing for our businesses. When these leads have been watered and are beginning to grow, they sprout into new business meetings. And, this is where everything can get very, very, real, and you need to be prepared. How? Read on.

Plan, plan, execute
Whilst you may have got through some team meetings by winging it, you will not get through a new business meeting by spouting whatever that double espresso flings out of your mouth. It’s essential to prepare an eloquent slide deck that comprises all proposals of what you can do for the prospective client. Do not make these slides overlong, word-heavy and dense. They need to be a pleasant backdrop to your words. Stick to short sentences and include powerful images. Don’t include words where none will suffice, and this will keep your eyes off reading the screen rather than actually presenting.

When creating the plan for what you are going to say, ask yourself some key questions:

  • What’s the best outcome of this meeting, and how do I get there?

  • What are the key points I need to make?

  • What do I need from the client?

  • What’s the backup plan if there’s a technical glitch?

You should voice record yourself answering these questions and then make your notes from your voice clip. This way, your notes will mimic your speech and your presenting style will be more natural and have a friendly flow to it. If you write notes and learn them word for word, you risk your presenting style being monotonous and boring. You want to engage your audience to believe your every word.

Research and converse
We all like to be made to feel special. If you can impress your client with knowledge of themselves and their company, you’re already in their good books. Delegate different members of the company for your team to research and pull together the most interesting things about them. This can be done by doing a social media sweep and by exploring their company history. Bring up what you have learnt about them in flowing conversation and it will give a back and forth to the presentation that will be impressive, and show that there is the potential for you to work well together.

Any questions?
There’s always a point in any new business meeting when the potential new client asks “So, have you got any questions for us?”. If a tumbleweed rolls past to a deafening silence, this is not good. So, from your research and from the conversation during the meeting, have some questions ready to ask your potential new client. If the client has been responding coldly throughout, this is your chance to break the ice. You can be as off-the-wall as you like, depending on how you want the client to perceive you. Don’t be afraid to be out-there. They'll remember you for it.

This is also your chance to shape the end of the meeting to your own ends. If there are things that you want to highlight about your company, ask questions that you can link back to great things that you have done. Be energetic, be inquisitive and win them over with how you present yourself and your company.