Part I: Treat Every Meeting Like a First Interview

This post is Part I of a two-part series on Treating Every Meeting Like a First Interview.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 1.02.37 PMWhen I mentor young professionals, we discuss the importance of preparing for a job interview.  A lot of emphasis is placed on preparation, which includes doing your homework on the company and the interviewer prior to your meeting. You may choose to research through a Google search, finding articles, accessing the website, reviewing other interesting materials and checking out social media profiles, if you can access them. The exercise helps you learn about the people and the company culture. Your prep work also allows you to develop a solid list of questions, so that you add to the discussion and dig below the surface.

However, what would you think if I told you that preparing for every meeting, as if it were a first interview, would lead to stronger relationships and more valuable outcomes?  When you take the time to dig deeper into the objectives and goals of every gathering, as well as researching the key players, you increase your opportunity to build better relations. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’re getting together (like your first job interview) or you’re meeting with someone you know fairly well. If you treated every meeting like a first, with a friend, business acquaintance, potential client or a group of colleagues at work, imagine the possibilities. Preparing for your meeting, with the same diligence as an interview says, “I care about the people, the project and what we’re doing together.” It also makes a bold statement that you’re very interested in advancing the relationship.

Unfortunately most people don’t look at every meeting with the same importance and they show up unprepared.  All too often, I find some individuals in meetings don’t understand the overall objectives and clearly don’t plan for their own meeting goals; whether it’s a brainstorming session, pitch meeting, introductory meeting, etc.  They are not ready to ask important questions because they haven’t done their homework. Not being prepared, or only preparing minimally, may translate into no interest and a lack of desire to move the relationship or cause forward.  Even if you’re not the organizer of the meeting, you still need to do your part.

Here are some important tips to help you treat every meeting as if it were the first:

#1: Know who is attending the meeting and why. It’s important to learn about each person’s role and responsibility within the organization. Do you have common interests and why is this person meeting with you?  Answering these simple questions allows you to understand someone’s objectives, as you work to build your own, prior to your gathering.

#2:  Plan your own agenda. Just because there is a set agenda doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have one ready to go. Of course, it helps to have the overall meeting agenda beforehand, so you can review and weave your meeting goals into the proposed discussion / activities. If you don’t know your own goals and objectives going in, then you will not be able to visualize a path of next steps going out.

#3: Listen carefully and take notes. It’s dangerous to rely on your memory to document what people say once the meeting is over. The more you can document, you may find new and interesting information post meeting. You’ll be able to create stronger ties with meeting participants, be introduced to additional connections or uncover new and interesting information. Whether you put it down on paper or use note taking software, you should always do your post meeting homework.

#4:  Immediate meeting follow up is critical. As soon as the meeting ends, the follow up begins and the sooner the better. I always leave a meeting with a list of to do items and deliverables (with associated due dates) that are a direct result of the discussion. However, you should also move forward with your own personal follow up. I find that going the extra mile with the person or people you meet makes you stand out among all of the other meeting members. Take the extra time to reach out to people to share additional ideas and information.  Don’t limit yourself to what was discussed in the meeting, if you see an opportunity to speak with them again or to engage in additional discussions.

Treating each meeting with “a first interview” approach is a great step in relationship building. Your new approach will come across as prepared and interested in the people involved. At the same time, you also give off strong signals that you are a willing participant who wants to further the discussion, cause or relationship potential.  Of course, treating every meeting as if it were a first means more time and extra effort on your part, which I’ll discuss in Part II of this series.

Do you treat every meeting like it’s your first interview? Feel free to share your best practice meeting tips.