How to start a business meeting

Posted in

Author: Future Manager Research Center

Before the meeting:

Before starting the meeting it is important to plan mentally what will be discussed in the meeting and to be sure that all the documents and information necessary are duly prepared.

For this reason we advise to arrive to the appointment 10-15 minutes before scheduled: this time should be used to relax and to be more focused for the upcoming commitment.

We recommend to use this time to “know your audience”: recall the names of the people that are involved in the meeting and their role in the company. It is a good first step to know exactly how to address the other parties.

Starting the meeting

Your first impression can be the difference between starting a successful business relationship or finishing with a one-off meeting. It is very easy to make a negative first impression on someone, often without knowing you’ve done so. It’s much harder to make a positive impression, so you must put some effort into your introductions.

Your introduction should tell people who you are and it should encourage people to engage with you. You need to sell yourself and feel confident while doing so, but it should not be the story of your life.

When introducing yourself, apart from your name, other thigs that can be included are:

  • your role or title
  • your business or industry
  • a brief description of your business
  • a ‘memory hook’ (quick phrase that people are likely to remember)

However, don’t open the meeting talking immediately about business. Why? Because it may be perceived as disrespectful. It shows you care more about your own goals than you the other parties’ needs and interests. Moreover, you’ll fail to benefit from the opportunity to build a stronger, longer-lasting relationship. Consider the long-term and put real effort into your small talk.

If your introduction doesn’t go as planned, one reason may be cultural differences. Every culture has its own way of meeting people in business situations for the first time and you be should be aware of these differences before the meeting is set, to allow you time to study the other culture and practices.

For instance, the minutes of small talk people spend in business meeting widely differ worldwide: in countries where people do not enjoy exchange of personal information, the small talk can be very fast; for instance in Norway the spend around 2 minutes for small talk, in Switzerland 5 and in Japan 8. Different is situation in those countries where business interaction deeply depends on the personal relationship, infact in Brazil they spend at least 30 minutes on casual conversation.

As a final point we advise to not be late; arriving on time is generally perceived as mandatory in professional settings. If you realize that you will be late, warn the other parties as soon as possible and not immediately before the meeting. Value the time of your business partners as much as you value yours.