Leading meetings

Posted on: 2012-10-02 in How To   |   Tagged: account management leading a meeting leading meetings pr account management pr account manager


This post is an excerpt from the PR Account Manager's Handbook. Click here to download the entire series as an ebook.  By @TopLineFounder.

The better prepared you are for a meeting, the better your chance of being able to control the meeting. This is critical in terms of gaining credibility in front of the client (or whoever you are meeting).Your confidence will be closely affected by how well prepared you are, so it is critical that you do not leave this to the last minute. As the account manager,a successful or unsuccessful meeting is ultimately your responsibility, so make sure every task you delegate is being handled to your satisfaction – you cannot blame a poor meeting on anyone but yourself. Here are my ten steps to a successful meeting: 

Establish whether a meeting is necessary:

  • Who has asked for the meeting and why? Try not to automatically agree to a meeting request – instead, buy time and say ‘Am I okay to come back to you on that?’
  • Will a call suffice? If there is no benefit of having everyone together into a room, or if the meeting only requires information to flow one way, then an email and a call are fine.
  • If so, how do you diplomatically suggest a call instead? Is it appropriate for you to say ‘I know you wanted to have a meeting, but I am really up against it next week – would you mind if we had a call instead?’ Then be very grateful when they agree. Or, is it the type of client relationship where you have to agree to a face to face meeting?

Set a time and location

Think carefully about:

  • Who needs to be there and why?
  • Where will be most convenient for each of the players?
  • When will be most convenient for each participant?
  • Who manages their diaries?
  • Set a date and time and invite people using your Outlook calendar: Be sure to include as much information as you can on the location, the time and the purpose of the meeting.
  • Double check that everyone has accepted the meeting invite.

Tailor the meeting to suit your audience

What information do you know about these people? Do they like formal, drawn-out meetings? Or do they like you to cut to the chase? What impresses them? Getting back to them quickly after a meeting with action points? Or would they be more impressed by beautifully formatted minutes?

Once you have made this decision, use it to tailor the meeting accordingly. It should inform how you dress, what time you arrive and how you handle the meeting.

Draft an agenda

Depending on the audience, you need to decide how detailed this will be and in what format it should be presented. If your attendees are always on the move, reading this on their smartphones, then you want to send it in the body of the email.

Never add points to the agenda for the sake of it – make sure you are comprehensive but only add things that will be of value.

Get the agenda to the right people ahead of the meeting and ask them to provide feedback or details of anything they want added to the agenda.

Prepare

For every point on the agenda:

  • Conduct detailed background research (e.g. research it in the news, see what competitors are doing until you feel confident talking freely on the subject).
  • Rehearse what you are going to say
  • Anticipate the difficult questions that the client is likely to ask and make sure you have answers
  • If you are nervous, run these past a colleague to get their feedback.
  • Then, crucially, anticipate the action points that could arise from each point.

Know what you are taking:

Make sure you have clearly delegated this in writing to your team members and followed up until you are confident it is being done.

Ensure that anything that needs to be printed, is printed and ready to go three hours before you have to leave for the meeting. Assume that the printer is going to cause problems and make sure that whoever is responsible is on it. 

If you are taking a computer, ensure you have the passwords to access it, a spare charger, that the screen is clean and that you have checked in advance whether you will have a projector and what inputs it requires. I get so annoyed when I get to a meeting and a colleague cannot get the technology to work. It makes us look like amateurs. Only made worse when they turn the computer around to show the client something and the screen is filthy, and you know everyone around the table is secretly wondering whether they've been watching Spankwire on their laptop.

Know where you are going:

  • What’s the address?
  • How will you get there?
  • What time do you need to leave?
  • How will you get there if your transport Plan A fails you?

Know your audience:

Conduct background research on everyone who is attending. What are their hobbies? What have they done in the past? What mutual contacts do you have on LinkedIn? What small talk can you make at the start of the meeting? Run a quick Factiva search on them or on their industry beforehand to make sure you are not caught off guard when they congratulate you on the rugby or refer to a big story that broke this morning that you as the comms pro obviously know about.

If someone is likely to be difficult, or you have no idea what their feedback will be, have an informal call with them before the meeting so that they don’t use the meeting to drag you down in front of everyone else. Rather, get their feedback in advance and tailor your response to suit. If they're aggressive or mean in the meeting then they're a twat.

Confirm before

Either the day before or a few hours before confirm in a quick email.

Make sure it is clear that you don’t need a response from them. So send an email that says ‘Look forward to seeing you at your offices at 10am tomorrow.' That way you avoid awkward misunderstandings that will ultimately be blamed on you (whether you are to blame or not - you're the account manager!).

Arrive on time

Don’t be more than 10 minutes early – it’s annoying.

Give people information on how you are getting there. So, if you are catching a train let people know in advance that you will be coming by train and that you are scheduled to arrive at 09:55. That way, if you are late and cannot get hold of them, they can check the train schedule.

If you are going to be late, keep the other participants informed throughout. If your train is delayed, send an email, and keep sending updates as you get them.

At the meeting

  • Seat yourselves diplomatically – don’t sit directly opposite someone, and try not to sit ‘panel discussion’ style.
  • Control the discussion – start with an introduction of why we are here, and then point everyone to the agenda. Stick to the clock (warn people in advance that you will be doing this!)
  • Don’t give out hand-outs until you need to (or if you can avoid doing so until the end of the meeting). That will prevent people from reading ahead and interrupting the flow of the meeting.
  • End on action points – you should have already decided what action points you want to come to, so if you feel that a discussion is going off track, propose an action.
  • Make sure someone is taking notes appropriately. That means comprehensive – i.e. writing down everything that is being said – and that they are briefed on how to turn these into meeting notes and quickly.

If you have to convince a client of something during a meeting

  • Don’t get caught out: Make sure you have done your research thoroughly.
  • Then get some support from the media: Make a few phone calls to key target journalists and get some quotes.
  • Research other instances where this has been successful.
  • Research other instances where this has been unsuccessful – it is far more powerful for you to mention this in the meeting than for the client to feel like they have caught you out. Additionally, any argument is more convincing if you have considered the opposition in detail and countered it with solid reasoning.

Follow up

Do this quickly. If you can’t get your meeting notes to them within 24 hours, send them a holding email, saying ‘good to meet you, we will have action points with you by tomorrow'

  • Ideally get meeting notes to them within 24 hours.
  • Keep your meeting notes to-the-point and make sure they are proofed
  • Send them as an attachment with a summary of action points in the body of the email.
  • Set a task to check on progress of the action points a week or so later.

Hungry for more? Download the Account Manager's Handbook in its entirety by clicking here.


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About this blog

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The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, founder of TopLine Comms, and inbound marketingB2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact the B2B PR Blog editorial team via email on [email protected].

 

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