30 January 2012

Always book the next meeting

“Always get the next meeting”, says Don. Don is a retired senior executive who was mentoring me through a challenging project. Booking the next meeting on the spot is one of the best pieces of advice Don ever gave me. Don has seen many great projects fail because people were not able to keep up the momentum or allowed other priorities to get in the way. He has also seen a lot of average projects finish successfully because the momentum was maintained until the end.

This is especially relevant in networking. We meet a great person at a networking get-together and have the best intentions of calling them the next day, or the day after, or next week. Then one thing leads to another and the moment has passed. We don’t make the call or send the email and the great new contact becomes another business card in our file. Or we have an email-back-and-forth trying to fit our meeting into other priorities, and the momentum is lost. How can this be prevented?

Being ready to book the next meeting requires a special type of preparation, one which looks two or three steps ahead. It is like planning your first two dates before you even meet someone! Not only do you have to plan who you are going to meet at a function, but what you are going to say, and how you will make a good enough impression for your new acquaintance to commit to meeting again.

How is it done?
  • Have a set of scenarios at hand and know what you will do in each case. For example, if I meet a potential consulting client, I plan to give him a good introduction, learn as much as I can about his business, and try to find a potential business-overlap. I also have an outline of a compelling second-meeting agenda prepared in advance. This is what I would really like to discuss at length with a potential new customer.
  • Use the time at the networking function to have a meaningful conversation but be aware of using up your contact’s time. Resist having an “instant meeting”, instead, concentrate on making a good first impression and starting the relationship.
  • When there is genuine interest in delving deeper, take advantage of the moment. Suggest your second-meeting agenda and ask for a separate meeting, even if it is immediately following the function. Networking parties are noisy, crowded, and are there are too many interruptions and distractions. Having an instant meeting devalues your message.
  • Get your calendar out and book the meeting/lunch/coffee right away. Before you part with your contact, have the next meeting booked in your agenda. Not an offer of an email or a “we should meet again” or “I will call you next week to set a date”, but a concrete agreement of where to meet with a date in your diary.
  • Don’t monopolise your contact’s time. They are willing to see you again, so let them meet other people with the remaining time at the networking function.

And of course, when you go to that meeting, follow Don’s advice and be prepared to book the next meeting. Keep building the momentum!

Talk soon and thank you for all of your kind emails about The Networking Workshop,

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