When the time comes to present to your client, facilitate client meetings effectively by making sure the format you choose is a good balance of both pleasant and productive. You want to engage them but it’s also important to get the ‘business end’ of the meeting covered off.
Facilitate Client Meetings
These guidelines and coping techniques for tricky situations that may occur during your meetings will help your meetings accomplish their purpose on time.
General Guidelines for Facilitating Well Organised Meetings with Clients
1. Stick to the schedule. One of the most common complaints about meetings is a failure to stick to the intended discussion points. It’s important to start and end on time. Make sure you keep a good eye on the timing of your presentation.
2. Tailor your facilitation style to the type of client. The best approach depends on the experience and preferences of your client you’re working with. Some people may prefer to follow strict protocols while others enjoy less formal discussions. The more you understand their personality type and behavioural style, the increased chance you have of getting strategy this right.
3. Set expectations upfront. Prevention is usually the best strategy for dealing with conflict. If you know that disagreements are likely to occur, discuss these upfront to encourage respectful and constructive dialogue throughout the meeting. One suggestion is to be tough on issues rather than on people – separate the ‘business’ from the ‘person’.
4. Test the equipment. Ensure your laptops, microphones and conference call lines are working before the presentation starts. Your customer is more likely to mentally wander off if you spend too long debating how to advance the slides.
6. Focus on objectives. Identify objectives for each agenda item. Develop action plans for implementing decisions. Cultivate a sense of ‘team’ and working together to strengthen the relationship and business outcomes.
Coping Techniques for Common Challenges
1. Get people talking. Give everyone a chance to contribute. Go around the table. Ask to hear from people who haven’t spoken yet. Watch for subtle signals like facial expressions that suggest someone may be waiting for an opening to chime in.
2. Stop people from talking too much. If a handful of people are dominating the exchange, tactfully encourage people to wrap up long speeches. Dividing into small groups may also help to balance the discussion.
3. Create a sense of being neutral. Your role is that of a facilitator. You do not want to oversell yourself or your business so focus on an approach that encourages a productive open discussion. Stay objective to avoid imposing your personal opinions.
4. Overcome impasses. If you sense that there’s going to be trouble reaching a consensus, try pointing out the common ground and agreements you’ve already reached. Also consider how you can link the client’s requirements to your recommended solutions.
Ultimately, your intentions are to help your client feel like they are contributing to the discussions, manage conflicts with finesse, and guide the discussion toward the outcomes that the client representatives are seeking. When you do, you’ll become a valued service provider and will be pleased with the results you have achieved.