Andy Wilson, Founder & CEO of Graphight (www.graphite.com), explains how to connect with people in a business meeting. Connecting with others will allow your business network to grow.
- Do extensive research on key participants prior to the meeting
- Focus your research on key areas that establish familiarity
- Discover a way to weave your research into the meeting
We all work hard to get critical meetings that we think are going to move the needle on our businesses and I always – when I get those meetings, I start thinking what can I do to make sure that those are a win and clearly having a good product and a good story to sell and a good agenda, that’s important and I’m not going to talk about it today. What I’ll talk about is building the right chemistry with the people on the other side of the table to really make this kind of the right environment to win.
And one of the things I always start with is researching. I’m like, “Who are those people around the table?”
And I normally know one person who set up the meeting and they have three or four other people. So I go back and start researching who those people are. I also ask by the way, who’s going to be at the meeting so I could find out. I’m not surprised by who’s there. You can go to places like LinkedIn or Google and start building out information around those participants.
And what are you looking for, right? So, on that research, what should you look for?
And I look for a commonalities right, because we’re looking for connection and we have business discussions which is our agenda. But also I’m looking for personal connections, so they can feel like we actually have something in common which I think is the basis of rapport. So look for – did we work with some of your companies? Do we have common school? Maybe went to college or the same college or to Graduate School together, or maybe they claim that there are a Winboarder and so am I. So use that research to think about what that does that group across the table have in common with you, so you can once use this as icebreaker in the meeting.
So once you have that information, how do you integrate in your meeting.?So let me tell you a few suggestions for that.
One is when introductions are going on, I’d like to see just a few pieces of information to credit this hour and get them relaxed.
“Oh, yeah great. I saw that you know, you went Harvard Business School and so did I. What year were you? That’s great.”
And once again, the goal is not to just randomly drop things in but think words appropriate to start establishing that rapport. I think as this conversation goes along, I also like to weave those things into relevant specific parts of the agenda.
So for talking about something technical and they’re asking about, you know, how did you figure out the supply chain question. I can talk about when I worked at let’s say, Booz Allen and I actually know that one of the people at the table worked at Booz Allen. I’m not announcing that and saying, “Oh well, when I worked at Booz Allen, I solved this problem.”
Light goes off. Literally you can see it in their eyes that you made that connection. So think about how that research gets suddenly incorporated into your meeting. I say the not-to on this one is avoid carpet bombing, right.
“Okay. Oh yeah, I want to hear it and I know this person. Do you know this person?”
So that becomes really annoying because the point of the meeting is to work through the agenda. The point of this is have to provide a little bit of the, called, you know the social lubricant to make sure the meeting is – people are at ease and they have the sense of trust.
So doing good prep work and understanding more a lot about the other table or the other people at the table is important and delicately we have to get in. We really make a big difference in how successful these meetings are.