We all know first impressions are made quickly; get them wrong and the door may close on what could have been a great, mutually beneficial relationship. Therefore the first handshake, that initial small talk or the first time you make eye contact could be more important than you’ve previously acknowledged.
We often look back at our own meetings and analyse what went well, what didn’t, and why. Is there a common recipe for success?
A business meeting is like a game of chess, but your competition is not the person or people you’re meeting. Your competition is the problem they are facing. The challenge is they might not know what their problem is and they might not be able to articulate it. Your job is to find a way to help them do this.
First off, you have to get the person to let their guard down. For you, the meeting is an opportunity to discover as much as you can about them or their business, and the challenges they are facing.
In order for this to happen, they have to feel comfortable, relaxed and open. They need to trust you and feel that they want to share more. Remember, it’s often really sensitive stuff they’re divulging and they won’t do this if they don’t feel good about you, or if they get the impression you’re only there to make money off them.
The key is what we call ‘vulnerable intimacy’: I will make myself vulnerable so that we can build intimacy. There is tremendous power in this. It can help if you remove the protection of the table and sit slightly away from it. Open body language is crucial. Face them directly ‘heart-to-heart’ – this says I’ve nothing to hide and that I’m here to help.
The so-called small talk at the outset of any meeting is much more than just that, especially if it’s the first time that you’ve met. It’s an opportunity to connect as human beings.
You’re entering into a relationship, not a transaction. Perhaps you’ll discover common personal ground. It’s not about tricking them or finding artificial shared interests: it’s about being interested in that person as a human being. If you’re genuinely interested and responsive to their needs, you can begin to build trust and speak in a language that you both understand.
That doesn’t mean that every meeting will start with a friendly chat about the weekend, their children, hobbies and what they’re up to that evening. Some very well might, but other meetings may be far more direct. It all depends on the needs of the other person and what they are comfortable to share at that stage. You need to have the emotional intelligence to read, understand and respect that.
To be clear, vulnerable intimacy is not something you do to make them feel comfortable, a box to tick before getting down to business. You must embody this state throughout. By taking the lead in being open and vulnerable, you help remove the barriers that people often put up and the roles that they play.
When you break through, the conversation becomes fully transparent. This will allow you to connect with the other person and encourage them to share more. When they’re sharing, it’s your duty to listen – really listen – and understand. After all, you’re both there to discover if the relationship has legs. If they trust you and you can help solve their problems, then the business will take care of itself.
Some top tips to bear in mind before your next meeting:
- Prepare. If you work off a script or even a loose template, know this so deeply that you inhabit it. This will give you the freedom to forget it, and be fully present during the meeting.
- Have a deep trust in yourself, your credibility and what you have to offer.
- Listen, understand and respond: When you’re in the meeting, you’re there for them. Trust yourself and focus all your attention on the conversation in the room.
First impressions are important, but it’s no use being wrapped up in yourself and how you come across. You can’t be. It will destroy your chances of building trust, and discovering more about your client – the very reason for the meeting.
To follow the tips above prepare properly, trust yourself and be completely present. This vulnerable intimacy will create the right first impression with your client and help them to let their guard down.
From out clients
The Speakers’ Gym is like the iPhone. You don’t realise you need it until you have it, and then you can’t live without it.
Magda Gonzalez, Group CFO, Monex Europe
It was completely practical and the open-forum feedback was so valuable. You created a safe environment for everyone to learn. Thank you!
Nicola Koronka, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Missive
I was recommended by a friend who works in the same sector to contact The Speakers’ Gym to help me with my presentation delivery skills and I have not been disappointed with the results. Chris and Jonny work with you to provide bespoke training for your goals and needs. They are highly professional and make you feel at ease from the first minute the first session begins. I would highly recommend them to those who have a role which involves public speaking!
Julia Peake,Technical Development Manager, Sanlam
It has challenged both my thinking and approach and I will be sure to keep The Speakers’ Gym ‘fireworks’ readily available on my desk to refer to when not only presenting but also when needed through everyday management.
Liz Paradine – Chief Operations Manager - 7iM
Transact first engaged with The Speaker Gym late in 2018 where Chris & Jonny made a concerted effort to get under the skin of our business and understand how they could best help us hone our presentational and empathetic skills. The resulting sessions were hugely helpful giving my team plenty of opportunity to practice and also benefit from a great deal of feedback, not just from Chris & Jonny but by including the rest of the Transact team in the feedback and group learning too. I would highly recommend The Speakers Gym
Glen Sweet, Head of Sales, Transact
Working with The Speakers’ Gym has been fantastic. We knew what we wanted to say and who we wanted to speak to, so all we needed was technique. Or so we thought. Chris and Jonny helped us to understand the key elements of communication, through a structured process. We now think about communication in a completely different way. There’s a line they gave us that now resonates in my head, every time I write or talk to someone about what we do. We feel we’ve met two great guys and they’ve become an important part of us, our story and how we tell it to others.
Thomas Skinner, Founder, Barnaby Cecil Financial Planning
The impact of The Speakers’ Gym™ at Mako can only be described as transformational. Over a three month period, they helped transition a group of individuals into a highly collaborative and consultative leadership team. Chris and Jonny have a unique ability to connect individuals with their true purpose, driving them towards self-reflection and ultimately growth. Overall the entire experience of working with them has been a pleasure and I am deeply grateful for their impact. They more than surpassed my expectations and I look forward to working with them again in the future!
Trystan Morgan-Schauer, CEO, Mako
We engaged The Speakers’ Gym to provide us with clarity and direction in the look, feel and messaging of the Worldmaker brand in preparation for our official launch. From start to finish, the process has been truly collaborative. They worked with the expertise and experience in our team to create branding that truly represents who we are and what we represent, whilst moving us into a more modern, expressive space – which was our desire. We know that we’re in great hands with The Speakers’ Gym. We’ll certainly be continuing to work with them
Mollie Marti, CEO, Worldmaker International
They first took the time to understand our brief and delivered the programme incorporating our culture and brand throughout. They were thought provoking and their unique techniques very well received.
Mairi Cameron, Learning Manager, Nucleus Financial
The Speakers’ Gym gave me the skills and confidence to be my normal self whilst speaking and facilitating. They took the anxiety out of public speaking and gave me practical tools to prepare for and manage public engagements. They also helped me to engage more meaningfully with my clients, for which I am thankful. Highly recommend them.
Matthew Marais, Director, Vertus Capital
I found the sessions to be a revelation, and I wish I had known some of the techniques sooner. It has completely changed my mindset and focused me in on the needs of the audience. With that, the ability to achieve those aspirations has come more naturally. There is always room for improvement, and I will definitely be revisiting The Speakers’ Gym for a refresher from time to time.
Kelly Devlin, Wealth Management Consultant - St. James’s Place Wealth Management