How to Prepare for a Business Meeting

by Robert Sharpe

A quality business presentation often spells the difference between long-term success and failure for career-minded professionals. If you are in command of important data and present it well, you may find yourself headed toward the executive suite sooner than you think. If you fail to inspire, you may find your career going nowhere fast. A great business presentation showcases much more than your knowledge. Your organization and communication skills are also on display.

Understand the Purpose of the Meeting

Kristen Gil, vice president of business operations at Google, insists that all meetings at the technology giant have a clear decision maker or leader. Part of that responsibility includes clearly communicating the purpose of the meeting to all participants. If you plan to attend a meeting, it is important know why you are attending. If you are not sure, do not go. Meetings without a clear purpose waste time and accomplish little.

Know Your Role

You will prepare differently for a meeting in which you are presenting information than you will if you are merely participating. Understanding expectations beforehand will allow you to contribute more effectively. If you are presenting, it also pays to know who will attend. Meetings that include suppliers or customers will require a different approach and a higher degree of confidentiality and decorum than those where only company employees are present.

Allow Enough Time to Prepare

According to Michael Begeman, creator of the 3M Meeting Network, effectively preparing for a business meeting requires advance planning. Give yourself enough time to create slides, handouts and supporting documentation. If you have staff assisting you, be sure to clearly communicate objectives and expectations. Set your team up to succeed by making sure that they have the tools they need to effectively research, compile, review and edit your presentation materials.

Expect the Unexpected

Business meetings almost never come off completely as planned. Schedules are modified, participants are added and agendas change. Expect surprises to occur with little or no warning. Groups such as the Risk and Insurance Management Society build flexibility into its annual conference by leaving several blocks of time that is not allocated. That way it is able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances. Follow its lead and build a few extra minutes into your presentation to address last-minute additions to the agenda.

About the Author

Based in Indianapolis, Robert Sharpe is a writer and electronic media publisher. He has been covering career and business matters, environmental issues, sustainability and the economy since 2008. His work has appeared in "Texas Realtor" and other regional publications. Sharpe holds an M.B.A. in finance and accounting from Regis University in Denver.

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