There are few things that can fray the nerves quite like a business meeting where work and earnings hang in the balance. In order to get a grasp on yourself during this time of high pressure, plan ahead and anticipate the worst that could happen in order to know how to jump in and solve anything.
The old cliche states that you only get one chance at making a first impression. Although obvious, it's stated for emphasis. It's undeniably true, and it's the reason that you must put a lot of thought and effort into how you present yourself for a business meeting. Appearance issues don't matter except when they relate to how your professionalism is displayed and perceived. Tattoos and excessive piercings are best covered. Hair should be neat, well-groomed and styled in a professional manner that doesn't distract from your overall look. When in doubt, always dress conservatively for a business meeting.
There are also little things that may not be considered initially. For instance, don't wear or carry products that have name brands of potential competitors. Don't be afraid of being yourself. Simply adapt to how you want to be professionally perceived. Put yourself in the mind of those you are meeting, and you'll be able to judge for yourself what's appropriate and what isn't.
Where to Meet
There are times that you will be left with the task of choosing where to meet. This isn't always the case, but you should be ready to adapt when the responsibility is placed in your hands. If it's a lunch or dinner meeting, try to ask a couple of questions to better figure out where to go. You don't want to take a vegetarian business owner to a steakhouse. By asking a few initial questions when the option is left to you, you'll be able to have a much more successful meeting.
When in doubt, opt for a restaurant near the offices of the company or individuals you are meeting. Choose a restaurant with a reputation for variety, and one that's known for catering to business meetings. You want to be able to request and receive a private booth. Consider becoming a regular at a particular restaurant and treat the staff there always significantly well. In doing so, you'll create a business haven where you and your guests are well-treated and given priority in seating. This is subtle, but it can help smooth the day and set the tone for a good time.
Decide what you want the outcome of the meeting to be. That means more than just hoping to impress and get an account. Know specifics. Set three definite goals that you want to achieve. Perhaps, you want to show the person you're meeting that you're accomplished, yet humble. Although that sounds vague, it will be easier to manage than thinking of your overall goal of closing the deal throughout the meeting. Make the end goal your main focus, but have some other important goals to achieve in the meeting as well.
Be honest in your business meeting. If you promise more than you can deliver, you'll end up with poor performance feedback and negative word of mouth, not to mention a botched job. If you cite past work that wasn't done, you may get stopped in your tracks. It's ultimately a small world, and a lie will easily come back to haunt you.
Keep positive. Never bash former employers. Even if your business partner cringes and starts bad talking about an obviously unprofessional past client of yours that you also hate, keep your professional persona. Think of one positive thing to state about everyone on your resume. If the conversation starts to go there, acknowledge the person's negative opinion, yet sway gently back into the positive statement. You'll then want to change the subject. If you're not indulging a gossip who wants you do to so, don't let them focus on that setback. You want to keep all parties engaged throughout a business meeting.