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What Do You Want To Know?

by David Brock on September 15th, 2014

We all know that preparation for a meeting is important.  We want to connect well with people, we want to create a positive impression, we want to accomplish something.

As we prepare for a meeting, there are all sorts of things we may want to research and prepare for.  There are great tools to help us in that process.  We learn a lot about a person by looking at their personal social profile leveraging LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other tools.  We can learn about their company by visiting their website and leveraging all sorts of other tools (e.g. Insideview, Hoovers, D&B, others)

If we’ve had some level of relationship with a person, we may want to review our last calls/meetings.  Or we may know something they are interested in and want to be prepared to talk about that.  For example, I just got off a call with someone who’s a sailing fanatic and just returned from a week long bareboat charter, so we exchanged a few “sea stories,” (you know the kind—my adventure makes yours look like nothing, with each of us one upping the other.  A close friend just had a very cool meeting with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, so on his way to the meeting, he listened to their big hits, just to refresh his memory.

What are the 5 things you really want to know about the person you are just about to meet with?  Just before you walk into a meeting with an individual, what are the 5 most critical things you want to know about them, their situation, and/or their company–and why are they important?

I’d love to get your feedback in the comments, I’ll summarize them and provide a follow up post.

The 5 things may be different if you have a relationship with someone versus this being the first time you are meeting.  If so, I’d love to know the differences.  Just to be clear, you already have a meeting (phone or face to face) established-you aren’t trying to convince them to meet with you.  What are the 5 things you always prepare for in walking into the meeting.

I’ll try to kick start this conversation with my 5 things:

  1. I’d like to know a little about the person–their current role, background, types of jobs they have, schools, hobbies, whether we know anyone in common.
  2. I’d like to know a little about their company and the current situation in the company.  Did they have a good quarter? Year?  Are they a leader in their sector, have they been struggling, is there any hot news in the last few days?
  3. What’s happening in their industry/markets?  Has there been anything exciting/disruptive that impacts them and their markets?
  4. I’d like to know, sometimes it’s hard to determine, how things are going with them in general.  Are they incredibly busy, have they been having some problems, are they frustrated, have they had some recent successes or gotten some great visibility?  Has anything important happened in their life recently?
  5. How will I make sure that what we are meeting about will be a good use of their time?  What value will I create in the meeting?
  6. I’ll give you the 6th–all of us will have this, so I don’t want you including it in the 5 things you identify—but for all of us, it’s probably, “What do we want to accomplish with them in this meeting?”

So not repeating the 6th item–what we want to accomplish in the meeting–our goals, objectives, agenda, can you tell me what 5 things you want to know about the person before you meet.  I’ve been a little general in my 5–just to give you a starting point, but if you can provide your 5 things, it would be really helpful.  If you could also provide a short explanation about why you want to know it, that would be great as well.

Thanks for your help!  I’ll leave this open for about a week and write a summary as a follow on post.

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5 Comments
  1. Suggestions 2 and 3 are critical to success.

    #2 “I’d like to know a little about their company. Did they have a good quarter?
    Is there any hot news in the last few days?
    #3 “What’s happening in their industry/markets? Has there been anything exciting/disruptive that impacts them and their markets?”

    We should heed Dave’s cautionary words in #1: “know A LITTLE about the person.” If you make it known that you gathered information about a person’s background, previous jobs, schools, hobbies etc., he/she may be uncomfortable, rather than flattered. The word “creepy” comes to mind.

    What Do You Want To Know? will prepare us to “connect well with people.” However, if we are to achieve the positive impression that Dave desires , we must exercise good judgment in knowing What To Say, What NOT to Say and When To Say It!

    • Vince, thanks for the great comments. The “creepy” factor is a real issue. I once had a call from someone trying to impress me with his research and knowledge of me. He started complementing me on some of the songs in a Spotify playlist of mine. I suspected he may have been on the way to complementing me on my credit scores—–but I hung up first 😉

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