This is a guest post by Wes Davenport. Wes is a music marketer, blogger, and publicist based in Nashville, TN. He writes about ways modern musicians can thrive at wesdavenport.com. Follow him on Twitter @wesdavenport for more music industry insights. In this guest post, Wes offers some great tips on making the most of your meetings. Enjoy!
If you've ever had a corporate day job, you know how terrible meetings can be. The worst meetings can be mind-numbingly boring wastes of time. Just because the music business tends to be on the creative end of the spectrum doesn't mean it's immune to bad meetings.
Given the swift pace of the industry, no one can afford to burn time on an unproductive meeting. You may land only 15 minutes in front of an important decision maker, so every minute counts.
But don't stress. There are three components of a successful meeting: preparation, the meeting itself, and the follow up. Here's how to pull off each one so you'll ace your next music business meeting.
“Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared." - George S. Clason
Going into a meeting with full confidence in yourself is invaluable. If you don't have faith in yourself, why should anyone else? The best way to bolster your confidence lies in preparation.
Set a time
If you're the one requesting a meeting, arrange the meeting time around the other party's schedule. This is just common courtesy. It would be rude to ask for an appointment, then demand for someone to conform to your schedule.
If someone requests a meeting with you, throw out two or three times that would be convenient for you. By giving them options, you'll save time by not going back and forth repeatedly until a date is found that works for everyone.
While you're at it, set a clear time limit. Meetings tend to drag on if they don't have a specific end time. Time boundaries will make everyone involved more focused.
Set a place
The environment often sets the tone for a meeting. Consider your audience and your reason for meeting up.
A casual brainstorming session will thrive if held outside on a beautiful day. Contract negotiations would be right at home in an office environment. The coffee shop is a popular networking locale.
Clear your schedule
Imagine you have the fortune of getting in front of someone who could make a major impact on your career. You take great care in setting up a time and place. Then, after all that, you forget to ask off of work, find a babysitter, or tell your significant other you can't make it to dinner that night (uh oh).
If you want to save face (and stay out of the dog house), clear out your schedule so you don't have any conflicts. Stay organized with a calendar app like Google Calendar.
Know Your Stuff
Research whomever you are speaking with and their company. Check the company website and social networks for the latest news. Those will give you good conversation pieces and may lead to more insight on partnership opportunities.
Also narrow down essential items that need to be discussed so nothing important gets left out. During a meeting, you have someone else's undivided attention, a rare thing nowadays. Do you really want to leave a big question at the mercy of an overflowing inbox?
All this information can be tough for one person to remember, so bring a team member along. They'll be able to take notes and bring up crucial issues.
A manager is appropriate for just about any situation, but keep lawyers, publicists, and producers in mind, too. Just be sure to let whomever you're meeting with know who will be attending.
Regardless if this is a meeting with a CEO or a get together with a potential agent, productive meetings are often made up of the same components.
Be on time
Just kidding. Be early. Sure, everyone says to take traffic and travel times into account, but factor in restaurant wait times, too. Waiting around at the front of a restaurant after just meeting someone can be a bit uncomfortable and awkward, so grab a table before everyone arrives.
Most music business meetings are fairly casual, but it doesn't hurt to dress a step nicer than your everyday attire.
If you usually wear dirty t-shirts, opt for a (clean) button-up shirt instead. You can always roll up your sleeves and show off your tattoos if you need to casual it down. Bring a blazer or tie if you need to take it up a notch.
Ladies, I'm probably not your best resource on specific wardrobe recommendations. But another gender neutral appearance tip is have good posture. Keep your chin up, back straight, and shoulders square room make you feel and look more confident.
Silence the phone
Or turn it off. Trust me, you don't need to live-tweet this one.
Take the conversational temperature
Within about five minutes, you should be able to tell how much of a meeting will be strictly business.
Meetings taking place during meals tend to be more conversational. Don't be afraid to kick back and tell a couple of stories. At other times, if the other party seems hurried or humorless, stick to discussing what needs to be addressed.
Just be aware of the other person's demeanor, and you'll catch on.
Here's where having a team member present comes in handy.
Taking notes shows you're engaged with the discussion. Ironically, doing so on an electronic device tends to make you look disengaged. Attitudes are changing, but for now, stick to taking notes on paper.
Note: If you are going to take notes on a phone or tablet, at least let everyone know you're doing that instead of goofing off.
At the end of the meeting, briefly recap what was said and what needs to be done going forward. Confirming the who/when/where/how makes sure everyone knows exactly what to do. As a bonus, it shows you paid attention.
Get contact info
Before you leave, be sure to get the contact info of everyone involved. See if the info you have needs to be updated and find out preferred channels of communication.
After the meeting is when things actually get done. Here's how to capitalize on your preparation and productive meeting.
If you took notes on paper, transferring them to a digital format is the perfect time to go over your notes. Personally, my brain and professional life runs on Evernote.
This beautiful, life-saving tool syncs notes to your desktop, your mobile devices, and to the Evernote website. That way, you have your notes wherever you go. Since Evernotes are digital, they are particularly coffee and fire-resistant.
After a digital backup, review your notes and refresh on what was discussed.
The purpose of the follow up depends on why you met in the first place. You may simply thank them for their time. Or you could review action items to make sure everyone is on the same page. Regardless, send a follow up message within a short time after a meeting so everything is still fresh.
Execute action items
Whatever action items were agreed upon, go get them done. Be prompt. Be efficient. Always deliver quality materials on time.
A Flexible Framework
No meeting is the same, but this is a flexible framework to give you confidence, make a powerful impression, and open doors to future gatherings. Use it for pitch meetings, contract signings, job interviews, and first dates (OK, maybe not the last one).
Good luck with your next business meeting! With these tips, I'm sure you'll kill it.
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