Every now and then your boss has this great idea that it would be awesome to have a tech guy in this next meeting with the new customer. Maybe questions will appear that this tech guy can answer, and if not, it’s good that some techie at least got the requests of the customer. Let me guess, you are this tech guy? It won’t be that bad, there are ways to survive this meeting easily.
What’s your part?
First of all, ask you boss, team leader, project manager or whoever wants you to be in this event what your part should be in this meeting. Maybe it’s really just to be present and notice some requirements that can’t be fulfilled. You could be there to take the minutes or you have to give a little talk and showcase the new feature you have implemented. Whatever it will be, clarify your part.
It’s obvious that you have to prepare differently depending on you part of this meeting. If you have to show a new feature, practice your talk at home. But even if you only have to take the minutes or just be there physically, ask for the agenda and get the names of the attendees and take this list with you. This reduces stress and might prevent some unpleasant situations. Furthermore practice how to introduce yourself. Almost every customer meeting has a short round of interviews and it’s this moment when your heart rate probably goes up. At least you can prevent to sweat a lot when you know how to introduce yourself. “Good morning everyone, my name is John Doe, I’m a software developer at Microsoft and today I’m here to record your requirements and answer your technical questions concerning the launch of our software.” Done. In addition to that bring pen and paper or even better, a laptop. It just looks more professional and you don’t have to write things down twice if someone wants your notes afterwards.
I know you love your t-shirt and your sneakers but you know what, you don’t have to change much. Most of the time the dress code is “business casual” which simply means wear a shirt. That’s it! Of course, the managers wear their suits and ties but they do this all the time anyway. So go with a pair of jeans and a shirt and maybe some discreet black sneakers.
Yep, we hate it. But it really is better to say two completely unimportant sentences than just saying “hello”. While getting the first coffee together, ask the customer about their arrival. Was there a lot of traffic or a lot of people in the train? How long did it take to get here? How about the weather? The weather does always work. Black ice can be a topic in the winter. Ask the person in front of you what her job is and what her expectations of this meeting are. And if small-talk doesn’t work, you can always talk about the actual topics of this meeting, especially when the meeting lasts the whole day and you’re having dinner together. Oh, and try to keep a little eye contact. Don’t stare and don’t look away all the time. It is sufficient to keep eye contact when your interlocutor is talking. For me it’s still hard to keep eye contact and think of the words I want to say at the same time. I know, maybe that’s strange, I don’t know.
Get enough sleep
So obvious but still so hard. Go to bed early the day before the meeting and then get up early to get a nice shower and breakfast. A hectic morning definitely won’t improve your performance.
Boost your self-esteem
Okay this might sound silly, but there are ways to boost your self-esteem temporarily. One trick is to go to the restroom (so that nobody sees what you are doing) and then look up, put your hands up and make yourself big. I mean it. Body and mind are linked together. Watching your body language and walking upright changes the way you see yourself subconsciously. This corresponds a bit with the saying “fake it, till you make it” and it is not easy to execute but I suggest you give it try.