As a young professional, sitting in on client meetings can be intimidating, but invaluable experience. You will get to hear firsthand what the client’s perspective on the project is, what their main areas of focus and concern are, and any decisions made so you can hit the ground running on the production side. Also, you can learn so much by observing how a more senior member of your team presents, explains the design, and negotiates any issues or questions the client may have.
Conducting meetings has taken an interesting turn in 2020 as so much has gone virtual while we are all trying to distance from each other during the pandemic. For this reason, I am splitting my meeting etiquette advice into two sections, one for in-person meetings and one for virtual meetings.
In Person Meetings
Make sure you, or a member of your design team, meet your client at reception and walk them to the conference room, and walk them back out when they leave. Setting a hospitable tone from the start is a great way to start a meeting.
If you are already in the conference room and are seated when they arrive, stand, shake their hand and introduce yourself and your role on their project. You may be the youngest one in the room but you are still an important part of the team, and I have found that most clients are very interested to meet all of the people that are working on their project.
Make sure your client and design team members have water and/or a caffeinated beverage if they would like it. Meetings can get long and it’s best to stay well hydrated!
Make sure you know the technology in advance and have all of your needed documents queued up. Being a younger (and possibly more technologically advanced) team member, you definitely have the opportunity to save the day if something goes wrong! If physical samples are being presented, have them already laid out in a way for your client to best look at and touch them. Also be prepared that your client may want to take these samples with them. Make sure you ordered duplicates, or at least have some good photographs before the meeting.
Bring printed materials for you and your client to take notes on. For myself especially, I like to have the presentation printed in black and white so I’m able to write on it with colored pens to note any comments or changes.
Sit at the table. First, make sure enough seats are reserved for your client and those on the design team doing the presenting, but you have a right to sit at the table as well. I feel like this can feel intimidating for younger team members, and can particularly be a problem for women. Nothing hurt my heart more than walking by a meeting in a previous office and seeing all the men sitting on the table and all the women on the periphery. Your voice is valuable, and you deserve a seat at the table.
Generally, let the designated person present, but if you have something valuable to add, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Take good notes, and volunteer to write meeting minutes afterwards. Often the more senior members of your team are busy and finding time to write meeting minutes can be difficult for them. Taking the initiative to write the minutes will both impress your team and can lead to great conversations about what you heard and how you interpreted it.
Avoid multi-tasking. Don't bring other work that is not related to the meeting topics being discussed. It's obvious to others in the meeting when you're not engaged in the meeting. It's also distracting to the client and your team members.
Silence your phone or leave it at your desk. This tip seems self explanatory, but it's surprising how often we hear a distracting buzzzz in the middle of a meeting. If you do need to bring it to the meeting, tuck it away out of sight. Lights and vibrations can be bothersome!
Always follow through with your assigned action items. If you say you're going to send a revised plan, make sure you do it in a timely manner. This goes hand-in-hand with note-taking, jot down your action items during the meeting so they can't slip your mind before it's over.
Much of the advice for in-person meetings can be adapted for virtual meetings as well, but below are a few tips specific to virtual meetings.
Make sure you know the technology in advance, how to mute yourself and others, how to share screen, give control, etc. Also, make sure you have all of your documents open and know if you are sharing just one documents or your entire screen.
Start the meeting on time, or even a little early, if you are the organizer. You don’t want to leave your client waiting.
Mute yourself and try to limit controllable background noise for when you are speaking. This can be difficult especially if you are at home with kids but try to find a room where you can close the door for the duration of the meeting.
Still wear meeting-worthy clothes. You should still look professional, and it will make you feel professional as well.
It can be difficult to not talk over each other, so leave slightly longer pauses than usual and ask your client if they have any comments/questions.
Be aware of your surroundings. We understand not everyone has an office to work in at home, but make sure your background is professional and work appropriate. No one wants to see the dirty pile of laundry in the corner of your room.
Hopefully these tips will help you be prepared and impress both your team and the client while attending meetings.