10 Tips for Introverts to Master (And Enjoy) One-to-One Meetings
You have probably heard that the best way to build long-term, deep relationships with others is by meeting with them individually, in a one-to-one format. These meetings could take place in a variety of settings, although they most commonly happen over coffee or lunch. It sounds simple, yet many people have asked me: “Ok, but how does this work; what do we talk about; won’t it be awkward?” Those are very fair questions and very common concerns, especially for introverts like us. Here is a quick guide to help you make these meetings not only successful, but also easy, stress-free, and fun.
Arrive early. I find it’s best to arrive early enough to be there first. For me, this always allows me more control over the environment. I can choose the seat I want, in the part of the restaurant/coffee shop I want – usually a corner or back table, preferably with a booth, so I can spread out. I always prefer being able to leisurely order my coffee and get settled in without having to make small talk at the same time. It’s an opportunity to center myself and mentally prepare for the meeting.
Check out the menu online beforehand. This might be a personal preference (or quirk) of mine, but I am always more comfortable and confident when I have time to study a menu before having to make a decision. Doing that ahead of time prevents me from feeling rushed in the moment. It removes that small stress.
Research who you’re meeting beforehand. The more information you have about the person with whom you’re meeting, the better. This will help you feel more confident going into the meeting, as you will have a better sense of who this person is. Research can be done on LinkedIn, their company’s website, or by simply googling them. I find the more knowledge I have, the more comfortable I feel.
Ask questions. This is key! Everyone loves to talk about themselves, so asking questions about the other person will make them feel important and good about themselves. It helps to build rapport quickly, as they will know you truly care about them. If they have their guard up, asking the right questions will help bring their guard down. Additionally, it’s the best way to find out what commonalities you have with each other, which will create a bond and level of comfort between you.
Ask the right questions. Start the conversation off by asking an open-ended question (or begin with a leading statement), such as: “So tell me about your background.” Then you can ask about other topics, such as goals – personal or professional, family, hobbies, career path, etc.
Use questions as tools to navigate the conversation. You’ll likely be at this meeting to connect with someone in your business world, to build a relationship, and to, ultimately, either do business together or refer business to one another. Many people are cautious about coming off as too “salesy” during a conversation. To avoid this and alleviate any worries about being pushy, you can use specific questions to navigate the conversation. The most basic example would be: “How can I help you grow your business?” Other examples are: “Who is your ideal client?” “What challenges are you having right now?” and “Who are you looking to meet?” By using these types of questions, it’s almost guaranteed that the other person will answer, then ask you the same question, giving you the opportunity to tell them exactly what you’re looking for. Genius, right?
Communicate with your body. Body language is a key component to an in-person meeting. It can convey a multitude of unspoken emotions, so it’s very important to be mindful of it. This is especially true if you’re making a first impression. Smiling might be obvious; however, in the moment, it is easy to forget to smile. Leaning in with your body signals interest, while sitting back and folding one’s arms may signal discomfort or aloofness, neither of which makes for a great first impression. Eye contact is critical, as well. When listening to the other person speak, it’s important to make eye contact and give a little nod every so often to let them know you’re following their story.
Leave with homework. If possible, try to leave the meeting with at least one thing you’re going to do to help the other person. Be sure to follow through in a timely manner (24 hours, ideally); otherwise, your reputation could suffer.
Follow up. This is where most people fail. The most impactful way to follow up and make a lasting impression, I’ve found, is to send a handwritten note. Simple, easy, yet most people do not do this, and it will set you apart. If you’re going to incorporate this into your business plan, consider investing in high-quality stationary that matches your business cards. It will make a statement.
Relax and have fun. Sometimes, one-to-one meetings are intimidating or stressful. Remember: they’re just people. No matter how high-powered, successful, or educated one is, they are still just a person, like everyone else. A short meditation or a few deep breaths before walking into a meeting like this can go a long way to calm nerves. Connecting with people can be fun, and if you go into with that mindset, you’ll likely enjoy it.