Getting Back Into Meeting-In-Person-Shape

Like many, it’s been a while since I’ve engaged with clients on the road.  With most trips, there are logistics to work out, protocols to abide by, and a general sense of business etiquette to follow.  When you’re meeting with clients live these habits appear obvious, but when you’ve been stuck in your offices working virtually for what seems like years, (because it has been,) we have inadvertently learned to focus mainly on ourselves.  What’s more, what used to be routine isn’t quite as effortless as it once was.  As a result, we’ve gotten out of what I call, “meeting-in-person-shape.” Perhaps a quick story of my last trip will provide a good reminder of just what I mean, because it turns out I forgot a few basic principles…   

I asked my client if we could deliver the presentation virtually.  The client had initially made a request for the presentation to be virtual, but when he found out I was traveling again, he immediately asked it if I would deliver it live.  It’s a presentation that teaches people how to give presentations, and if any presentation should be delivered live, it’s this one.  However, I told the client that there were no nonstop flights to or from Bozeman, Montana, and I was hesitant to fly out there. I asked for 24-hours to decide if I wanted to commit to delivering the presentation in person. After all, although the presentation wouldn’t be nearly as effective virtually, I knew that delivering the presentation virtually would make my trip much easier.

I asked my client if we could finish early.  The presentation was scheduled to end at noon. There was a 12:45 flight out of Bozeman that would allow me to be home a few hours earlier than if I had to wait for the next flight later in the day.  In order to catch it, however, I would need to finish the three-hour presentation about twenty minutes early.  The client didn’t seem thrilled, but went along with my request.  After all, allowing me to shorten the presentation would make mytrip easier.

I asked my client if he would insure everyone would have the necessary handouts that are required for the program.  Technically, it’s the client’s responsibility to have each participant go to the website, download the handout, print it out, and bring it with them.  It’s not exactly convenient, and many clients forget to do it so I often just print them out, and bring them with me.  I just didn’t feel like doing it this time.  Afterall, allowing the client to print out their own handouts would make my trip easier.

I asked my client if he could pick me up and take me to the training site. My hotel was only two miles from the location of the training.  When my client told me nicely, “I’d prefer not to; I plan on being there early to set up,” I couldn’t let it go.  I asked again explaining, “I like being onsite early!”  At this point, my client was so annoyed he never even replied to my email. I was confused because, after all, getting a ride would make my trip easier.  

If that wasn’t enough, the day before I left, I had a rather lengthy conversation with a different client and old friend who lives in Seattle.  When he asked me where I was traveling to for my next presentation, I started to whine and complain as I replied, “Bozeman, Montana.  Can you believe it?  I have to fly to lousy, little, no-non-stops out of the way, Bozeman, Montana!”  Afterall, although I’ve never been there, it is rather small, and difficult to get to.  Once I was done complaining, he quietly let me know their home office was in Bozeman, and he found it to be a rather nice little town.  If I were in meeting-in-person-shape, I would never have blindly put down a town I had never been to. I would have reminded myself to be grateful there was a town that had a business that valued what I do, and was willing and able to pay for my services.

I’m not proud of the faux pas above, but quite frankly, I wasn’t even aware I was behaving so badly.  I’ve gotten out of meeting-in-person-shape. For many like me, we’ve been sequestered in our homes for not what seems like years, but what has literally been years!  It’s no wonder my obsession seemed to be laser focused on me.  Turns out I’ve been with me a lot lately, and I’ve lost my natural focus on those around me, rather than on just me.  

So, this is a cautionary tale to all of you who are leaving the safe confines of your home offices, and traveling back to see your clients.  Don’t be surprised to find you’re a little out of meeting-in-person-shape.  Give yourself a few extra minutes to pack, and for goodness sakes, remember when you’re interacting with your clients: 

The goal isn’t to make things easier for you; it’s to make your client’s experience working with you easier.

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