Archive for November, 2013

One key rule for successful business interactions: be prepared!

Business Meeting Preparation

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

 Benjamin Franklin, author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat (1706-1790)

Abstract:

In sport, music, theater or many other disciplines, it is obvious that success strongly depends on the time spent preparing for the event itself. With no surprise, the same rule applies to business. In order to increase your chance of success, an efficient preparation should always include the following four components: Objective setting,  a thorough study of the Context for the expected event, Anticipation of what could go wrong and Rehearsal (OsCAR).

Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): OsCAR for Successful Business Interactions

DELTANOMIX LEADERSYNDROME - OsCAR Business Interactions

Concept:

Looking at the players selected for the Olympic games or at the members of any well-known philharmonic orchestra, it is with no doubt that those high performers could reach this level of professionalism only through long hours of training, rehearsing and preparation. It is also obvious that their successes and performance are directly linked to the intensity and quality of their preparation work. In the same way, in an always more competitive business environment, becoming a champion requires a similar level of preparation, be it for giving or taking an interview, running a presentation in front of your board and your company shareholders, giving a demo to a strategic customer, negotiating a deal with a prospect, handling a difficult discussion with one of your team members, managing the triggering of your Business Continuity Plan during a crisis  and so on…

But more concretely, what does a preparation exercise bring to the table in the context of business interactions?

Among others, the following internal and external benefits can be identified:

  • synchronizing the understanding of a situation among various staff or teams which will allow to speak from a single voice once facing your external counterparts,
  • sharing/getting knowledge and increasing the subject matter expertise among the employees involved in the preparation meeting which will benefit your audience when running the real meeting,
  • getting exposed to various view points and learning to constructively debate and position within a group focusing on a common goal,
  • increasing the perception of professionalism for your contact when going through the official meeting or event,
  • gaining self-confidence and a feeling of control over the situation to come which will in return allow to decrease your level of stress and anxiety,
  •  bringing a level of comfort with the topic to discuss which will help to free up some cognitive resources to focus your attention on your interlocutor by improving your active listening ability…

What are the main rules for a powerful preparation?

  • Be conscious that running a preparation exercise is time-consuming, especially for key business events with many stakeholders involved. Make sure to book the necessary time in the schedule of all relevant parties long enough in advance, specifying the agenda for the preparation meeting using the OsCAR framework below,
  • The group of staff attending a preparation meeting may be larger than the group expected to join the real event. This mainly depends on the type of knowledge or information required to grasp the context of the event,
  • The recommended framework for a preparation meeting consists in four elements:
    1. Objective setting:
      • What do you want to achieve? (eg: convey a specific message during a presentation, get access to a decision-maker for a deal, understand the true motivation for a candidate to join your company…)
      • How will you specifically measure whether you have reached your goal? (eg: get a clear budget figure from your counterpart during  the meeting, get a specific appointment set as a next step, have your audience being able to summarize your message when asked…)
    2. Context study and understanding:
      • Who is your audience / interlocutor / counterpart? (background, existing relationship, area of expertise, personal interests, history, level of authority, level of influence…)
      • Why are they joining the meeting / presentation and what do they expect from it?
      • In case of meeting with a client or a prospect, what is the company business? What are their objectives?
      • What are the latest news about this company?
      • Who is their main competitors and how do they differentiate?
      • In case of existing relationship with your interlocutors, are they supporter, neutral or detractors? Are they satisfied with the product and related services?
      • What type of relationship do they entertain with the rest of your ecosystem (competition, providers…)?
      • You may add as many questions as necessary to get the best possible picture and understanding of the situation (or of the topic to present)…
    3. Anticipation of what could derail the course of the event:
      • List what could go wrong and review what the action course should be.
      • Which objections could you expect? How to handle those?
      • Review the 5 most realistic what-if scenario and prepare alternatives or answers.
    4. Rehearsal:
      • before starting your rehearsal, clarify the logistics (attendee list on your side, flow of the event, owner of the material preparation, set-up of the meeting room – power? internet? projector? microphone? … -)
      • depending on the type of event (one-on-one meeting, internal team presentation, client meeting, deal negotiation, external roadshow and demo…), you can of course use various methods for rehearsing: from standing alone in front of your mirror, to role-playing with colleagues or to go for a complete dry-run in the exact location of the event…
      • Obviously, the closer you get from the real conditions, the better!

Despite a thorough OsCAR preparation, things rarely go as per plan. Nonetheless, it is exactly because you have prepared with the relevant stakeholders that you will be in a better position to tackle any unexpected challenges. Being prepared will allow you to approach more openly, confidently and creatively those unavoidable surprises.

Practice:

  • exercise 1: Over the past 6 months, select the most important internal and external business interactions you had run and that had ended up successfully.
    • Describe what those two events were about and how it went?
    • How much have you prepared for each of those events?
    • What were the objectives and measure of success?
    • What was your level of stress and confidence when running each event?
    • Which image have you given to your interlocutor? How satisfied are you with it?
    • Could the outcome have been better? Why and how?
    • Could the result have been worse? Why and how?
    • If you had to do it again, what would you do differently in preparing for those events?
  • exercise 2: Over the past 6 months, select the most important internal and external business interactions you had run and that had failed.
    • Describe what those two events were about and how it went?
    • How much have you prepared for each of those events?
    • What were the objectives and measure of success?
    • What was your level of stress and confidence when running each event?
    • Which image have you given to your interlocutor? How satisfied are you with it?
    • Could the outcome have been better? Why and how?
    • Could the result have been worse? Why and how?
    • If you had to do it again, what would you do differently in preparing for those events?
  • exercise 3: Pick from your current to-do list the next key internal and external business interactions you will have to run. Use the OsCAR framework to prepare for those two interactions. Once the events are over, answer the same questions as the two exercises here above and compare the results. What do you conclude? Which actions will you take as a next step?

So What?

The art of running successful business interactions (from internal one-on-one discussions on one side of the spectrum to external strategic executive meetings and presentations on the other side) heavily relies on the science of preparation. While preparing allows you to gather the necessary information to get a clear picture on the situation, boost your knowledge and understanding of the topic at stake, share and discuss your views with the relevant internal stakeholders, it also gives you a better grip on what can be expected or what can go wrong during the course of the real event, thus making you ready to face the unexpected. Efficient preparation meetings can be based on a four-step approach (OsCAR): 1. confirm your goal and related measure of success (Objective setting) 2. study and analyze the situation and the background using all relevant sources and resources (Context) 3. identify the risks, objections or issues that can arise (Anticipation)  4. train through dry-run or role playing once the logistics is confirmed (Rehearsal). Using the OsCAR preparation framework should give you the peace of mind to join confidently any business interactions as well as provide you with the necessary resources to cope with the various challenges arising as your event progresses.

Last Revision: 2015 March 28

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