This past week I had the opportunity to have lunch with a vendor at his clients’ site. As a part of the lunch there is the usual dog and pony show. Vendors are trying to get you to buy their product after-all.
After this rendez-vous, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the lunch and the product demonstration as well as the entire meeting at the client site. Part of this reflection was to determine the roles that each party plays in such a meeting (client, potential client and vendor). Also part of this reflection was the discussions I have held with co-workers both present and not at this meeting.
It is not uncommon to speak of local area events or other things not business related to help bridge the gaps when the discussion lulls a little or you are at a wait point. In my area there were two major conventions coming up and thus for some circles that would make sense. One of the conventions was CES and the other was the Adult Entertainment one. In a business meeting that revolves around technology, I would be stunned if CES did not come up in the conversation at some point. During our meeting it did – only as a flighting thought though. That, in retrospect is somewhat astonishing.
Without the decision makers present in the meeting, the demo took a back seat and I was trying to find a way out there tactfully and professionally. I probably should have been less tactful and more forceful – but I was the guest. I found myself being somewhat ignored, surrounded in sailor language and hearing my hosts go on and on about the Adult Entertainment convention just down the street. Talk about a business meeting gone awkward and weird.
Thus I came to the realization of some things that really should be happening during business meetings.
- Know your audience. In a business meeting, you are there for more mature conversation that should be centrally focused on the agenda at hand. If you get off subject, it should be a safe subject. An appropriate vernacular should be used. It is a professional meeting and dropping constant “F” bombs does not impress anybody. It may take a little restraint for some, but think if the language choice would be offensive to the opposite sex, bystanders or would you say it around a child?
- It is an Interview. You may be at somebody else’s site and not even thinking of changing jobs. That is ok, this does not mean a job interview. However, treat it as such. You will gain valuable insight into your vendor as well as the local businesses. Should you need to change jobs in the future, you will have this information at hand to help you decide to pursue them or not. Also, you will take back information on how best to portray your company if ever in a similar opportunity.
- Be Professional. You should speak and act no differently when management is present than when they are not. You are a representative of your employer. Your behavior reflects not only on you but on your employer as well. This combines quite nicely with #2 above. When attending these kinds of meetings, you are also interviewing the professional attitude of the staff. What if they find themselves displaced, the stars align and you are hiring. You now have excellent insight into their behaviors – did they speak or act in such a manner that would prevent you from hiring them?
- Check your Title at the door. This is one that I picked up from a college course. Leave predispositions and arrogance behind. You may have a certain title somewhere, but in a meeting everybody should be treated equally. Opinions and input from all should be welcome without ostracization.
Language and behavior that I experienced as an outsider to this company only begs the question – Where is the filter? Would they behave the same around other staff and staff of a different gender. What about the corporate harassment policies? Let’s extend that to business ethics and morality – how does it mesh with the corporate image? Like it or not, people will judge you and your corporation by your actions and words.
When I recounted the behaviors I encountered to my co-workers, they were stunned. When I recounted it to my wife, she was abhored. I was a little too lenient when they started off slowly. I figured, I was a visitor and a slip of the tongue here or there might be acceptable in their business. Don’t hesitate to request a change in vernacular or behavior if you find it insulting.