Professional Networking 101, Episode 2: Meeting Preparation and After Actions

In Professional Networking 101, Adam Braatz of postmilitarypro.com shares insights and experiences related to professional network development — usually while traversing to/from a networking connection.

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Episode 2: Meeting Preparation and After Actions

Everyone should spend a few minutes preparing for each meeting, especially if it’s a first connection. What are best practices for preparation and after actions, and how do they translate in the meeting itself? See below for the transcription of the above video.

Transcript:

Hello. I’m going to tell you the best way to prepare for a networking meeting and what not to do when preparing for a networking meeting and how that applies practically within your networking connection. My name is Adam Braatz, postmilitarypro.com, take a second to subscribe to this channel on YouTube so you don’t miss any great insights and videos. Now, today I’m gonna share a story with you about a connection that I had that was not a great example of the way to prepare for a meeting. And then I’m gonna give you some insights on my approach to how I prepare for a meeting and my after actions, as well, post meeting and how that applies practically, like I said, within the meeting.

So the story. A few months ago I met with a young man that had reached out to me and sought a meeting. I never turn down a meeting so I was very happy to meet with this young man. Nice guy, clearly in sales, mid-20s so moderately experienced. I think he’d been doing it for a couple of years. So we met up, we were waiting in a line to grab a coffee, we were having great small talk, he’s charming, charismatic guy so it was easy to relate to him, he listened well. And so we sat down and we were chatting and it’s very natural and then it was like you hear the record scratch sound, you know? And then the most unnatural, ungodly, forced transition from small talk to business talk. From introductory talk to getting down the business. It was so awful. He might as well have just said, “At this point, if you wouldn’t mind, “I would like to conclude the small talk portion “of this networking gathering “and proceed directly into business formalities.” Like it was awful.

And what really made it awful was he took out a book, a notebook that he had, he plopped it down on the table and he said, “Okay, here we go.” He flips to a page, he finds the page he’s looking for and there my name is at the top, handwritten, big bold letters, the name of my organization, a whole bunch of stuff about me that he found out online or on YouTube or anything like that and then a bunch of questions that he wanted to ask me. Now, I am experienced in networking, I understand that there’s resource that goes into that but even myself, even I was unsettled by seeing that. I mean, I was half flattered that he thought I was important enough to do research on. He probably didn’t really know what was going on but it was unsettling. It’s a little unnerving, it’s a little creepy to just see that written like that. That notebook should have never come out.

But instantly, once that notebook was out, he was bound to it, he was tied to the questions that were in that notebook. His posture, his body language changed, he got hunch shoulder, his eyes went down to his notebook and he started asking questions robotically. And each question was unrelated to the one before, there was no natural segues or natural flow, no organic flow to a dialog whatsoever. And I was clear that when I was answering the questions, he was going through his list, thinking about what the next question was gonna be to ask me and I let him carry on, learning experience for a young man that’s probably has limited experience with networking. But it was had he gone organically and naturally and prepared by kind of doing his research, and understanding questions and things about me going into it to a level where he didn’t need to reference it, he could have gained insights from me, I could have gained insights from him, we could have had a meaningful connection that would have been mutually beneficial for the two of us. But because that didn’t happen, we just didn’t. Nothing against this guy, super nice kid, alright? So I don’t wanna make it sound like I’m slandering anybody, it’s just a different level of experience when it comes to connections like this.

Now, here’s what I do, the best practices, in my option, when it comes to preparing for a networking connection. So look online, obviously, do a Google search, see if you can find information about them. See if you can find information about them through their business page. A lot of times, especially if they work in finance or in content creation or marketing, they’ll have bios on their webpage that you can read and gain some insight, it’s stuff that they want the public to know, so you don’t have to feel creepy digging into that. Go into their LinkedIn page, take a look at their education history, their work history, but most importantly, take a look at their, if they have it listed in there, their volunteerism, alright? And their focus with charities, alright? If you really wanna understand how somebody what makes somebody tick and what’s important to them at a deep level, just look at where they volunteer and look at where their philanthropic interests lie, anything that has to do with charity or volunteerism, that’s gonna be really important for you to know going into the meeting.

Now, whether you write it down by hand or you put it into a digital format, I strongly suggest, well, you have to, you have to write it all down. I use a Google Document so I can access it at work, at home, at my phone, on the fly, no matter what, and I just write down information. I call it file people notes, I write down their name, their organization, things that I find out about them that are relevant in advance. And consequently, after the connection, once I’m out of earshot and eyeshot, back in the car or around the corner, if I’m walking, I take my phone out, take out the Google Document and write down every single thing that I can remember, no matter how inconsequential it may seem from the meeting. Are they married? What’s their spouse’s name? Kids, age, where he grew up, he or she grew up. Where he or she went to school. Where he or she has worked in the past. What did you talk about? What interests? What drives them? You know, even if it seems inconsequential, because you’ll use that as a springboard to reference for a second meeting. Because if you’re networking with people at a high volume which you absolutely should be, see my last video, there’s no way, especially if you have a sea of first meetings, that you’re gonna remember and internalize all of this content. If you’re meeting with 10 people a week and they’re all new, you’re not gonna be able to remember all of that. Once you get a second, third meeting and you gain a rapport with somebody, your note-taking can tamper off.

So you take notes, you do your research prior to your meeting and when you get to your meeting, you internalize that content to the point where you don’t need to reference it. That book, that document should never leave your briefcase, your phone should never leave your pocket, do not take out that book that has their name written on there with all the notes you have for them because no matter how experienced of a networker they are, that is creepy. It is unsettling to even the most elite and well-connected networkers, okay? You should have done your homework to the point where you have a series of questions in mind, things that you’re interested in knowing about them, advice that you wanna garner from them, alright? You should have all of that lined up. Have your notebook or your phone available to take notes, however if they provide specific information to you that would be valuable. For example, I think you should visit this website. I think you should contact this person and connect with them, that’s gonna be really important. Those sort of things. Take your notebook out, take your phone out, write it down or put it in your digital note, close the book, put it away and put your phone in your pocket.

It’s really important that you do your research but it’s also really important that you keep a poker face on regarding just how much research you’ve done in advance, ’cause that, even notebook out, phone out or not, can come across as creepy. And you can usually use questioning to get people to reveal the information that you’re interested in or get them to start talking. The next video is gonna be about questioning levels so make sure you subscribe so you can hear that. For example, if you say, “Hey, so have you lived in this area for very long?” “Did you grew up here? “And where are you from originally?” Versus, “I was doing some research and I noticed you lived “at 123 Oak Street in Smitten, New Jersey, “how was that treating ya? “I was doing a Google Street View “and your rosebushes in the front just look fantastic. “Is that a pool in the back?” That’s creepy, don’t do that. If the thought in the back of your head is what I’m about to say might be kind of creepy, don’t say it. That’s common sense, just don’t do it, alright? Err on the side of not creepy probably at all times, especially when you’re connecting with somebody new.

So in summation, do your research, take good notes, take good notes post meeting and during the meeting, make sure you’re prepared enough to ask questions and steer the conversation and then move the conversation forward without revealing really how much research you’ve done because it is unsettling. Take a moment to click the subscribe button in YouTube and so you can hear more of these videos. I’m happy to share them with you, thank you for paying attention. Again, my name is Adam Braatz, postmilitarypro.com and we will see you next time, thank you.

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