Going to meetings

A lot of people get paid to go to meetings.

Not to haul lumber or polish steel or clean sewers. Nope, we get paid to go to meetings. Sales calls, presentations, and strategy sessions.

There’s been an awful lot written about how to be a better salesperson, or how to give a presentation worthy of your audience’s attention.

I want to take a few paragraphs to talk about your obligations at being in the audience.

When a sales rep shows up for a scheduled meeting, it seems to me that you’re not doing her a favor. You agreed to the meeting. You’re getting paid to be there. You might as well get as much out of it as you can, right?

I mean, if you were a volunteer, or if you’re at home, it’s a little different. But here you are at work, not pounding bricks with a sledgehammer… you’ve got the Evian and the air conditioning and hey, it’s your job to go to this meeting.

So go!

Make it work.

Same thing with that 30 minute Powerpoint that the head of the division is showing to twenty of you. Or that seminar you’re scheduled to go to tomorrow.

Here are a few tips, tips that are based on one assumption: if you do a better job in the audience, the person speaking will do a better job. You’ll learn more, get more, accomplish more, today and the next time she comes back as well.

So, here goes:

When you meet the sales rep in the lobby, have a few interesting questions ready. Offer her a glass of water. Be on time. Act like you’re glad she’s there. Even if you’re not, acting that way will get her to do a better job, and that’s your job, right?

When you go to the presentation in the auditorium, don’t sit in the back row. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like sitting in the front row, you should. The presenter will do a better job. And if you’re tired, work hard at smiling and making contact. The presenter will do better, especially if he’s particularly boring and nervous.

Don’t bring a bag of Fritos. Don’t sit back. Don’t close your eyes.

Do bring snacks for your guest. Do lean forward. Do smile at attempts at humor. Laugh, even.

When the sales rep is giving you the specs on the steel pipes or the consulting services, challenge him. Ask hard questions. Figure out what he knows. If it’s worth you having him come over, it’s worth discovering what he knows.

When the sales call is over, tell the truth. Don’t say, "we’ll get back to you," unless you intend to. If you’re going to meet with your boss on Friday, tell him. If it’s not your decision, tell him.


Well, first of all, it’s your job. Second, it’s more likely he’ll try hard for you the next time you need him to.

If someone flies across the country to see you, offer to call her a cab to get back to the airport. If you can, put it on your account. It makes a huge difference.

When you treat your vendors the way you’d like your vendors treated, it comes back to you. It pays off. It gets you better information, better attention, better prices. You’re a professional at your desk. You should be a professional at a meeting, too.