How to Deal with Tough Meetings

Linda Jenkins, November 04 2016

Avoiding a Suicide Mission

how to handle a tough meetingNot all your meetings will go well. Sometimes, you'll have to enter with a disadvantage, such as lack of bargaining power. Other times, you will face a hostile audience that has something you need. Whatever the case, you can't let something like that stop you on your entrepreneurial journey. For your small business to survive, you must learn how to deal with tough meetings.

1. Focus on the Objective

When facing a hostile audience, it's easy to get distracted by the small stuff. While ending the meeting with them thinking better of you can count as a win, it may not be the victory the business needs. Don't respond to personal attacks and shut down side topics. Focus on getting business done and leaving the table with what you need.

2. Bring Backup

Taking on a hostile meeting alone isn't suicide, but it's also more difficult than it sounds. Having backup with you in the form of an assistant or partner can make it feel less oppressive, as well as give you access to another viewpoint. You'll have enough to deal with trying to get what you want without also having to constantly read the room. Have your partner give you non-verbal and non-visible signals for when they feel you should reorient or go for a different angle, such as a nose scratch or a toe-to-toe tap.

3. Know What You're Getting Into

When you're running a small business, success can come down to what you know. The same is said of walking into dangerous or hostile territory - it's far safer to do so if you know where the hostility is coming from. If you know why they're unwilling to listen or know what their side of the argument is, you can prepare arguments against their points. Having argument-destroying silver bullets can turn a meeting to your favor faster than a loud voice could, and can keep you from sputtering and losing your momentum.

4. Use Facts and Figures

When a small business owner wants to get investors in their corner, they use numbers. Saying things look good isn't a convincing argument. Showing people that your profit numbers have gone up since the last quarter is better. Think of it as the difference between showing and telling. To work with a hostile room, you do the same. Don't appeal to their feelings - that's already likely set against you. Give them something they can't argue with, like hard statistics.

5. Don't Fight - Win

Don't give the competition any room to breathe - press on them as hard as possible until your company is dominant. Just realize that this does not mean you have to get hostile, it means you have to present better points and provide win-win proposals that your competition cannot logically refuse. Have the same approach when you're low on hard numbers or you're facing a powerful opponent. For example, you can find out who else is going to the meeting and meet with them beforehand. Take the time to sway them over to your side. Instead of a variety of agendas, uniting them with yours gives you the room before the meeting ever begins.

Not all meetings will start well, but they don't have to end badly. You just have to prepare for the meeting a bit differently. In fact, it may not be a bad idea to go into all your meetings with this approach. You never know when you could've read the lead-up incorrectly. This will keep your small business safe, and your meetings as successful as possible.