Approach client meetings with confidence

Jessica Moon explores techniques to help creatives appear more impressive in client meetings

A colleagues asked me recently, “How can I have a more confident presence
when interacting with clients and peers?” Really, the answer isn’t about appearing confident, it’s about facilitating a fluid conversation. If you can do that, you’ll be naturally impressive, and people will look to you as the leader in the room.

The great leaders I’ve been lucky to learn from act as catalysts, moderating productive conversations. Let’s take a look at some of the ways they do this.

1. Be a bee

Firstly, leaders identify the unique strengths of each person in the room and facilitate opportunities for these strengths to feed into one another. MailChimp CEO Ben Chestnut once stated that he imagines himself as a
bee in his company. He goes from person to person and ‘pollinates’ the right interactions between teams and individuals. This provides an almost unseen value to the group as a whole.

Tribal Leadership refers to this as triading, and you can do it in meetings as well. By asking the right questions and identifying how everyone can contribute, you can enhance the conversation by connecting good ideas and knowing who to ask for input. Your job is to give your peers and clients the power to contribute.

2. Keep the flow

It’s easy to become a bystander in brainstorming meetings because you’re worried about adding unnecessary noise to the conversation. And sure, this can be bad, but disruptions in the flow are just as bad. Awkward pauses and drawn-out tangents can kill your productive meeting.

When the flow starts to waver, do something about it. Keep mental notes about the meeting’s main objectives and use them during gaps to keep the conversation on track. Instead of contributing junk and slowing things down, be proactive about moving the conversation forward.

3. Look for new angles

Because you bring experience from outside your client’s sector, you can provide an objective perspective. Do everything in your power to not only be informed about the project at hand, but to also introduce outside insights
to the group. Read industry publications and watch your client’s competitors — but also be mindful of things you’ve learned while working on seemingly unrelated projects. Utilising your broad knowledge and coming prepared with research will help you be more confident about giving your opinion, instead of taking shots in the dark.

4. Explore extreme ideas

It’s easy to go into meetings with a set of assumptions about your client and your project, but these assumptions can limit your thinking. Test the waters with ideas that are just short of crazy, like changing the colour palette or shuffling page elements. Even if they’re rejected, these suggestions can push the boundaries of your conversation and ignite ideas that would have otherwise been out of reach. People will admire your willingness to go out on a limb.

The worst thing that can happen in a group conversation is to start spinning in circles around one idea. What is the point in reaching a conclusive strategy if others haven’t been explored? Some of the best ideas I’ve
encountered are ones that weren’t on the most obvious path.

All these points speak towards things that can improve your interactions with clients and peers, but they’re not directly about seeming confident or impressive. Your goal should be to lead conversations toward collaborative and creative solutions. If you can do that, you will naturally become more
confident, and people will notice.

Jessica is an art director at Digital Telepathy, a user experience design studio that specialises in creating products like Impress, and Filament. She blogs at moonspired.com.


This article originally appeared in issue 268 of net magazine.