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Growing up in the boardroom: Your first meeting
Finishing up in secondary school and considering a career in business? Harry McCann (Kid Tech, Digital Youth Council) talks about his experiences as a young entrepreneur, and how to get ready for your start in the business world.
While the majority of teenagers were sitting home playing video games I was travelling around the world building a career for myself. At the age of fifteen I entered my first boardroom, and over the past four years the boardrooms have got bigger and the people I meet inside them have become more important.
Although now going into a meeting is second nature, at the start it was most certainly the hardest and scariest part about being a young entrepreneur. So, what has changed? I’ve learned the right way to arrange meetings, prepare for them, approach them and how to walk to out of meetings feeling happy about what I have achieved.
Almost every young entrepreneur will find themselves where I was, walking into my first meeting anxious and shaking, but this honestly does not have to be the case, because the truth is believing in yourself and preparing well can leave you walking into a meeting confident and walking out happy.
Here are a few things I have learned along the way that still help me to do this day.
Getting to meet who you want to meet
Before you even prepare for a meeting, you need to get the meeting and sometimes this can be tough especially when the person you want to meet is in charge. I’ve met world leaders, CEO’s, MD’s, Founders, Executives and some of the most influential people in the world and all because I have never been afraid to say ‘Hello’. This might sound simple but often people are too afraid to walk up to the most important people in the room, and for that reason they never get to sit down and meet the people they want to meet. Taking that step and going over no matter how afraid you are will most certainly get you that meeting you want, so take a deep breath and do it (And don’t forget your business card!).
Dress for your age
This might sound silly, but honestly, I believe it is one of the most important things to remember. It is crucial that you realise early on that no one expects you to pretend to be any older or more experienced than you are. At the end of the day if you are sixteen-years-old and you are going to meet some top executive or business person you do not have to be in a suit or high heels, as long as you are dressed appropriately and respectfully you will be fine. I’ve been in plenty of meetings where I am the only one not in a suit, but the fact is that I was dressed appropriately and like you would expect a teenager to be dressed. There is honestly no need to worry about looking like a teenager because at the end of the day you are, and most people will respect that.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
This famous Roy Keane line is one which every young entrepreneur needs to write on their wall because it is a line that I have lived by over the past four years and it has never ever let me down. Your preparation for a meeting is a number of different things from having the right documents with you, knowing the person you are going to be meeting, understanding their work, knowing what you want to achieve from your meeting and even getting a good night sleep before so you are feeling fresh and ready to go. Whatever it might be, make sure you are prepared. I still write up a checklist of everything I need to have and do before a meeting, and to this day it has never failed me so I highly recommend you do the same.
Please, please, please do not be late
If you have to buy a watch, buy a watch, just don’t be late. I always take public transport which can often be unreliable but I always ensure that I am outside where I need to be at least twenty minutes before I need to be there and you should too. Being there early allows you to do three things, firstly it allows you time to ensure you are in the right place, secondly, it allows you to be relaxed and calm going into your meeting because you will not be rushing, and finally it allows you to be on time and to make a good impression. I honestly cannot stress enough how much of a positive effect being on time can have on your meeting and your day.
Take notes, always
Richard Branson and several other key business personalities are strong believers of always walking into meetings with a notebook and taking notes, and so am I. I always carry a small notebook in my bag and I take notes at every meeting. It helps you stay engaged in the discussion even when you are not taking, it helps you remember key points from the meeting and it always looks great when someone is taking and you are actively taking notes and listening to what they have to say. It is a sign of a good leader and an even better person.
Believe in yourself and be yourself
At the end of the day when all is said and done, if you believe in yourself you will go a long way in whatever you do. The same goes for when you are just being yourself. Your personality alone will help you so much in any meeting, so smile, relax and give it your best shot.
Always follow up
Finally, never forget to drop the person/people you are meeting an email or a text message later on in the day to thank them for their time and to follow up on anything you were supposed to. This will go a long way in the building a long and lasting relationship between yourself, that person and their business/organisation/group.
As I said I have spent the last four years walking in and out of boardrooms and I have met some truly amazing people and built some fantastic relationships with people and businesses all around the world and have benefitted so much from doing so. I have no doubt you will do the same, and even if your first meeting doesn’t go the way you would like it to, I promise you that your second, third and fourth will.
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