How do you prepare when you have an upcoming business meeting with someone you’ll be meeting for the first time?
Sure, you’ll set objectives for the meeting. You’ll create an agenda. And you’ll think about the information you want to share. These are all best practices for effective meetings.
But don’t stop there.
Social media gives you valuable opportunities to learn more in advance about the person, or people, you’ll be meeting. It opens a new window on what’s important to someone and how they think.
With social media, you can take 15 to 30 minutes to get to know someone’s career, their professional interests and their potential commonalities with you.
Here are 6 ways to do that, as part of your social media savvy strategy.
Visit their LinkedIn profile. Focus on their current role and the problems that person is solving in their work. Consider how that connects with your meeting objectives.
See what other jobs they’ve held, what groups they’re part of and where they went to school. Read recommendations to get a better sense of who they are. See if you have any connections in common.
Look at their other social media activity. Are they active on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? Visit those sites to round out your view of what’s important to this person.
Read their blog. If they have a blog, read the most recent 3 posts. Scan previous posts for topics that might be relevant to your upcoming meeting.
If they don’t have their own blog, see if they’ve posted articles in LinkedIn that would give you similar insight.
Search Google. No research is complete without a Google search. You can search on the person’s name, as well as the person’s name along with their current employer or other keywords related to your meeting topic.
See what pops up on the first 3 screens of your search. Visit a few of the links to learn more.
Send a personalized LinkedIn connection request. Once you have a sense of what you might have in common, or what’s especially interesting to you about this person, send a LinkedIn connection request.
In your personalized request (always personalize!), you can mention your upcoming meeting and that you’d like to connect in advance. This helps better establish the relationship, and it may prompt the person to view your profile and learn more about you.
Make sure you’ve put your best foot forward in your profile. Any recent content you’ve posted should further – or at least not detract from – your meeting agenda and objectives.
Comment on their content. In your research, what content stood out to you as especially salient to your upcoming meeting? You can like and comment on a recent piece of content that is aligned with your meeting topic. And if it would be valuable to your own network, consider sharing it more broadly.
These actions will enable you to know your audience much better and help foster a positive working relationship from the very beginning. (A reminder that opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)
Just remember to keep it light in both your virtual and real-life interactions. Don’t like or comment on too much content and don’t bring up subjects that your new business acquaintance might consider too personal or intrusive.
What are ways you connect with people in social media before an initial meeting?