FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
|“Your Place or Mine?”||
|By: Ron Brounes||
The other morning I set up a business breakfast at one of the gazillion coffee houses in town. In order to accommodate this prospect, whose business I had been seeking for several months. I agreed to meet at his neighborhood Starbucks which meant passing about 250 others along the way. He chose a table in close proximity to the counter, which enabled me to hear everyone’s orders. Now, I was very well prepared for this meeting, having outlined plans for a future newsletter, ideas for a possible company brochure, and topics for a speech he was scheduled to deliver at an upcoming seminar. In the midst of my presentation, I could not help but overhear the dialogue at the counter. “I’ll have a grande low fat decaf latte’ with room for milk,” one experienced customer ordered. I started to chuckle; isn’t latte’ the same thing as milk? Next up. “Give me a tall decaf mocha frappuccino.” This time, I actually laughed out loud. The entire ordering process at Starbucks always cracks me up; I especially like the fact that “tall” really means “small.” Unfortunately, through all my hysteria, my prospect thought I was laughing at him. (In actuality, his wide bodied tie looked ridiculous.) Finally, I explained the situation, and he too found some humor at the next customer’s expense. Ultimately, we moved to another table to proceed with our meeting.
The point is we often spend a considerable amount of time preparing for an appointment with hopes that future business will follow. Identifying the most appropriate setting is one very crucial, though often overlooked, element to be considered in scheduling such a business function. Even the most carefully planned, well rehearsed presentation may be ineffective if the setting is less than ideal. The major criteria in site selection often remains simple convenience. While that Starbucks represented a location quite close to my prospect’s office, it was crowded and noisy and filled with comical distractions. In reality, an exclusive establishment may have been a more conducive setting for such an important business meeting. Do they serve breakfast at Tony’s?
Before scheduling a location for your business program, determine the ultimate goal you are hoping to accomplish. Certainly, Starbucks may be perfect for a friendly networking get-together to introduce yourself and your company. It represents a very casual atmosphere to converse and share information, and may hopefully lead to more formal meetings in the future. However, should your immediate goal be an actual business transaction, and your presentation include more than a fairly lighthearted discussion, a quiet, more business friendly atmosphere may be more successful. I’m a big fan of the business breakfast and find a “sit down, waitress take your order” establishment to allow for more privacy and interaction.
I also believe that a neutral location, such as a restaurant, lends for a certain comfort factor between both parties. It eliminates that “home field advantage” which often causes animosity for the visiting team. Furthermore, the site restricts constant interruptions that are certain to occur when one remains at work. When I visit clients or prospects at their offices, they are often called away numerous times to answer phones and address secretary’s requests. (Perhaps this is intentional?) Similarly, my office often resembles a zoo (not literally) with associates interrupting to ask that 30 second question that seems to always take an hour to address.
Where’s the Beef?
The same principle applies for group meetings, where business transactions are the ultimate goals. During the presentation, you want to maintain your audience’s undivided attention and hope to push a few hot buttons that will lead to future business. The formal business luncheon has become the hot setting with speeches and slide shows running simultaneously with the meal. I’m not certain this is such a great idea. People tend to not remained focused at the topic at hand once a mouth watering platter is placed before them.
A few weeks back, I was invited to a business lunch at a posh country club in town. I was extremely impressed with the setup of the room, and looked forward to the interesting topic to be discussed. Unfortunately, the meal was served at the exact time the key note speaker (saleswoman) began her delivery. Unfortunately (for her) I have far fonder memories of my filet mignon than the message of the presentation. While I can describe the side dishes that accompanied my steak, I can’t even begin to tell you what products or services she was marketing. Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything (and most likely won’t be invited again).
I prefer more of an auditorium setting, with the speaker addressing the audience from a podium or seated at a head table in the front of the room. If, however, a meal must be served (it can be very impressive), try to begin the presentation after the plates have been cleared and the distractions are limited. Since large meals tend to make us sleepy, you may also wish to make sure plenty of coffee is on hand. A venti low fat espresso cappuccino valencia should do the trick.
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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH is a publication of Brounes & Associates focusing on business marketing and general communications strategies. Please call Ron Brounes at 713-432-1910 for additional information. Brounes & Associates does not receive any fees for endorsement of Starbucks, Tony’s or any other dining establishments.