Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pre-meet spying

My current job requires me to go meet strangers all the while. I end up collecting a lot of name cards and haven't yet figured out what to do with them. Whoever thought (including me) that plain old name-cards are dead trees and a relic of the past hasn't really done business in Asia. In this part of the world, we still completely rely on exchanging name cards to introduce ourselves.

Anyway, over the past several months I have figured out that it pays to do your homework on the person you are going to meet. Generally before a meeting, I have the name of the person and many times the company that he/she works for. There are two distinct aspects of research that "need" to be done before that meeting. (And I am not discounting the work that you need to put in for the content of the meeting (yeah - presentations, demos, proposals etc.)).

  1. Research the Organization
    Unfortunately for me, most organizations that I work with are small and medium businesses. So I got no access to quality annual reports. But still, most companies have trails of their digital footprints lying around all over the internet. Besides the company website (that you have to completely devour - yeah, search the sitemap and go through each and every link however mundane it looks!), I get valuable information about the company in the news, conference websites, software company success stories, vendor websites etc. Though it sounds lame - a quick and dirty 5 forces of the industry that the organization works in actually helps!
  2. Research the person
    Its amazing how much we share online these days. Most of the times, I have access to surprising amount of information about the person I am going to meet. Besides, if I engage in certain amount of tactical background searching it goes a long way in carrying out a meaningful conversation with the person. All of us have had our 15 seconds of fame in our past life and internet with its long memory, manages to really store it well. I have discovered people’s academic achievements, marathon timings, sports medals, their non-profit associations and on one occasion even a criminal record. And this is besides the tonnes of professional and personal information which is almost readily available on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I do not know if all this research really pays off. The only way it helps is - I have a fairly good understanding of the organization that I am working with and of the person that I am meeting.

If you are gregarious and friendly probably this entire piece of advice is useless for you. You can probably strike a conversation with a cow standing on the road. But for a person like me who all his life has only courted computers, knowing a person before meeting him/her really helps. Most of the times, I can at least try break the ice cause I already know a lot about the person I am speaking with. I just need to be careful not to freak the person out.

No comments:

Post a Comment