As travel expenses rise and budgets tighten, it behooves client-relationship-based companies to look for opportunities to host client meetings. In our experience, home games help us manage fixed costs, focus energy, and spotlight our work processes. If your small business is up for hosting a client meeting, here are some things to think about well before guests arrive:
Provide creature comforts. Business travelers value the little things. Plan like a concierge and provide for their needs, including:
•WiFi access with clear instructions
•Quiet spaces for calls and e-mail
•Pre-paid cabs, car services, and parking
•Walking-maps to hotels
•Decaf and vegetarian options
Call the meeting a "workshop." Things become what you call them. Describing an all-day meeting as a "workshop” tells the client he and his team will be fully engaged (and may change who he invites). It also gives you latitude to be creative with the agenda, dial down the dress code, and even assign homework to prime a discussion.
Provide tools beyond the basics—flip charts, Post-its, Sharpies. We also look for ways to package prep materials, brand our process documentation, and expedite meeting notes to team members who didn’t attend in person.
Showcase your company’s habits and habitats. A site visit is an ideal way to show off other types of work you do. Holding one is a low-key business development tool to introduce casually the expertise an upcoming project will require. Informal is O.K. But let teams know what to prep and when to conceal proprietary work.
Michael Mooney Partner Catapult Thinking Boston