It doesn't matter if it's a scheduled business meeting, job interview, or you're cold calling potential clients, the items you bring along with you can dramatically affect how things play out. Here's what you should be taking to each and every meeting to maximize your chances of success.
In the same way you would always try to be prepared for a photoshoot, you really should be giving the same amount of thought and effort into what to take into an important business meeting. If you happen to be faced with a client who may not entirely value the skills creatives have then the best chance to win that kind of person over is to be armed with all the facts, figures, and visual aids you possibly can. This will ensure you give yourself the best chance of convincing them you're the right person for the job.
Here are the nine items I always take to a business meeting.
1. My Portfolio
Even if the client has seen it before, I always take my portfolio along with me. There may be an unrelated image in my book which I need to reference in the meeting or I might have just added new relevant work which I want to share with them. Having the ability to visually show a picture of how something will look will always capture a client's imagination much more easily than any words ever could. You also never know who might be present in a meeting so don't presume everyone will be familiar with your work just because your particular business contact follows you on Instagram.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of the printed portfolio as I like to print my images big and clients still enjoy the tactile quality of flicking through the pages. If showing your work on a tablet such as an iPad is working for you then great. I just feel that a physical portfolio with all its pages screams experience before the client has even opened it. The same can't really be said for a tablet in sleep mode. A digital portfolio is also more likely to run into technical difficulties such as running out of power or crashing just at a crucial moment.
2. A Tablet Computer
I know I just bashed the tablet for use in meetings but I do see their importance, just maybe not as your primary source of images. That said, they are a great addition to take with you to enhance your meeting experience. The ability to show behind-the-scenes videos, unpublished work, or even pull out an interactive spreadsheet can all be important tools during a meeting.
One suggestion I would like to make surrounding the use of a tablet is to make sure everything you think you may want to show is stored on the device itself. You can not be relying on your data plan or asking for their Wi-Fi password so you can show them an important YouTube video.
3. My Phone
This may seem like an obvious one, but I think it's important to have your phone on you so you can contact and be contacted by whoever you are meeting. In the past, I have been invited to visit a client where upon my arrival at their headquarters I was greeted by unhelpful security staff who wouldn't let me get past the main gates. A quick flash of an email usually does the trick but if all else fails you may need to ring the client to come get you. If that wasn't enough of a reason, your phone contains your phonebook and your calendar which may be required if you are working out arrangements for a shoot. Just make sure you switch the thing to airplane mode so you'd don't get any unwanted calls from grandma during the meeting.
4. Pens and Notepad
I think this one is massively underrated but a must for any kind of meeting or interview. Taking along a notepad and pen will not only make you look like you have come prepared but you will actually look like you're interested in what is being talked about. It's always polite to ask if it's OK to take down a few notes during a meeting, but I've never had anyone refuse my request. A few notes will come in handy if you intend to write a post-meeting email and it's a guaranteed way to not misremember any important details. Having the ability to make a sketch or draw a quick map and hand it to your client is also rather useful too.
It's actually worth taking a couple of pens with you as there is nothing worse than running out of ink mid-sentence. The other benefit of multiple pens is you may not be the only one in need of a writing utensil. If your client comes to the meeting needing a pen and you can provide one then you'll be sure to earn extra brownie points. If subtle advertising appeals to you then why not get some pens printed with your branding on the side and let your forgetful client keep one as a souvenir.
5. Copies of My Resumé
This one doesn't just apply to people having interviews as a resumé can come in handy for business meetings too. Even though creative jobs rely more on portfolios and websites, some companies still like to see a good old-fashioned resumé and may ask to keep one on file. If this comes up during a meeting and you can produce a few tucked away neatly in the back of your portfolio you're bound to impress your client with your level of preparation. The other benefit of producing your own copies of a resumé is you can make sure they are printed out in color and to a high quality. If you rely on your client printing it out it may very well get butchered by the temperamental printer they have in the office.
6. Release Forms
This one is a little specific, but if you can get release forms for things like locations signed in a meeting prior to a shoot you really should. Maybe it's just me, but during the heat of a busy photoshoot, it's something I can forget to do. There will also be times when the person who is authorized to sign such a form is present at the meeting but not necessarily there on the day itself. If you want to save yourself a headache or the effort of having to make an additional visit to get the forms signed it would be wise to do it beforehand. Clients will also be impressed by your level of organization and professionalism so it's a win-win all round and a good habit to get into.
7. Rental and Retail Documentation
If you were to only pick one of the suggestions to do in this article then this is the one it should be. It really is my secret weapon when it comes to negotiating with clients in a meeting. What I have hidden in the back of my notebook is printouts from a reputable camera store of all the photography gear I use and how much it would cost to buy or hire it. If a client starts having issues with any of the figures in an estimate and they can't be reasoned with any other way I'll show them the relevant printout so they can see exactly what $15,000 worth of equipment looks like. Other times when they try to question my day rate I will show them how much it would cost to just hire my camera alone. These are not tactics I like to use but sometimes business people can only be reasoned with when you show them the figures in black and white. It's a good one to have up your sleeve if all else fails.
8. List of Questions
In the heat of a business meeting, it can be very hard to remember everything you wanted to ask a client. For this reason, I will always jot down a few key words to help keep me on track. Asking the right questions will allow you to understand the job at hand and avoid any nasty surprises. If you're not sure what sort of questions you should be asking, my article on that very subject should give you some ideas.
9. Something to Leave Behind
Not only do I think you should be taking all of the above to your next meeting or interview but I also think it's important to leave something behind for the client to remember you by. What better way to keep you and your meeting fresh in someone's memory than having your promo pinned to their notice board or sat on their desk. I try to design promo items which are not just relevant to my brand but are also more likely to be kept. I always keep a bunch of these items in the back of my portfolio case and hand them out when it's appropriate to do so. Not all business meetings will go your way but you may just plant a seed with someone who works at the company who may hire you further down the line. If you don't leave anything behind the chances of that happening are obviously much less. I also find that promo items that are given to a person are much more likely to be kept than the ones which are blindly sent through the post. Another benefit of handing them out directly is you can make sure they get to the right person and you'll also save on postage too.
So there you have it, nine items you should really be thinking about taking with you when you go to see a client. Not having the right items at hand during a meeting can really throw off your confidence and could potentially plant seeds of doubt in your client's mind surrounding your professionalism. The better prepared you are, the more you'll be able to relax, ask the right questions, and present yourself in the best possible light.
Are there any items you think are missing from the list? Do you have any stories of how you managed to survive a tricky business meeting? Leave a message below I'd love to hear all about them.
Leaving something behind is a great piece of advice. You have to constantly remind people you are alive in such a competitive, attention-grabbing world we find ourselves in.
Just make sure it's not your iPad!
haha yeah, that could start to get costly if that became a regular thing... ;)
I also believe that leaving something behind is one of the best things to do. @Paul says it can get costly but it doesn't have to be. My cost per 8x10 print is $1.00 (at the pro lab). If I leave 3 or 4 8x10's prints in a standard binder (with a sticker with my logo on it), it will be around $5.00. Well worth it if you get a wedding or a school gig.
#7 is something I never thought of and now that I think of it, it still would not do it. I cannot see my clients care about it. I meet mainly with school personal and brides, I doubt it will work on them. The few times I met with office personal like lawyers, pharmacists and freight forwarder agents (for office portraits), they never questioned my rates, it's almost like they new what too expect. My two cents.
Hey Motti, when I said leaving something behind could get expensive I was referring to Peter's comment about leaving an iPad behind every time!
Regarding #7, I find it works for the commercial circles I work in. You never know you might need to use it as a last resort during a tricky negotiation sometime.
Lastly, you say that no one ever questions your rates??
If this is true you really are not charging enough or only have eccentric billionaires for clients...
Thanks for your thoughts.
Ah,ah, I skipped he part of leaving an iPad behind. Not practical. But then again, if you are aiming for mid seven figures job then maybe.
For us, mere mortals, when many of our jobs are a few hundreds, it is not an option.
Regarding #7, I might give it a shot. Hey, it can't hurt. I still think it's not relevant with schools but maybe for wedding clients. Let's see.
As for commercial gigs, (by the way, for me commercial means company portraits) I did a few and they were all booked on the phone. I tell them my hourly rate, I send them an email confirming my rates and some suggestions regarding their needs (as per our conversation). They send me dates and that's it. There was never really a chance to show anything. At least not until now.
Average rate for commercial photography in my area is $150/h. If there are extras like large prints or if the location is somewhere in the mountains, then there is print cost, travel cost etc. It may be low for New York (for example) but that's the going rate in my area.
All in all, good article. Forgot to mention, I especially like the first point. like many, I bring a tablet or a laptop with galleries etc. but I was thinking about bringing a portfolio bag with large prints to show clients. That I will do for sure.
Hey it sounds like it's working for you and I'm very happy to hear that!
Glad you like the article...
Thanks Kaocher : )
"Other times when they try to question my day rate I will show them how much it would cost to just hire my camera alone. "
I don't understand this statement, are you including camera rental into your fee? What is included with your "day rate"
It's just a tool to help put things into perspective.
If I say my rate is $600 and they say that's way too expesnive, when all other avenues regarding negotiations are exhausted I'll show them how much it would cost them to JUST go and hire my camera from a hire shop.
When they see it would cost them $300 to just hire a camera (with no skilled professional to operate it) they usually change their tune.
I hear exactly what you say, Bob. I have to say that I'm very happy with my printed book and the images look great.
My double page spreads are 30 inches across. That's right, 30 inches!
That far surpasses any tablet screen on the market and what I might lose in image enhancements I gain in many other areas...