Imagine for a moment a professional footy team, running out in front of 40,000 fans against their long time rivals. Its a game with a huge amount at stake, with the winner going through to the play-offs! Can you imagine this team practising some new plays and strategies for the very first time in the match?
Of course not, it sounds ludicrous doesn’t it? But that’s just what we do at times in our work.
How many times have you pitched a new idea to a client, or potential client, without practising first?
Optimise your time
In a rugby league game. The attacking team can only keep the ball for a limited period of time (six tackles) before they have to give it back to the opposition. This means they have to maximise every minute they have the ball in their hands. There is no time for ineffective plays or poor communication. This is a bit like a one hour meeting with a client - You have only a limited amount of time to do and say what you want to, so it’s very important you structure your time well. The only way to do this effectively is to practice beforehand.
Check the match conditions
It’s equally important to consider what the ‘match conditions’ are likely to be before you start your practice session. By this I mean you should consider what are the factors that will affect the tone and style of your meeting.
You see, that rugby league team doesn’t just practice the same way every day. They will spend time practising as thought they are in the attacking half of the field. Here they will be quite adventurous. Taking calculated risks in an attempt to score. If, on the other hand, they are in the defensive half of the field, they will play it safer, be more conservative on their outlook and try to consolidate their position, rather than score a try.
Compare these scenarios to a meeting with a client. On a particular day you are pitching a really exciting idea. An idea that you know is good and meets the client brief well. This is like the football team in the attacking half of the field. On the front foot, up-beat, certainly not arrogant, but definitely looking to score a try! A defensive meeting, however, might occur when you have a client that is not overly happy with a particular project you've worked on. Perhaps it ran overtime, or didn’t glean the results you expected. You will likely be more conservative at this meeting - providing options for improved results, consolidating your relationship with the client.
The point is…regardless of the approach, you should definitely be thinking about it beforehand. Planning together as a team to ensure you have your ‘plays’ already sorted and your game plan is as structured as it can be.
Plan for the unexpected
And don’t forget that even the best laid plans go awry! A football team knows that and plans accordingly. They practice over and again for scenarios where things go wrong - the ball is dropped, a kick is charged down or player tackled out of position. You too should practice for the unfortunate or unlikely. What are the questions the client may ask me? What if they don’t have budget for my amazing idea? Can I scale it down or change it? Can I provide examples of where we have done this type of work well previously?
The bottom line is, you don’t need to practice 6 times a week like a professional rugby team, but you definitely need to practice before match day!