5 plan-ahead tips to make digital client meetings more effective

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Digital meetings have become the norm, especially for entrepreneurs and freelancers who  connect with clients virtually on a regular basis — but aren’t flying around the world or the country do so. In fact, a recent PayPal freelancer report found that 58 percent of U.S. freelancers have an international client.

Making the most of this meeting time is critical for freelancers who are, on average, juggling 17 clients and 18 projects at a time, according to the same PayPal report. If you get off topic and forget to ask the right question, or end the meeting before running through important data, you’ve wasted time that could have been otherwise spent on other important work.

Use these tips to make the most of every meeting, and be respectful of everyone’s time — yours included.

1. Create an agenda

If you called the meeting, it’s your job to have a plan for what needs to be covered. Creating a meeting agenda is the first step to successfully preparing for and making the most of the time you have together. Not only do agendas ensure that all participants are aware of what’s being discussed, but they also set the tone and allow you to keep control.

Remember to share the agenda with your client in advance if they’re expected to come with questions or resources. If this is your first meeting, you can also use an agenda or welcome packet as a way to make a great impression:

“Both you and the client then leave with documentation of your first meeting, exactly what was covered, and — in the case of a welcome packet — documentation of all the finer points of your business,” says Randle Browning, SkillCrush contributor.

2. Use the right tools

Not all digital meeting tools are created equal but the right tools will set you up for success.  When deciding which ones you need, consider the following details:

  • Number of participants likely to be on a single conference call. There are several free conferencing services that allow you to hold conference calls with a limited number of participants, whereas others require you to pay a subscription fee.
  • The same goes for time on a call. Some only allow 30 minutes for free, so longer meetings will be cut off — which looks unprofessional.
  • Make sure your conferencing solution is easy to use. Ideally, everyone should be able to access the meeting without any specific accounts or software.
  • Integration with common software apps take efficiency to the next level. Look for solutions that easily integrate with third-party applications if needed.

Ultimately, the tools needed to run a successful digital meeting will be different for every business, so check out this list of remote meeting tools from the communication experts at Hubgets. With time zone apps and chat software, this list is a great place to start.

3. Do a practice run

You wouldn’t “wing it” with big in-person client meetings, so don’t make this mistake with digital meetings either. Do a practice run before your meeting to ensure appropriate timing and flow. After hearing your presentation out loud, you may discover that it doesn’t move well from one point to the next or that you’re missing important information. Give your presentation to someone out loud, so they can also help spot gaps or transitions that are confusing.

Don’t forget to test any new tools you’re using. Even better if you can test with a friend or colleague to make sure everyone is able to access the meeting easily and without any problems.

4. Set a meeting goal

Each meeting should have a purpose or a goal. Decide what you want to accomplish and remember that your goal doesn’t have to be elaborate. For example, your goal might be to get client feedback on a new strategy.

The value in setting the goal ahead of time is that you can get specific. If you want client feedback, write yourself a list of questions that allow you to address the exact areas that require client insight. You can even prepare a questionnaire ahead of time and go over their responses in the meeting.

5. Invite the right people — and follow up

To have a productive meeting, you need to have the right people in the virtual room. Start by inviting the right people, but not over-crowding the meeting, suggests Mentimeter: “If there are too many people in a meeting, that are not essential to the objective, meeting effectiveness can be decreased. In order to ensure that you invite only those you need, refer to your meeting objective and reflect on who you need to help you achieve your meeting goal.”

Don’t forget to check who has accepted the meeting invite a few days before. If a key decision-maker has yet to accept, send a follow up email reminding him or her that you are going to address something specific that needs his or her approval.

Plan ahead for better client meetings

Don’t waste time on another client call. Instead, use these tips to plan ahead and ensure that you get everything taken care of while making a great impression. With the right tools, a little prep, and some necessary follow-up, you’ll leave the meeting with everything you need, including a happy client.

Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, Score.org and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.