Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Being positive about business meetings

Archaeologists involved in fieldwork projects spend most of their time thainking about arcaheology, and talking about it to other archaeologists. This is , unfortunately, poor training for dealing effectively with non-archaeologists (see What not say at a client meeting, for example). But meetings are a critical part of the relationship between an archaeological contractor and their client; if done well, they can ensure that the project runs smoothly and any problems are resolvedin a sensible and fair manner; if done badly, they can negate all the work on marketing, branding and image and lead to misunderstandings and costly delays. So it is worth getting them right, and needs non-archaeological skills: there is therefore good reason why office managers will usually handle this part of the work. But eventually any project manager will have to attend a meeting. How they can they ensure that they come away with the right result?

Be Prepared

Print out the agenda and minutes. If you have little time, check the minutes to see whether there were any action points relating to your wokr: you can be certain that you will be asked about these. Also make sure that you know where the meeting will be held, and how to get there.

If have more time, it is worth looking at the list of attendees in order to work out who they are, and which firm they represent, and to think about whether there is anything you might want to discuss with them.

You should also prepare, preferably in writing, a short account of your progress in terms designed for a non-archaeological audience.

Be On time

It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised. The people you meet may have no interest in or understanding of your work, may never listen to a word you say or read a report, but they will notice if you are late, destroying all the effort that your company has invested in appearing as an efficient and businesslike contractor.

You should also bear in mind what they will expect to see: if you want to confirm their opinion of archaeologists as bumbling eccentrics this is a good ay to start.

Be Smart

Don't look like an archaeologist. In most professions, status is demarcated by dress codes: important people wear ties. So if you want them to think that you're important, wear a tie. Again, confound their expectations: you want to be treated as an equal.

Be Informed

This development is probably the first time they've had to deal with archaeology (every project is a first date). Having an archaeologist there will be an excellent opportunity for them to find out about planning policies, archaeological methodologies, recent legislation, and anything else they can think of (they may well as about fossils and dinosaurs too). So it's best to be able to respond in a coherent way, at elast to the moe directly relevant questions.

Be Tactful

You may work for a lot of different developers; you may undertake work on adjoining plots for different clients. Although (from your point of view) there is no conflicty of interest, the devloper may feel that you are not 100% loyal if you spend a lot of time talking about your other work. It is important to remember that you may have been given access to commercially sensitive information (completion date, for example), and you should respect confidences.

Be Interested

Other specialists involved may mention things which are directly relevant (the ecologist may be doing some work on hedgerows; the engineer may be planning geotechnical work). But even if not, it is worth keeping your ears open so that you can understand their role better.

Be Vague

You will probably be asked questions that you cannot answer: "How long until you're finished? How much would it cost to extend the excavation? Can you move to seven-day working?" Don't feel that you have to offer guesses. If it's beyond your expertise or mandate, say so. It's better to say that you'll check back and let them know than to give a misleading or wrong snap response.

Be Efficient

After the meeting, sit down and tidy up your notes, taking special care on anything that relates to your work. Tell the office about anything substantive that you have learned.

To put it all together, be P O S I T I V E !