Preparation Perfection

I am a bit of a stickler for detail. The kind of person who, when giving directions, won’t just say “down there on the left”, but will provide a set of directions long and detailed enough that the person probably could have walked to the location by the time I finish describing the exact shade of pink (“not as bright as a highlighter, but deeper than the colour of your lipstick”) of the awning of the shop next door to the building the person wants to find.

I like to have all the facts. Written down. Filed by category, then alphabetically. Going to try a new doctor? I have checked their registration with AHPRA, printed their contact details, and written my list of questions. Preparing for a marketing session? I have memorised names and faces of key players, the history of the companies and prepared answers for anticipated questions.

Does this make me obsessive? Am I going overboard? The impressed expressions on people’s faces when I address them by name, having only met them 15 minutes ago, and answer tricky questions by linking what I can do back to what I know they do, tells me: no. Not at all. Not in the slightest. Not even a little…well, maybe sometimes a little.

Preparation instils confidence. Confidence in you, who you are, what you want from the interview/presentation/meeting, and ultimately, the confidence the person across the table will end up placing in you.

With a wealth of information at our fingertips, thanks to the Internet, there is simply no excuse to turn up to an interview or initial meeting without knowing at least the basic details of the person/company with whom you are meeting. Having this arsenal of knowledge is no longer enough to make you stand out from the crowd; in a lot of places, it is simply expected.

So what are some easy things for the time-poor preparer? Here are some of my thoughts:

• Know a little bit about the person or their company. A two minute scroll through their business website can bring a wealth of knowledge.

• Have a clear idea of what you want from the meeting, and how the person can help you get that. Similarly, have a strong concept of how you can help the person – how will they benefit from what you have to offer?

• Practice talking. To yourself, to the cat, to the man at the bus stop, to people at seminars – the more you feel comfortable talking to an array of different people, the better you will be at tailoring your approach when it matters most.

• Be prepared to change tack or back down. I know this is probably a controversial one, but I am of the view that you will be respected more for acknowledging when the person isn’t going to give you a resounding “yes!” than you will be for selling yourself until the cows come home when the person has said they are not interested. Who knows? Maybe that person will need you in time to come, and you want them to remember your professionalism and courtesy, rather than your overzealousness (flogging a dead horse, anyone?)

• To balance the above point – be passionate and don’t give up at the first hurdle. Let your enthusiasm and knowledge about your product (and yourself) see you through.

Preparation will not always guarantee perfection, but I believe it sure goes a long way to getting you there.