As a leader one thing you will constantly find yourself doing is meeting new people. It’s these people who will expose you to new ideas, new concepts, new products, new organisations, potential new partnerships, and in turn other new people. So for you to avoid stagnation, and open up new possibilities, you constantly need to be meeting new people.

Often a first meeting is key, setting the tone for any future relationship or partnership. But how can you maximise your chances of making the best of it? What do you do when meeting someone you don’t know, to ensure you make the most of your time and theirs? Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Research their organisation. So much time (and embarrassment) can be saved through doing a bit of homework before the meeting. If you’re meeting someone from a particular organisation or project, spend 10 minutes looking up that project online before you see them. This has two obvious benefits. First, it saves you some time when you’re together, since they don’t need to explain the basics of what they’re doing. Second, it helps you make a good impression. If they see you have taken the time to learn something about their work, they’ll be more likely to want to partner with you on anything that comes out of your time together.
  • Research them. This one is not always possible, and I’m not advocating stalking here, but again a little bit of research can make a lot of difference. Generally speaking, the higher the profile of the person you are meeting, the more info you will be able to find, but it’s worth spending another 10 minutes on a quick Google search. Do they have a personal website, or a blog, or a twitter account? Learn a bit more about them, find out if you have anything in common, and what your shared passions are. Again, the fact you have taken the time to be interested can speak volumes to the person.
  • Have an agenda of what you want from the meeting. This doesn’t need to be a huge list of outcomes, but just one or two things of why you are meeting. The agenda could be just to get to know them, or to learn more about a specific project they are working on, or to share something you are involved with, and then get their opinion on it. Whatever it is, go in with some form of agenda so you know why you are meeting.

I’ve found these three simple things to be a great help in ensuring I’m not wasting my time or theirs when I’m first meeting people. And one more thing – turn your phone off (or on silent) before you knock on the door/ go into their office. It’s never a good first impression when you’re fiddling with your phone at the same time as shaking someone’s hand!

Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.