Dear Someone Else's Dad,
My manager recently asked me to take her place at a meeting with a new company we were considering investing in. I wanted to discuss items I think my manager needed to hear, but the client and his team immediately handed out their PowerPoint slides and went through their canned presentation without giving me time to get to what I needed to ask. At the end of the hour-long meeting we only had a few minutes for me to get what I wanted to say, but everything seemed rushed, and I didn’t feel that I got the information my manager needed.
I also want to add that I’m a woman who is naturally shy and a little passive. Is there a way I could have done a better job?
I understand your frustration because 1) you want to give your manager what she needed and 2) you worry that you might have appeared rude if you had interrupted the client.
To make sure you get what you need you should have done the following before the meeting:
Prepared a list of questions, grouped in categories, that you feel you needed to have answered based on your research,
Shown the questions to your manager to get feedback on your questions,
Sent your agenda to the company beforehand or at least handed the addenda out at the meeting’s outset.
Remember, the clock is your ally. You can set the tone of the meeting by thanking the people for coming, saying that you’ve done a lot of research already, and mentioning that you would love to hear a five-minute overview. Then you can say that you would like to make sure you achieve your goal by making sure the company answers questions in several different areas.
Mention that you'd like to be as comprehensive as possible given the short amount of time you have. In fact, if their answers go on a bit too long, there’s nothing wrong with finding places to say that you’d like to follow up on a point on a subsequent call because time is running short.
If you’re professional, your natural shyness won’t get in the way. Try not to place yourself on a spectrum of passive to aggressive. You can be assertive, but professional and polite. You don’t have to change your personality to be effective. But if you welcome people (polite), shake hands (professional), make people feel comfortable (polite and professional), you can start a meeting by presenting a suggested agenda that will achieve your goals.
Saving the last meeting (not really a disaster). Now that you’ve realized that you didn’t get what you’ve wanted from the meeting, email a member of the company that recently visited thanking them (polite and professional) for their presentation, but mentioning that you have several issues that you’d like them to answer for you as you continue your research on the company (assertive). You can also ask them if they could provide the answers by a certain time because you would like to get your report done by that date (super assertive, but also polite because you mentioned why you need the information by a date, rather than having them read the email as “I NEED THIS BY TUESDAY!! JUST BECAUSE!")
Best of luck to you,
Someone Else’s Dad