How to conduct important meetings during the Coronavirus outbreak

You finally landed that big in-person meeting with a potential new client – one you’ve been after for quite some time. This could be huge for your business, not to mention your career. But just as the stars are aligning and you’re gearing up for your big presentation, you and your team find yourselves in the middle of a pandemic.

By now, you likely know how the CDC feels about you meeting with that client in person. But what’s the best way to go about canceling and rescheduling without missing out on an important opportunity or worse, hurting the relationship?

Here are a few suggestions for how to reschedule an important meeting without having a negative impact on business.

Make your client’s needs the priority

Depending on where you’re located, some clients may be on higher alert than others about meeting in person. But instead of focusing your initial conversation on moving the meeting, Rob Wyse, VP, Communications at Pipedrive says to prioritize the health and wellness of all involved. “Use this time to check in with colleagues, prospects, and partners to make sure they are safe,” he says.

Even if everyone is in good health, chances are high that both the client’s business and personal life have been impacted by coronavirus prevention, so make sure to be empathetic in your communication. “Reach out to clients to see if they need to adjust meeting times/formats due to a change in their routine (e.g. kids home from school, mandated work from home, etc.),” says Brian Tierney, CEO of Brian Communications. “Be understanding of how everyone’s schedule is changing rapidly, and clients may need to make accommodations as they react to coronavirus in real time. They’ll appreciate that you care about them beyond your business relationship.”

If possible, move the meeting to video

While an in-person meeting is obviously the holy grail, one way to keep things moving is to find an alternate method to meet. “Offer other solutions such as a video conference or phone call before you reschedule so your clients don’t feel like you’re bailing on the meeting and disrespecting their time,” says Zeshan Jeewanjee, CTO of One Day Event Insurance. Whether you choose phone or video to conduct your meeting, make sure you’re somewhere with a strong connection, and test out the platform you’ll be using in advance to ensure all goes smoothly. “Create a detailed breakdown of the meeting for your clients so they have a reference when you meet,” Jeewanjee adds. “This gives your clients an understanding of the meeting and may prevent them from meeting with a competitor.”

Increase your communication frequency

“If you typically only hold monthly or bi-weekly meetings with clients, double your communication,” says Deja Knight, founder of Pearl Public Relations. “Reassurance and consistent communication are some of the best ways to keep clients calm and feel secure. All of my clients are on a bi-weekly meeting schedule. Now, we are upping our meetings to once per week via video call or phone call.”

Schedule a future in-person meeting

It’s tough to know what the next few weeks will look like as we learn more about the impact of coronavirus – so Nancy A. Shenker, founder and CEO of theONSwitch recommends looking at least a few months out. “Schedule meetings for the summer/fall, so at least you’ve committed to meeting live in the future,” Shenker says.

Set goals for the future of your relationship

Having a meeting right now may be in your best interest – but remember, relationship building is a marathon, not a sprint. “Think about things long term – where do you want the relationship to be six months, a year and longer down the road?” asks Tierney. “People remember colleagues who go above and beyond during difficult times. That’s how you strengthen business relationships that last a lifetime.” Be receptive to your client’s needs now – it’ll pay off in the future.